SHA is not just for rookies. It’s also for public history veterans!
When I attended the 50th Seminar for Historical Administration in 2009, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it. I had 23 years in the profession, mostly as an administrator. Although I heard only positive reviews about SHA, how could I benefit from SHA?
As my historic site was approaching a major management change, I was encouraged to attend SHA. After two decades as an administrator, I was skeptical but excited. I initially concluded that SHA would at least be a good refresher, but ultimately it was much more than I anticipated.
I often compare SHA to a year of grad school condensed into just three weeks. One major difference is that SHA skips all the irrelevant debris professors tend to scatter throughout their classes. Time is precious, and SHA organizers and instructors understand this. As a result, SHA delivers an intense experience that is necessary for each attendee to become a better administrator, including the need for seasoned administrators to move beyond their respective comfort zones.
Throughout my career I’ve attended countless conferences and workshops across the country, listening to “talking heads” regurgitate text books I read as a college student. Contrary to the standard conferences that we’ve all attended, SHA provided ample time to listen to AND discuss issues of our profession with active leaders in the field. In addition to providing new information and unique perspectives, seminar instructors made themselves accessible throughout their brief time in Indy and have continued to be available “post-graduation.” Their in-depth feedback has continued to guide my professional actions.
My SHA classmates had the greatest impact on me personally. Their enthusiasm and fresh ideas reinvigorated my passion for the profession. With their friendships I returned home with the optimism I had 23 years earlier and ready to tackle the challenges ahead of me.
Thus, is there a “right” time to attend SHA? Yes, and that is anytime before retirement.
Mark Harmon is Executive Director of The Gaylord Building, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He holds a BA and MA in History from the University of Akron. He is an alumni of the 2009 Seminar for Historical Administration and the 2011 Preservation Leadership Training.