Monthly Archives: March 2017
If you’re fortunate enough to attend Developing History Leaders @SHA you’ll get the chance to learn from some amazing faculty. When I attended SHA in 2009, during the last week one of the presenters was Kent Whitworth, Executive Director of the Kentucky Historical Society.
Kent spoke openly and honestly about communication in the workplace, and how getting everyone on the team rowing the right direction is a key part of a leader’s job. He discussed using meetings to reach this goal, and how he used healthy conflict among the leadership team to improve performance. It was an eye opening day.
That talk changed my life in multiple ways. First, I immediately purchased Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting which transformed how I thought about meetings and their fundamental purpose. After I got home, I told my wife, “I’d like to work for someone like Kent someday.”
Several months later a position opened at the Kentucky Historical Society. I was not looking to move and the timing was terrible, but my wife convinced me that if I did not apply I’d regret it, so I did. I worked for the Kentucky Historical Society for six years before taking my first director & CEO position at the Nebraska State Historical Society in 2016.
Your SHA experience may not be as transformative as mine, but it has the potential to be. That’s part of the reason @SHA is such an incredible opportunity.
Trevor Jones is Director/CEO of the Nebraska State Historical Society. He is a member of the SHA Class of 2009.
The Partners for Developing History Leaders @SHA are pleased to announce that the three-week program for SHA Class of 2017 will begin on Saturday, October 28, with an application deadline of Monday, May 15. The program will include presentations by several dozen leaders in the field coupled with field trips to a variety of history-related organizations, including museums, historic sites, and preservation projects.
In an exciting development this month, the Partners have appointed Max van Balgooy as the Director, succeeding John Durel’s seven-year tenure. Max is the president of Engaging Places, LLC and teaches in the museum studies program at George Washington University, and formerly director of interpretation and education for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Director’s position attracted several strong candidates, which confirmed SHA’s reputation as one of the leading mid-career training programs in the nation.
Upon his appointment, Max responded that, “I’m thrilled by this incredible opportunity to serve our field as well as work with so many of the people and organizations that have helped me and helped make history a rich and meaningful experience in our communities. I’m also thankful for the tremendous contributions of my predecessors and realize that I will be standing on the shoulders of many people who helped create, sustain, and enhance SHA over many, many decades.”
Please join us all in thanking John Durel for his service to SHA and to the field and in offering a hearty congratulations to Max. And please take a minute to share SHA with your friends/colleagues and encourage them to apply for the Class of 2017.
By the time I attended what is now Developing History Leaders @ the Seminar for Historical Administration in 2005, the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites had been through 6 different CEOs in 7 years. In our final exercise as a class, the great history leader, Denny O’Toole, lead us in a conversation regarding what we, as a class, felt were the 5 best characteristics of a good leader.
3. Big Picture Thinker
2. Communication Skills, particular listening
As you might imagine, I took special note of these, writing them down and posting on the wall in my office immediately afterwards where it has stayed ever since (yes literally for going on 12 years now).
The ISMHS was caught in a whirlpool. Not only was the institution floundering, but the staff, especially those of us who had endured the revolving door of leadership, was worn down and spinning in slow circles. Before the spinning stopped, we had 8 leadership changes in 9 years. Luckily, our collective stakeholders finally became aware of what was needed and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites has come roaring out of the tail spin, moving forward with renewed vigor.
The author’s office wall with its many inspirational quotes and various facts. The 5 characteristics of a great leader as determined by the SHA class of 2005 are circled in red.
A series of challenges were overcome to get us where we are today. Like many similar state institutions, the history of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is long and complex. The museum was established in 1869 and state historic sites established beginning in 1917 and continuing throughout the 20th century. A move to the former Indianapolis City Hall in 1967 brought the museum and sites together based on their basic missions of collecting and preserving. Then, in 2002, the State of Indiana built and opened a new state museum building (the first in the state’s history built for that specific purpose). The opening required immense paradigm shifts: quadrupling our exhibition space, moving massive collections, dealing with a sudden, much larger public profile in the Indianapolis cultural arena and adding needed staff, along with everything else that went with such a change.
The Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana
One of the changes anticipated with the building’s opening was a transition from a state agency to that of a quasi-governmental entity, allowing flexibility for such common museum practices such as rental of traveling exhibitions, funds generated from deaccessions used for artifact acquisitions, etc. However, the attempts to create this quasi-governmental entity proved more challenging than anticipated.
In 2009, ISMHS stakeholders began to realize that the struggle required someone who had both an understanding of Indiana’s political landscape as well as extensive fundraising and organizational skills. The selection of Tom King, former CEO with the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and also recently retired president of the omnipresent (at least to the Hoosier State) nonprofit, Lilly Foundation, was an extremely wise choice. He worked first to build the board, using extensive communications skills and sharing his larger, long term goals and then establishing a core group of invested and interested individuals from around the state. He firmly and forcefully showed his integrity by ensuring all aspects of the ISMHS were properly represented.
Then came the successful legislation in 2011 that established the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corporation, as “a public body, corporate and politic.” To say that lots of careful thought and effort went into establishing the corporation is not even half of it. We thoroughly and carefully examined every word, punctuation mark, and so on: from careful wording of what constitutes a quorum to the definitions to the abilities of the corporation. Once again, Tom demonstrated all of these characteristics in that process. And then the real work began…
Very soon after we became a corporation work began on INvision, a capital campaign for the State’s Bicentennial in 2016 and for the museum’s sesquicentennial in 2019. It was no small effort with a $17 million goal, major rehabilitation of the permanent galleries at the Indiana State Museum, and a large project at each of the 11 State Historic Sites. But we are moving forward confidently and surely into the institution’s next chapter. When Tom King retires from the ISMHS this spring, he will have brought about all this transition, this turnaround, through his strong, steady, and sure leadership. With our board, he will also have helped hand pick his successor. He has done all this with integrity, passion, humility, great listening skillsm and by thinking very big about what the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites could be. Unsurprisingly, those 5 characteristics of a great leader that my SHA Class of 2005 identified all those years ago.
A new day dawned Dec. 8, 2016, for the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site when the ribbon was cut to open the visitor center there. The white building in the photo is the visitor center sitting just north of the Levi and Catharine Coffin Home. The project was one of the highest profile in the ISMHS’ INvision campaign.
Laura Minzes is Associate Vice President of Historic Sites, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corporation and a proud member of the SHA Class of 2005.