Author Archives: Max van Balgooy

Social Justice at Battlefield Sites


Erin Carlson Mast of President Lincoln’s Cottage delivering the State of the Field address at the Seminar for Historical Administration, 2017.

Guest post by Ashley Phlipot, SHA Class of 2017

On Day 1 of SHA, we were introduced to Erin Carlson Mast, Executive Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC. During her keynote, she spoke on how her museum was intergrating social justice topics within their exhibitions and programming. She touched on the Students Opposing Slavery campaign, which is “an award-winning youth education program for students dedicated to continuing Lincoln’s fight for freedom by raising awareness about modern slavery within a high-risk population – teenagers.” By interpreting this type of slavery, this organization has expanded their mission of “continuing the fight for freedom” by making it relevant.

The topic of social justice continued to come up pretty much every day of sessions and in every conversation we had outside of the classroom. Hearing fellow classmates talking about how their sites and museums were also taking on this subject was inspiring, yet overwhelming. I kept asking myself how could I possibly integrate modern social injustice at my site, a War of 1812 fort and museum? I just feel grateful if visitors acknowledge that this war actually happened, as it is easily forgotten between the American Revolution and the American Civil War.

For days, I kept dwelling on it. Then it hit me: Read the rest of this entry

The Case for SHA


Guest post by Dawn Weaver, SHA Class of 2017

Three weeks! What kind of seminar lasts for three weeks?

  • A seminar that brings engaged individuals from the history field together, in the Midwest, to take a critical look at what’s happening in the field. A critical, intensive look at topics like conservation, classic design and cutting-edge design, interpretation of the difficult topics like racism, decolonization and inclusion, and political advocacy.
  • A seminar that opens a window on financial management and how the bottom line effects everything else that we do, with real-world answers and a toolkit that you can use.
  • A seminar that leads a conversation as to the relevance of our passion and how to advance the relevance of it for many years to come, and forces us, as an individual and as a group to dive deeper for more answers and for where we fit into the bigger picture

This is a time apart, away from the daily pressures, to meet and make a band of companions from a disparate group of other professionals with similar passion and drive.

This is a nesting place for ideas and ‘aha’ moments, with a support group standing by with encouragement and support and more ideas than you can come up with yourself.

When this opportunity presents itself before you, do not turn a blind eye. Do not even think that you do not have the time. You do not have the time NOT to do this. Make a plan and make it happen. You will not regret it!

Dawn Weaver is the Manager of the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site in Clinton, South Carolina.

Social Justice, Sharing Authority, and Mission

SHA2017 collage DiCarlo.png

Guest post by Peter DeCarlo, SHA Class of 2017

This year’s SHA participants come from a wide range of public history backgrounds——technology people and content creators, directors and site managers, curators and educators. Our places of work range from historic sites and regional organizations, to some of the largest historical societies in the nation. The first week focused on challenges and opportunities facing our field. Our time spent talking with leaders, going on field trips, and chatting over dinner has covered a wide range of topics, but throughout, three main themes rose to the top: social justice, expertise vs/& shared authority, and mission.

Social Justice: We realized the need to be intentional with our language. The term “social justice” is frequently used to encompass many things, but specifically relates to the equal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privilege. As history organizations, the greatest resource we can provide the public is history itself. To pursue social justice we must make our sites, collections, programs, exhibits, and publications as accessible as possible to all people, especially communities museums have historically marginalized and oppressed. This work can take many forms, from contextualizing current civil rights issues, to opening a historic site to a displaced community, to the work of inclusion and diversity. It is important to note that in addition to social justice, working towards equality in all its forms is something history organizations should consider.

Expertise vs/& Shared Authority: This issue is sweeping the museum field and it permeated almost every topic we covered. Our cohort realized this need not be a “versus” dichotomy. Expertise and shared authority must exist together. The question is: what is the right balance? A workplace example: having a member of every department on your exhibits planning team and collections acquisitions team (yes, the curators only get one vote!). In interpretive work it can take the form of dialogic questioning, allowing visitors to guide the conversation and come to a shared conclusion. Sharing authority with community members often serves social justice. Both can be pursued at once. On the side of expertise, it is important to remember that we are professionals, and “we do know things,” as one presenter put it. We must defend Read the rest of this entry

Major Challenges Faced by Leaders @SHA

IMG_1610 1080pThe Seminar for Historical Administration has completed the first of a three-week program in Indianapolis and we’re learning a lot—sometimes it’s overwhelming. You’re getting great ideas from the presenters, classmates, and field trips and while we’re a bit quiet during our discussions, it’s probably more due to the processing of all the new information we’re receiving than from an unwillingness to share our opinions. At the end of the week, John Marks, Morgan L’Argent, and Jeff Matsuoka facilitated discussions around three major issues we encountered, including some of the major challenges they’ll be facing when they return to their institutions in a couple weeks. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Managing change: How to best integrate new ideas in our institutions. Will management accept new ideas or recognize a need for change? Will we be allowed to discuss or instigate change? How can change occur within a hierarchical organization? Will our ideas be viewed as an inauthentic or insincere public relations effort? Will the staff and board take action? Are our expectations set too low, making new ideas too much to handle? Will our new ideas result in a loss of our job or alienate donors and supporters?

2. Broadening participation: Are we including other perspectives and voices? Are alternative opinions being heard? Are we working in an echo-chamber, just having a conversation of people who agree with us? How do we ensure volunteers are included?

3. The tyranny of the urgent: Too distracted by daily operations to tackle big issues. How do I pace myself when there’s a long list of things to do? How do I manage my existing workload while processing new ideas from SHA? How do I avoid being discouraged or feeling defeated?

4. Achieving alignment: Articulating a strategic plan that is progressive, cohesive, and relevant in an environment where status quo, non-reflection, and bureaucracy is the norm. How to overcome inertia? How to find alignment between a new vision for the organization and its mission, values, and priorities? How do I find the right team? How do I achieve ambitious goals within the limitations of my job description?

As the director of SHA, I’m absorbing all of these experiences, but I’m not thinking how I can apply them to my museum or historical society back home. Instead, my brain is rattling around with ways to make the program even better next year so that the participants are even more effective as leaders at their organizations and in the history field.

If you have suggestions or comments on these issues, I’d love to hear from you and I’ll be sure to share them with the class. You’ll also want to return to this blog in a few weeks to see how thinking has evolved.  SHA provides an ideal time to step back and reflect on these issues!

SHA 2017 Underway in Indianapolis

SHA2017 collage 10-30

Seminar for Historical Administration 2017 in Indianapolis.

This year’s Seminar for Historical Administration (SHA) is meeting in Indianapolis and all of our hard work in selecting participants and presenters over the past months is coming to fruition.  For three weeks in Indianapolis, a dozen people in the history field will be discussing the leading issues facing leaders and debating their solutions.  I’ve assembled the schedule and directing the program, so I’m particularly excited to see how it unfolds each day. A big thanks to the dozens of people who are helping to make this extraordinary experience possible.

SHA opened on Sunday with Erin Carlson Mast, the President and CEO of President Lincoln’s Cottage, laying out the trends in the field.  She noted how much has changed in the last ten years and that our work is more important than ever. I was particularly intrigued by her insistence that the mission and vision of the organization need to be manifested not only in the public programs and activities but also in the budget and operations.  For example, their interpretation of slavery during Lincoln’s era motivated them to examine modern-day slavery (human trafficking) through their award-winning SOS program for teens AND make choices about the restoration materials used in the Cottage. Afterwards, we visited the library and archives at the Indiana Historical Society and had dinner together at a local restaurant.

Yesterday, David Young, Executive Director at Cliveden and Tim Grove of the National Air and Space Museum discussed the opportunities and challenges Read the rest of this entry

SHA 2017 Will Address Inclusion, Intentional Practice, and Design Thinking

Kelly SHA 2016F_DxOVPDeveloping History Leaders @SHA will begin in a month and the three weeks in Indianapolis will be packed with sessions covering a wide range of topics that affect leaders at history organizations.  With forty-four presenters involved, there will be a diversity of perspectives on the relevance of history, collections care and management, interpretive programs, historic preservation, governance and management, inclusion and equity, and planning and strategy.  You can learn about these topics in a book or conference session, but only at SHA can you discuss them in-depth with other leaders in the field, wrestle with their interconnectedness, and think about them well outside the daily demands of the office.

Each year SHA changes and it’s certainly evolved from where it started in 1959 at Colonial Williamsburg as a six-week summer program for 18 National Trust Fellows (graduate students in history preparing for careers outside of teaching) and a few people who were already working in the field but had little experience or training (today we call them “emerging professionals”).  For the last dozen years, SHA has been based in Indianapolis and we’ve annually adjusted the curriculum to address provocative issues or emerging practices that affect the field of public history.  For 2017, the syllabus adds: Read the rest of this entry

Faculty Announced for SHA 2017

Developing History Leaders @SHA is pleased to announce the faculty for 2017’s program.  Many of our previous presenters are returning to Indianapolis but joining us for the first time are:

  • Rebekah Beaulieu, Ph.D., Associate Director, Bowdoin College Museum of Art
  • Jenny Burch, President, Knight Ridge Consulting
  • Traci Cromwell, Director of Collections, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Ramona Duncan-Huse, Senior Director of the Conservation Lab, Indiana Historical Society
  • Cathy Ferree, President and CEO, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Ronni Kloth, Program Director, Community Development, Lilly Endowment, Inc.
  • Susannah Koerber, Chief Curator & Research Officer, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Randi Korn, Intentional Practice Leader and Founding Director, Randi Korn & Associates
  • Erin Carlson Mast, Executive Director, President Lincoln’s Cottage
  • Jay Miller, President, National Association for Interpretation
  • Pamela Napier, Design Strategist & VP of Operations, Collabo Creative
  • Ellen Paulin, Manager of Interpretation, Conner Prairie
  • Jessica Stavros, Development Officer for Historic Sites, Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites
  • Matthew Toland, Executive Director, International Preservation Studies Center
  • Ken Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England
  • Jim Vaughan, Principal, Jim Vaughan Consulting
  • Terri Wada, Cofounder, Design Strategist and President, Collabo Creative
  • Todd Zeiger, Director, Northern Regional Office Indiana Landmarks

Along with a shift in directors from John Durel to Max A. van Balgooy, John Marks will be accepting AASLH‘s responsibilities for SHA from Bob Beatty (who’s devoting more time to his Ph.D. dissertation and his consulting practice at the Lyndhurst Group) and Marianne Sheline at the Indiana Historical Society will be taking the reins on local arrangements from Kyle McCoy (who was recently appointed president and executive director at the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle.

SHA Faculty Biographies 2017 (pdf)

For more information about Developing History Leaders @SHA, visit


SHA Announces Class of 2017

Please welcome the Class of 2017, who will be participating in SHA in November in Indianapolis:

  • Jessica Cyders, Curator and Registrar, Southeast Ohio History Center, Athens, Ohio
  • Peter DeCarlo, Digital Content Developer-MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Joanna Hahn, Site Manager, Levi & Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, Fountain City, Indiana
  • Sarah Halter, Executive Director, Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Jessica Jenkins, Curator, Minnetrista, Muncie, Indiana
  • Morgan L’Argent, Web Developer, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Chandler Lighty, Director, Indiana Historical Bureau, Indianapolis, IN
  • Jeffery Matsuoka, Vice President, Business and Operations, Indiana Historical Society
  • Jessie Nesseim, Interpreter/Volunteer Coordinator, Siouxland Heritage Museums, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Ashley Phlipot, Acting Site Director, Fort Meigs Historic Site, Perrysburg, Ohio
  • Matt Schullek, Distance Learning/Multimedia Services Coordinator, Ohio History Connection
  • Dawn Weaver, Park Manager, Musgrove Mill State Historic Park, Clinton, South Carolina

To support their participation, SHA awarded Dennis O’Toole Scholarships to Dawn Weaver, Jessica Cyders, Sarah Halter, and Jessie Nesseim. We’ll be introducing them at the SHA Reception at Read the rest of this entry

SHA Wednesday Workshop in Austin

Conny Graft workshop at Cliveden 2016

Conny Graft leading a workshop at Cliveden in Philadelphia.

The AASLH Annual Meeting will offer “The SHA Wednesday Workshop” on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 from 1:30 to 5:00 pm.  Workshop attendees will experience the model of professional development practiced at Developing History Leaders @SHA.Tim Hoogland (SHA 2008) and Conny Graft (the longest serving faculty member in SHA history!) will address topics and themes centered on evaluation including data collection and building a culture of evaluation in your institution that guides programs and improves fundraising. Using the group work and discussions that are the hallmark of SHA, we will address challenges in visitor evaluation and how to measure impact through outreach and educational programs.

Fifteen people have registered so far and more are welcome, both SHA Alums who are looking for a chance to work with their colleagues and for people who are interested in SHA but first want a brief taste (it’s hard to commit to three weeks, so encourage them to attend).  Registration is $25 and more details are available at

Erin Carlson Mast opens SHA 2017

Erin Carlson MastErin Carlson Mast, CEO and executive director of President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC, will open this year’s Developing History Leaders @SHA on Sunday, October 29. A member of the 2008 class of SHA, she was part of the original team that opened President’s Lincoln Cottage in 2008 and became its executive director in 2010. Erin has led the organization through growth, groundbreaking programming, and national and regional recognition, including a Presidential Medal and being named one of Washington, DC’s 50 Best Places to Work and the Best Museum off the Mall. In 2016, she led the organization through its transition to an independent 501(c)(3). Erin has written for such publications as History News and The Public Historian and was a contributing author to Museums of Ideas: Commitment and Conflict (MuseumsEtc, 2011). She holds an MA in Museum Studies from The George Washington University and a BA in History from Ohio University.

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