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.

Amazing Faculty @SHA

Trevor Jones (SHA ’09)

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. 




Announcing Max van Balgooy as new SHA Director

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.

The Importance of Great Leadership (cannot be overstated)

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.

They were:

5. Passionate
4. Humility
3. Big Picture Thinker
2. Communication Skills, particular listening

and finally…

1.  Integrity.

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.

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. 

Moving from “Nice” to “Necessary”

tim_hoogland_sha_feb_2017In a previous blog post about the evolving role of outreach for historical organizations, one of the points I introduced was the need to better evaluate and document programs. Too often we are seen as a “nice” place where our audiences can enjoy our museums and properties on an occasional basis—or elementary school field trip students come for an annual experience of short duration.

At a time when sources of funding for cultural and humanities organizations are under threat, we have to be in a position to share data that frames our work as a “necessary” component of the social/educational fabric of our communities and states. The History Relevance Campaign is making this argument at a high level, but how are individual organizations building evaluation capacity to make this case to their stakeholders?

About fifteen years ago one of the major corporate foundations in Minnesota hosted a summit meeting for all of the nonprofit organizations that had received funding through their grants program. The key message was that they would no longer support proposals where the metrics of success were the number of people served and anecdotal reports that they “enjoyed it.” There was a lot of consternation in the room as it became clear that a whole new set of skills related to evaluation were going to be required for future funding. Building logic models, defining outcomes, and developing survey instruments aligned to those outcomes were to become the norm.

I think that many of the participants that day were willing to embrace the new challenge, but it was clearly unsettling that their organizations were no longer considered as having “inherent value” to the community. Even if they embraced a new evaluation culture, what could they effectively measure?

Museums with experience in visitor studies had a slight head start in this new world, but the assessments for the impact of exhibits and programs on audiences were a different challenge than the processes that informed the creation of those experiences.

Conny Graft has taken a number of SHA cohorts through the transformative work she organized at Colonial Williamsburg. My key takeaways from her presentation were that you had to approach evaluation with an open mind, embrace findings that challenged your assumptions, and be willing to act upon the data. Too often I have seen evaluation framed as a form of institutional affirmation. Surveys of visitors tried to ascertain whether they “liked us,” “really liked us,” or “really really liked us.” Add all of those percentages together and your “like index” is likely to be really high…but questions of impact, the attitudes of non-visitors, and new ways to better engage audiences can go undiscovered.

The evaluation mantra that Conny shared about challenging yourself to think about how exhibits and programs have an impact on what visitors “Know, Feel, and Do” was also profound as this way of thinking informed outreach evaluation. Working outside the bounds of a historic site or museum makes evaluation more complex as you don’t always have a controlled environment. Schools and public program venues create fluid relationships where, in many cases, the presenter is the guest.

It is that fluidity that also creates unique opportunities for meaningful, and measurable, engagement. Freed from the fixed assets of museum environments, it is in some ways easier to act upon evaluation findings and ask questions the reveal high degrees of impact and relevance.

Here are some examples of both “actionable” and profoundly “reportable” data I have measured over the past ten years:

  • A large group of K-12 social studies teachers were asked whether “providing resources that would amplify the traditional narratives of U.S. with state and local examples would increase student engagement?” 92% reported YES.
  • 78% of History Day parents reported that their child’s experience with the program increased college readiness.
  • 88% of History Day students in Minnesota reported that their projects made them more confident about their future success in school.
  • Overall, the academic and social-emotional learning metrics for History Day students of color were higher than those of white students.

With this data in hand we were more confident in our plans to provide supplemental U.S. history resources, and to make a funding case to donors and governmental stakeholders that the Minnesota Historical Society could be seen as an effective agent of change in breaking down achievement gaps.

One of Conny’s final presentation points was that, “Evaluation is not a process…it is a way of thinking about everything you do.” If something is worth doing, it is worth measuring. Because in the end, the essence of evaluation is storytelling. Thoughtfully collected data combined with compelling images and supporting narratives can dramatically change the way people feel about your organization. In turn, it is easier to make the case that historical organizations are profoundly necessary to your communities.

Evaluation will be one of the key topics at the SHA Wednesday Workshop during the 2017 AASLH Annual Meeting in Austin. I hope to see many of you there…and don’t forget to fill out those evaluations.

Tim Hoogland is Director of Education Outreach Programs at the Minnesota Historical Society and Affiliated Instructor of History for the University of Minnesota. He is a member of the SHA Class of 2008.

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