Category Archives: Application
This is the season! The season for conferences and networking and being inspired by innovation, trends, and best practices in the field. You have been encouraged by supervisors to take advantage of meetings of museum professionals; or, you have individually taken the initiative to develop yourself as a better leader. Usually, we fall into a spectrum – sometimes we get external support and sometimes we are internally motivated.
No matter what your individual case may be, take a moment to consider applying for Developing History Leaders @SHA (DHL@SHA) this year. Yes, the applications are due on Monday; but, if not now, then when?!?! During the seminar, you will learn from experts in the field, you will be supported by like-minded colleagues from around the nation, and you will experience increased confidence in your own abilities and your potential as a leader.
People are always a little worried about the time commitment. Yes, it’s a lot of time. However, it is well worth it! Speak with any of the alumni or seminar faculty and you might just be overwhelmed by the amount of enthusiasm there is not only for the seminar itself, but for the need to have such a concentrated time commitment. I would not have had it any other way.
So, take a few minutes and tell us why you should be in this year’s class! Why are you a natural leader already? What skills are you hoping to build? Where do you see yourself in five years? Take a deep breath, take the initiative, and fill out that application today!
Developing History Leaders @SHA is for public history practitioners who are ready to improve their knowledge and skills for leadership in a world that is changing rapidly. The forces of change – technological, economic, demographic, cultural – demand a response. To remain vibrant, history organizations must find new ways to serve the public and steward their collections. There is no single way to do this. Rather, leaders must create environments where staffs can be innovative and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the communities they serve.
This year’s seminar will offer many opportunities to learn and discuss the many challenges we face. We’ll see how current leaders are setting new directions and managing change in their organizations. We will also look at fundamentals, such as how to raise money, how to measure impact, and how to lead change in your organization when you’re not the boss.
To set the stage for our discussions, Janet Gallimore from the Idaho State Historical Society will give the keynote. She has been one of the leaders of the History Relevance Campaign, which originated in a conversation over dinner at the seminar in 2012. What started out as informal discussions has become a broader network of individuals who desire to elevate the value and position of history and its inherent skills in the United States. The intent is to serve as a catalyst for discovering, demonstrating, and promulgating the relevance of history for individuals, communities, and the nation.
New this year will be sessions by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Executive Director of the Abbe Museum, on principles and practices of leadership that foster meaningful engagement in the life of a community; Sarah Pharaon from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience on using historic places to facilitate understanding and dialogue on issues of social justice; and Susan West Montgomery from the National Trust on what role your organization can play in helping to save historic places in your community and region.
It’s an exciting time to be working in history organizations – to be preserving the past and using history to benefit others. So if you want to ready yourself to be a leader in our field – whether as an executive director or as head of a major function – then I urge you to apply. There is no better way to further your career.
John Durel, Coordinator, DHL@SHA
Applications for SHA are due Monday, May 19. For more information, click here.
One day during DHL@SHA, after I had listened to Indiana Historical Society‘s President/CEO John Herbst’s presentation, I asked him to lunch through his assistant. I even paid for it because I did the asking! John had information I knew I needed. He had already conquered some of the challenges I was facing at my own institution–and SHA gave me the confidence to go straight to the source and ask for help. After that lunch, he became what I consider an “unwitting mentor.” Once I returned to Arizona where I had worked for the last ten years or so–and had been Museum Director for one year, I emailed him and called him several times to run ideas past him, to ask for his advice–and he always answered. Between what I had gleaned from my overall SHA experience and through the specific interactions with John, my thought process changed. My confidence was bolstered to trust myself and move forward in the direction I believed to be true…I did not simply think about taking risks–I began proposing and taking those risks.
I gained clarity. I understood, more clearly than ever before, my personal thoughts, beliefs, and abilities. I honed in on my professional goals and objectives. Clarity was a result of my experience at SHA and from the people with whom I interacted.
Fast forward two years–I received a job offer that seemed as if I wrote if for myself. My husband quit his job, we packed up the cat and car, and moved cross country. I am now VP of Education and Exhibitions at IHS. Now, John and I have two separate stories about how this happened. I tell everyone that I bugged him until he hired me. He says that I made an impression on him at SHA was on his radar since. I am sure there is the real story somewhere in the middle.
My point is that you never know where SHA will lead you–or to whom SHA will lead you.
Kyle McKoy (SHA ’11), Vice President of Education and Exhibitions, Indiana Historical Society
In DHL@SHA, I kept hearing that we were to think of how to be leaders in the field. And, there I sat, thinking about how I still felt new in my museum career and unsure of where that would lead. See, when I participated in SHA I was trying to better understand the field, a field I entered through classroom teaching. My institution had just gone through our initial accreditation process — and in a classroom analogy, I felt one chapter ahead of the students. I was the primary author of our interpretive plan — and that was after learning just what that document was!
But the thing is, you hear something often enough and you start to believe it. After SHA I realized I didn’t want to just have knowledge about the field, I wanted to grow into a leader at my institution. And, for the small institution I came from, that meant leading from the middle. And yet, I was able to co-develop the bones of an institutional evaluation plan, be a voice for developing new revenue streams, and develop other projects within my primary duties as a museum educator. I grew a lot in those two years, both personally and professionally. And then…
My SHA classmate, Kyle, moved to the Indiana Historical Society in 2013. She and I had kept in touch since the program (most of my classmates have kept in touch over the past 2+ years). I always knew I could turn to Kyle as a sounding board and a cheerleader! We had discussed articles about leadership and management styles. She’d once recruited me for a position at her old site, which didn’t work out because of timing. But, when a position opened up at IHS, I applied on day one. Here was a chance to have an on-site mentor, rise to the next level of leadership and be a part of a team implementing new vision. I’m now the Director of Education and Community Engagement at IHS.
It’s been two amazing months since I’ve moved. I’ve found co-conspirators at my new place (you’ll understand the power of that term at SHA), and I’m over the moon about where I’ve landed. I could not have predicted how SHA would change me at the time, but I know that it shaped me into the leader I am today.
Cynthia Capers (SHA ’11), Director of Education and Community Engagement, Indiana Historical Society
SHA IN BALTIMORE
Just a quick note to let you know that we will be hosting an SHA reception at the American Association of Museums annual meeting in Baltimore next week.
The reception is Monday from 5-6:30 in Hilton Baltimore, Holiday 6.
For more details see page 74 here.
All are welcome! Please join us to learn more about SHA and/or to connect (or reconnect) with colleagues.
After graduate school I accepted a position at a county historical society. I was interested in SHA because I wanted a foundation in historical administration to dovetail with my “baptism by fire” experience. The three-week format covered a great deal of information in a short amount of time which was best for my personal (I had a 3-year-old at home) and my professional life.
SHA is so much more than three weeks of talking about the history field – it’s an opportunity to grow professionally and think about where you want to be in the future, it’s taking time out to really think about the larger field and how you and your organization fit into it, and it’s building a network you can utilize for the rest of your career.
Attending SHA opened my eyes to the possibilities in the field and gave me the confidence to start looking for my next opportunity. My SHA network served as cheerleaders and a sounding board for my search. I went to SHA in fall 1996 and by spring 1998 I started a new position at the Indiana Historical Society (IHS.) SHA faculty and alum from my class and other classes challenged me to think strategically about my career and what I wanted in my next position. After 15 years at IHS, I am starting a new adventure at the end of May 2013 as the Director, Art and History Venues at the Stark Foundation in Orange, TX. I feel confident to move forward in this new leadership position because I do so with a passion for the work, broad experience in the field, and an exceptional network of colleagues around the country many of which I know through SHA. I am proud to be associated with the Developing History Leaders @SHA program as faculty and I regularly encourage colleagues to apply to the program. And note to John Durel and Bob Beatty – I’ve already started thinking about members of my new team that would be great candidates to apply in future years.
If you can’t apply this year, then start planning for a future year. If your employer needs convincing, hook up with SHA alum or faculty to make the case. If you are concerned about the funds, consider applying for one of the scholarships. If you are worried about being away for three weeks, talk to alum who found the time away to be just right. There will never be a perfect time to attend, but it is always the right time to invest in you – personally and professionally.
Trina Nelson Thomas attended SHA in 1996 as the first recipient of the William T. Alderson scholarship. She has served on the SHA planning committee, as local logistics wrangler, as seminar faculty, as most likely to be carried around by loony SHA alum, and as advocate at large (since the title of SHA Tsarina doesn’t exist). She has worked at the Indiana Historical Society for the past 15 years and soon begins her next set of adventures at the Stark Foundation in Orange, TX.
In the beginning of the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly struggles to get his band off the ground and find direction in his life. Before I attended SHA in 2011, I felt like Marty—spinning my wheels, not really sure where to go next, etc. Luckily for those of us in the history field, we have a Doc Brown to turn to: SHA. Granted, it’s not a time machine made out of a Delorian, but still just as effective.
Now in your mind, jump to the end of Back to the Future when Marty experiences the new 1985. His parents and family are better off than they were before and Marty’s got a brand new truck in the garage. Completing SHA is a lot like Marty re-entering reality. You see things differently. New opportunities become available (although I did not get a new truck out of it but you see what I mean). The world looks and feels bigger, if only because your eyes are open with a fresh perspective.
One year after SHA, I was promoted to Assistant Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Indiana Historical Society. I worked hard in the year following SHA to lead from the middle, volunteer to assist with more projects and become a more active member of the education field. This, coupled with my new perspective and knowledge from SHA, led me to where I am today.
I learned a lot about myself during those three weeks. I gained lifelong friendships, created a national network of history colleagues and allowed myself to take time for me. There is always a reason not to do something. Push those to the back of your mind and apply for SHA today.
Becca Beck (SHA ’11), Assistant Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Indiana Historical Society
SHA does all kinds of amazing things – exposes you to the best thinkers in the field, gives you practical knowledge you can instantly use, and creates an incredible professional network that you can call on for just about anything. All those things are important, but none of them are why SHA was a pivotal event in my life.
In 2009, SHA gave me the tools to be intentional about my role in the public history field. When I applied I had been working as a curator for 10 years. I loved hands-on work with collections and exhibits, but as I gained experience I found myself gradually drifting toward administration. In non-profits too often people move into administrative roles without self reflection. We move from doing things to managing things without really thinking about whether that’s the right fit. This negatively impacts both individuals and organizations. Reluctant managers often cannot let go of their previous jobs, or they become disillusioned and uninspired because administration doesn’t feed their souls.
SHA allowed me the time to reflect on why I got into the field and think hard about what I wanted to do. I left after three weeks convinced that I was ready to move into administration, and that I was going to work hard to be the best manager I could possibly be. Other professional development programs supply you with information, but SHA is the only one I know of that reconnects you with your passions and helps you live a more intentional life.
I’ll immediately reveal my vintage. I attended the Seminar way back in the day when it was a 6-week summer program in Williamsburg, comprised of 9 professionals and 9 graduate Fellows. I was a graduate fellow, attending in 1972 midway in my doctoral coursework at William and Mary.
For me, the Seminar was not only introductory, but affirming. I had headed to William and Mary for graduate school on the recommendation of James Morton Smith, one of my undergraduate professors at Cornell. A scholar of American civil liberties and 18th-century America, Smith was an Ivy League academic who also bridged to the world of museums, historical organizations, and archives. He subsequently served as Director of the Historical Society of Wisconsin, and later as the head of Winterthur. I had discussed with several of my professors that I had always loved history – biography, historic sites and historic house museums, collections, architecture – and teaching, but was less enthralled with research and writing. While the classroom would be fine, I really wanted to be with the real stuff and the public, in museums. Smith had been at the Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg earlier in his career and recommended William and Mary for graduate school. While there was no partnership program in place with Colonial Williamsburg, Jim suggested that maybe I could “pick something up.”
And pick it up I did. In the Seminar.
The Seminar was a dream come true — great readings and class discussions about everything museums; rubbing elbows with the heads of the National Trust, AAM, and AASLH; amazing field trips to behind-the-scenes at the Smithsonian to historic houses and museums, several of which were helmed by retired admirals who poured afternoon sherry for us. Surely these places would be ripe for a new generation of professionally trained historians and administrators! The class mix also was a plus, and the coordinator was a genial Texan named William Seale, who would become White House historian.
Most importantly for me, I met Jim Short, the Vice President for Preservation and Research at Colonial Williamsburg. Jim was a highly respected leader in the field, the Colonial Williamsburg lynchpin, with AASLH’s Bill Alderson, for the Seminar and the well-connected colleague of others advancing the professionalism of nonacademic history.
Shortly after the Seminar Jim called to ask if I could come talk about a job at Colonial Williamsburg. An opening was coming up in Archives, and part of the work would be to carry on the oral history program he had started in the 1950s. I was dying to do it, and we worked out a schedule that enabled me to complete my coursework as well.
I owe my subsequent career of 40-and-counting years to the Seminar and to Jim Short, who also was a leader in the American Association of State and Local History. I stayed on at Colonial Williamsburg for 28 years, becoming Executive Assistant to the President and Foundation Secretary, linking my work with two exceptional Board Chairs, Associate Justice Lewis Powell and Charlie Brown, then also CEO of AT&T. I moved through several Vice President and division head posts, including Corporate Planning Officer, VP for Quality Performance and Information Management, VP and Chief Administration Officer, and the VP for Education overseeing all of the mission-delivery divisions of the Foundation (research, preservation, collections and museums, Historic Area interpretation and programs, publishing, and educational outreach). Over the years, after Jim Short’s untimely death, I assumed the mantle of working with the other Seminar sponsors to maintain its strength, appeal, and value.
Subsequently, I have had the good fortune of leading The New York State Historical Association, with its significant museum of American art and culture, and the outdoor living history Farmers’ Museum, all joined with the State University of New York in mounting the country’s premier graduate program in museum studies, the Cooperstown Graduate Program.
And since 2011 I have been privileged to be the Director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, whose truly amazing staff administer an incredibly rich and diverse collection that includes the state’s archives; a network of thirty state historic sites and museums; the state’s History Center with its innovative exhibition program and library; and Minnesota’s State Historic Preservation Office. The Society’s field services, museum education programs, and statewide educational program, including the largest (and best!) state History Day programs, are exceptional, as are its ground-breaking initiatives working with American Indian nations, communities of color, and new immigrant communities.
It’s great to wake up every morning and come to work in a history organization!
And I have had the pleasure of paying back to AASLH and the Seminar by chairing the AASLH Council. What a delight to see the strong content of the Seminar experience in recent years under former CW colleague Denny O’Toole and now John Durel! And what fun to sense the excitement at AASLH receptions for SHA alumni and prospective attendees!
While the Seminar experience has changed since 1972 (what hasn’t!), it is every bit as dense, engaging, thoroughly enjoyable, and valuable as it was then. And I know that those experiencing the Seminar of the 21st century also come away better equipped to deal with the steep challenges facing history organizations in today’s world. They emerge smarter, with a stronger network of resources and collegial support, and energized. And they go right back to work.
How important is their good work in a country whose educational policy is leaving all its children behind when it comes to the social studies, humanities, and the arts?
If we place any value on Americans’ ability to understand our country’s distinctive history, ideas, culture, development, and context; to find and assess information and to think through issues; and to chart a course for sustainability and success on an ever-shrinking planet, then we have to believe it is huge!
D. Stephen Elliott, Director and Chief Executive Officer, Minnesota Historical Society
Last year I wrote a bit about what I felt were the strengths of Developing History Leaders @ SHA. I opined on SHA’s top-notch faculty and the importance of the relationships that I developed as part of the SHA Class of 2011. My blog was one part of an all out effort by the SHA Class of 2011 to increase awareness of a program that we all feel indebted to and one which we are convinced is our field’s most important and effective leadership program.
Now, I’m setting out to continue to spread the good word of SHA; but, this time I’m going to try a different angle. This time, at the risk of sounding sarcastic, overbearing, or rude, I’m going to lay out who I think may not be a good fit for Developing History Leaders @SHA.
- If you don’t want to be a leader, you might want to reconsider applying to attend SHA. It’s understandable that not everybody wants to lead (in fact the world needs as many good followers as it does good leaders); but, SHA’s main emphasis is to develop leaders for our field. So, if you have no interest in being a leader, than SHA is probably not for you.
- If you are not very interested in collaboration, than you probably shouldn’t attend SHA. It’s understandable if you’re not interested in collaboration. But, at its heart SHA is essentially a collaborative program—attendees learn and develop by collaborating with each other, the faculty, and the area museums. So, if you aren’t interested in a high level of collaborative activity, you may want to stay home.
- If you’re satisfied where you are in your personal and professional development, than SHA might not be the best choice for you. SHA should be part of your career-development plan. I’m not saying that you need to be overly ambitious, but I think you certainly should have some ambitions to improve yourself and your career. SHA is not easy. Throughout your time at SHA, you’ll have plenty of reading assignments and plenty of challenging and rewarding small-group assignments. If you don’t have some ambition to work hard and an eagerness to expand your abilities, you’ll probably be unhappy. You can have a good time at SHA, but it’s no vacation.
- If you feel you have no role outside your own institution, than SHA may not be your thing. One of the great strengths of SHA is its ability to inculcate in its attendees the importance of not only being a leader at their own institution but also being a leader in the field. Most SHA alumni feel a commitment to the field—they ask not only How can I contribute and lead at my own institution? but they also ask How can I contribute to the betterment of my field and all institutions?
All that being said, my intent is certainly not to scare anyone away from SHA. However, SHA is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. From the competitive application process to the extended time away from home to the soul-searching discussions you’ll have with your classmates—SHA will challenge you. I encourage you to be a leader, to be collaborative, to discover your role outside the walls of your own institution, and to continue to push yourself to improve—I encourage you to consider SHA.
Mark Sundlov (SHA ’11) is Site Supervisor at the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site in Cooperstown, North Dakota. He currently serves on the SHA Alumni Committee and the AASLH Program Committee.
SHA coordinator John Durel is busy finalizing the 2013 SHA schedule. Below are his thoughts on this year’s program.
The curriculum for Developing History Leaders @ SHA 2013 is taking shape, with continued emphasis on trends and innovations that are affecting the work of history organizations, as well as fundamental skills necessary to be a successful leader in our field. This year Katherine Kane, Executive Director of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, will give the keynote on the first day of the seminar, setting the stage for discussions over the next three weeks. The Stowe Center is more than a traditional historic house. It is a place that uses Stowe’s life and work to inspire others to take action addressing the concerns of today. It is a prime example of making history useful to contemporary life.
Discussions the first week will center on other innovative ways to use history to engage audiences and benefit communities, sometimes dealing with sensitive issues. Among the topics will working with communities to create meaningful exhibitions, the latest use of technology to enhance history experiences, and reinterpreting historic sites using historical research and community engagement. In addition, we are working with SHA partner the National Trust for Historic Preservation to include seminarians in the 2013 National Preservation Conference. (Check out this fantastic video on Indianapolis and the Trust conference.)
Week two will begin with discussions led by five executive directors who are taking different approaches to reinventing their organizations. To varying degrees they have focused on the guest experience, the financial model, community engagement, the collections, the staff, and the board. Their stories reveal the complexity of leading change for a whole organization, and not just a single function or department. Students will have opportunities to talk with these directors, both formally and informally.
In the latter part of the second week we will address questions about audience, specifically demographic trends and evaluation, and end with a field trip to see and discuss the Power of Children exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, and to participate in Follow the North Star at Conner Prairie.
In the final week we will turn attention inward to organizational development, with sessions on creating a vision, raising money, managing change, leading from the middle, and building teams. Increasingly the conversation will turn toward practical steps and strategies that students can employ when they return home, ready to be stronger leaders in their respective institutions and in the field as a whole.