Category Archives: Seminar for Historical Administration
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.
Developing 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
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.
For more information about Developing History Leaders @SHA, visit HistoryLeadership.org.
Erin 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.
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.
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.
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.
Periodically, I take out the massive binder that I received my first day at Developing History Leaders @SHA in October of 2012. As my desk groans under its weight, I flip through its pages and look for answers to questions that although may be appearing for the first time for me, have been raised since the first year of SHA – and probably for as long as museums have existed. On this particular day, I turned to the section entitled “Visioning for Impact.” I looked over the article written by (the now sadly retired) John Durel and I reflected on a few of the questions he posed when trying to identify an institution’s core purpose:
“Why does your museum exist? Why is it important? Why bother?”
When I had first arrived at SHA I couldn’t have answered any of those questions. I was in a unique position in that I hadn’t worked a single day at my institution yet. Some time between getting accepted into SHA and arriving on that first day, I had quit my job as Executive Director of the Queens Historical Society in Flushing, NY, and accepted a position at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, NY. The three weeks in Indianapolis was the transition period between what would be two varied parts of my employment history. While a historical society based in a landmarked house is very different from a Holocaust resource center on a college campus, I feel that no matter where you are and what aspect of history you are preserving, it all comes down to telling a good story. When you are passionate about history, it’s contagious. And if you are somehow able to show your visitor how this history impacted you – then they can be impacted as well.
My “a-ha” moment took place in July of 2015. A friend from high school, who I hadn’t spoken to in years, contacted me through Facebook about a unique object she had found. Jillian, who deals vintage clothing and jewelry as a hobby, went to an estate sale in the suburbs of NYC. In the back of a walk in closet, buried among a lifetime’s worth of clothing, was a striped jacket. She quickly purchased it amid a few other pieces for $10, and when she looked at the jacket once outside in her car, her suspicions were confirmed. The blue and gray stripes, the years of dirt, the distinctive numbers written on the left breast – it appeared to be the jacket of a concentration camp uniform. When she sent me the photos I was stunned that she could have potentially found something this rare at a yard sale. Immediately I thought of the Dachau Concentration Camp, where I had seen photos that showed similar uniform patterns. With that tiny bit of information, Jillian cross-referenced the number on the jacket with an online Dachau prisoner database and she got a name – Benzion Peresecki. She looked up the name of the homeowner from the estate sale – Ben Peres, a name too similar to the prisoner not to be connected.
Jillian donated the jacket to the KHC and that’s when our research truly began. The first step however, was contacting the family running the estate sale to confirm its authenticity and to find out how something this precious might have been overlooked. When we got the owner on the phone she was in disbelief. Lorrie, the daughter of Ben Peres, born Benzion Peresecki in Lithuania in 1926 and died in 1978 of a stroke, was in fact a Holocaust survivor who had been imprisoned at Dachau. But Lorrie was unaware of the jacket’s existence or any other material connected to the Holocaust because her father never spoke of his experience. When we invited her to the Center to see the jacket for herself, she was stunned. Lorrie was surprised that the jacket existed, and overwhelmingly grateful that Jillian happened to discover it and donate it to the Center before it was discarded with other old clothing.
Lorrie was so moved that she returned a few weeks later with over 1,500 documents, photographs, passports, home movies, and other materials that had belonged to her father that she found in the house they were in the process of selling. A story came together. Benzion Peresecki/Prisoner 84679/Ben Peres became one person who lived three very different lives. With the jacket and all these archival materials from Lorrie, we were able to launch an exhibition here at the Center in October 2016 that tells the story of the Holocaust through one man’s unique journey. Every time I give a tour of the exhibit I feel personally connected to Ben Peres, and I know that this is conveyed to the visitor. I feel privileged to have played even a small role in this project’s coming to fruition.
Now, just over four years after attending SHA, I can now easily answer those seemingly “basic” questions about my institution. There’s the more technical answer – To show the community the significance of past genocides, the dangers of prejudice that remain today, and inspire them to become advocates for social change. But then there’s the more personal answer – to remind ourselves that every story of the Holocaust or any human rights violations is our story as well. No matter our race, religion, nationality, when one human suffers, we all do. The more time I spend at the KHC, the more I realize how important it is for this Center to exist and how as an educator, I can impact the lives of visitors through connections made from primary sources.
Throughout your careers in museums, archives, historic houses, and any other type of institution that works to preserve history, you will have many questions. The beauty of having participated in SHA is that you will always be able to find someone who has dealt with that same question at some point or who can point you in the right direction. And you can always take out that huge binder.
Marisa (Berman) Hollywood (SHA ‘12) is the Assistant Director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College – CUNY in Queens, NY. A doctoral student of English at St. John’s University, she is a museum professional and historian specializing in Cultural Studies, Costume and Textile History, Museology, and Historic Preservation. Always seeking new and innovative ways to get people interested in their local history, she has written two recent books about Long Island history.
The Jacket from Dachau: One Survivor’s Search for Justice, Identity, and Home is on view at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center through June 2015. For more information about the exhibit, click here or check out this video about the story of the jacket’s discovery.
The Journey from Thought to Action
Chris Goodlett, SHA Class of 2016
It’s been about a week and half since I returned from SHA. I think about the experience daily and am still coping with the challenge of how to turn thought and discussion into action at my own institution, the Kentucky Derby Museum. Returning to the office during a holiday week allowed some time for reflection, and I spent ample time reviewing things. I went back and listened to the keynote address by John Fleming. I found myself adding key details to my synopsis of his discussion on implicit bias. I reviewed other presentations as well and again found details that I had missed.
Of course, as great as it is to return to the experience that is SHA, at some point you have to think about what it means for your institution. I have an advantage as we are currently going through strategic planning. What better time to introduce some of the concepts I learned from faculty and peers at SHA. Presenting the ideas as action items is the first challenge. As my fellow SHA graduates can attest, your head is swimming with ideas after your three weeks away, and you need to find ways to translate these into something measurable.
Of the many ideas I brought back from SHA, one I keep returning to is community outreach. As I listened to faculty discuss history relevance and asking “so what?” and “for whom?” I felt that KDM can be more intentional in asking these questions in its community. As an entity that looks at the history and culture surrounding an iconic American sporting event, the citizens of Kentucky commemorate the Derby in unique ways. Many SHA faculty related stories of how engaging potential audiences with stories relevant to them transformed their institutions, and it’s my hope that KDM can engage the surrounding community with similar results.
That’s just one small, but important, idea to start. I hope to be able to report successes on the road to relevance. I’m very interested in learning about the efforts of my fellow SHA 2016 alums, as well as others who have taken ideas and thoughts from SHA and turned them into action.
I came to SHA for a variety of reasons- networking, growing my knowledge of the field, and learning new skills relevant to my particular role, to name a few. At the top of my list was a desire to become more savvy about the business side of running a museum. As someone whose educational background is in history, and who works with interpretation and exhibits for a large organization, I arrived eager to learn more about matters that are outside my day-to-day responsibilities. Here are 3 takeaways from our sessions this past week.
Every single staff member and volunteer in a museum plays a role in development. I’m focused on the guest experience in my museum, which occasionally extends consciously into the realm of development. Since gifts depend on an institution’s reputation, mission, and the love that a donor has for our work, all departments have an effect on our ability to secure those gifts, just as they do in our ability to provide a positive guest experience. I also had a chance to make my first “ask.” I was deferred because I hadn’t been able to provide data on impact. I won’t make that mistake twice, especially in real life.
History leaders need to be involved in the financial process of their museum, regardless of their department. One of our speakers, Jeff Matsuoka, VP Business and Operations at the Indiana Historical Society described budgeting as “a decision to allocate resources in certain places and not in others.” In order to do this, we need to know our revenue streams and how they compare in terms of percentage of total revenue, develop a cash flow model which includes personnel and operating expenses. No museum is so large that they can do everything they want to do, and, for a mission-based organization, the strategic plan guides both the budget and the program. The preparation I did for the session on finance helped me to better understand my own institution’s business model, and investigate those of other museums.
Business model case studies help leaders train themselves to succeed based on what they would do in a given situation. Disengaged boards, personnel costs dangerously similar to total income, crumbling buildings, lagging attendance. Amidst all of these challenges, my first instinct as the hypothetical advisor to the CEO of “Old Pemberly Village” (a fictitious historic site) was to advise her to seek other employment. But there were also positives, like robust local college programs, positive new hires, and community partners. Working through this for a few hours as a group along with our guest faculty member for guidance, we turned OPV into a viable, vibrant, relevant part of its community…at least on paper.
There is one benefit that I hadn’t expected of my time here that I am appreciating all the more each day. There is a freedom that comes from being in a room as professional equals with colleagues who are at varying levels within their organizations from the top to the middle, and yet none of whom report to one another. If I don’t know how to approach a problem, I get to hear the directors in the room share how they would, or have solved that problem. It’s kind of like being a freshman and having friends who are seniors.
Kate Morland is Museum Manager at The Henry Ford.