Saturday, November 6, 2010

The end of the first week

We’re near the end of the first week, so I’ll recap what we covered on Wed-Thurs-Friday. Wednesday’s focus was on leadership. We visited with leaders at three very different history organizations: Phyllis Geeslin at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site; Mary Ellen Nottage at the Indiana Medical History Museum; and John Vanausdall at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. We discussed leadership styles and practices, and the challenges of being effective at different stages in the lifecycle of organizations.

On Thursday Benjamin Filene, who directs the public history program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and Cynthia Chavez Lamar from the Indian Arts Research Center in Santa Fe, presented on community engagement. Benjamin led us in a consideration of the breadth and variety of activities that fall under this label, including the Kitchen Dialogues at the Tenement Museum, the Independence Community Gallery at the Brooklyn Historical Society, and an exhibit called “Courage” at the Levine Museum of the New South. Cynthia spoke on the challenges she faced in working with native communities in developing the “Our Lives” exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian.

For something completely different, on Friday Sal Cilella from the Atlanta History Center gave a sweeping overview of the challenges and best practices for raising money. He covered what the institution needs to have in place for effective fund development, what the philanthropic market looks like today, and how to build and maintain positive donor relations. Success comes at the intersection of these three sets of activities.

This morning we’re going to hear from Dan Spock from the Minnesota Historical Society on the critical components of successful history exhibits. The class has already had discussions about the challenges of creating exhibits with all of the changes that are occurring in our communities and in our institutions.  It should be a good discussion.

Then we’re off for the rest of the weekend. Some within driving distance will be heading home to be with family. Being away for three weeks is a big commitment. As any successful leader knows, you can’t neglect your personal life. You’ve got to navigate your various commitments with the support of both your work colleagues and your family. 


  1. Good wishes for all to continue to learn and to help shape and decide your museum future! Class of '96.

  2. Sounds like a great start to week #1...
    We're looking forward to hosting everyone here at Conner Prairie this Friday!
    Dave Allison, Class of '06