History Resources To Watch In 2016


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New-York-State-Map1As we look forward to the new year ahead, we continue to search for and try out ideas that will strengthen state and local history here in New York.  What follows is a short list of resources that might be of interest:

Of course, the best place to publicize, monitor, and comment on historical programs and issues in our state is this New York History Blog. John Warren continues to provide a unique forum here to keep up with history community news and exchange ideas. Without this blog, we would not have any way to keep in touch. We wouldn’t be able to follow news from historical programs, updates on the work and role of local historians, or discussions of New York History Month, Path Through History, the State Historian’s position, or the proposed Museum Education Act, just to cite a few examples. But keeping the blog going requires support from the state’s history community.

Linda Norris’ posts in The Uncataloged Museum are always worth reading. She reflects on the purpose and mission of museums but also goes into practical issues connected to their administration, and often adds an international dimension to the work.

Nina Simon, who pioneered the concept of “The Participatory Museum” and writes the very helpful Museum 2.0 blog will be publishing a new book on relevance sometime in 2016. She will cover history museums and historical societies as well as a broader range of museums and cultural institutions. According to her blog, she expects to address:

  • what relevance is, why it matters, and when it doesn’t
  • relevance to WHO – identifying and making legitimate connections with communities of interest
  • relevance to WHAT – making confident connections to mission, content, and form
  • relevance as a GATEWAY to deep experiences vs. relevance as a PROCESS of deepening involvement
  • measuring relevance

The American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums will continue the blog postings by the Center’s director, Elizabeth Merritt; “Trends Watch” (often helpful for technology trends); advocacy for museums; and working to implement the Center’s white paper on Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Future of Education, which advocates an expansive role for museums in education. This is particularly timely here in New York in light of the growing support for the proposed Museum Education Act which would provide museums and other eligible institutions access to grant funding to conduct curriculum-based educational programs for students and teachers.

Many local historical programs are located in libraries and libraries across the state have important historical research collections. That makes the American Library Association’s new Center for the Future of Libraries particularly important. The Center will identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote innovative techniques; and “build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues.” Already useful is the section of their website on trends transforming libraries.

The American Association for State and Local History, the leading professional association in our field, is always a source of inspiration and good ideas. It may be particularly helpful to follow their blogs which often delve into leading-edge issues.

The National Council on Public History’s History@Work, a multi-authored, far-ranging blog, provides opinions and perspectives on the study and practice of public history.

The American Historical Association’sAHA Today multi-authored blog carries interesting updates and perspectives, particularly on history from the viewpoint of academics.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University is a useful source for information and updates on digital history.

We have some of the strongest history programs in the nation here in New York. But for an outside perspective, you might want to take a look from time to time at the Minnesota Historical Society. They have a broad range of programs, including excellent exhibits, programs for schools, and historic sites that are used in imaginative ways. They have a constitutionally-established Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that supports historical and other projects across the state. The Society’s News Releases highlight changing exhibits and other activities. Their Annual Reports are models of presentations that highlight accomplishments but also show potential and are written for a broad audience.

Many programs abroad are facing some of the same issues, and seeing some of the same opportunities, that we are here. The British Museums Association might be of particular interest. They are especially concerned with the future of museums and resource issues. They are also trying to follow up on the ideas in their provocative 2013 white paper Museums Change Lives, on how to strengthen, measure, and report on the usefulness of museums.

Finally, the British Association for Local History supports local history “as an academic discipline and as a rewarding leisure pursuit for both individuals and groups.” They have two publications — The Local Historian and Local History News — and their website publicizes local history topics they find of interest.

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Bruce Dearstyne

About Bruce Dearstyne

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne served on the staff of the New York State Office of State History and the State Archives. He was a professor and is now an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies and has written widely about New York history and occasionally writes about New York history issues for the “Perspective” section of the Sunday Albany Times Union. Bruce is the author of two books published in 2015: The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History (SUNY Press) and also Leading the Historical Enterprise: Strategic Creativity, Planning and Advocacy for the Digital Age (Rowman and Littlefield and the AASLH). He can bereached at dearstyne@verizon.net.

3 thoughts on “History Resources To Watch In 2016

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