September 18, 2015

Visiting the Connecticut Historical Society

I met with Jody Blankenship, Executive Director of the Connecticut Historical Society, and Ilene Frank, Chief Curator, on September 3 to update them on The History List, including the new weekly statewide history events mailing, discuss other projects that we might tackle together, and get a tour of their museum.  Jody was named executive director a little less than a year earlier, recruited from a post at the Kentucky Historical Society, and Ilene Frank was recruited in in May of this year from the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, N.Y., where she had been the executive director.  

I first met Jody on a visit to the Kentucky Historical Society in August 2012.  I wasn't surprised to hear last fall that he'd been chosen for the top job at the Connecticut Historical Society, or that lots of new things are happening under his leadership.

These six ideas may be of particular interest since almost any organization can apply them:

  • Their exhibit, "Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories."  In addition to the theme and approach, note the object signs, the variety of objects, and the way in which visitors could contribute.
  • A major exhibit in which they partnered with a community that has not traditionally had much of a connection to the Connecticut Historical Society.
  • Historical notes on contextual signs throughout the building, such as a sign in an elevator about an important invention by the founder of Otis Elevator Company, which is headquartered in Connecticut.
  • Getting visitors to sign up for their e-mail newsletter.
  • Their campaign, with other organizations, to save funding for history, the humanities, and preservation.
  • A creative approach to merchandise, explained in this "Income Ideas" resources post.

Photos of these are included below.

If you would like to meet at your state or local historic site, please let me know and I'll schedule a visit when I'm in the area.


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