January 1, 2017

Why I started The History List

I started The History List in 2011.  Today it's grown to be the largest list of history-related events and exhibits, and it's led me to compile the largest list of history- and preservation-related conferences and courses for professionals, as well as launch weekly newsletters with history events in states and regions, as well as newsletters with marketing tips for history organizations.  You can learn more about these newsletters and subscribe here.

And since launching The History List, I've also started History Camp and The History List Store

As we start the new year, I thought I'd come back the beginning and take you through why I started The History List.

Lee Wright, founder of The History List and History Camp

There were several things that happened the first couple of years after we moved to New England and bought an old (c 1780) house that got me thinking about create a tool 

We wanted to learn more about our house, so I visited our local historical society.  Before long I was on the board and started creating our society's website and e-mail newsletter and saw the challenges our all-volunteer, member-supported historical society faced.

→ We needed a way to get the word out about our events, and it needed to be something we could afford, which meant it had to be free.

→ We needed a way to manage the event information on our site.  Sometimes I had the details and could add them; in other cases, someone else had the details.

Working with my colleagues on the board, I convened an "Idea Exchange" (pictured below) open to all history organizations in New England.  Most of those who attended were with all-volunteer historical societies.

→ Nearly all of the organizations had the same challenge we did: Getting the word out and attracting people to their events.

I met with executive directors of local historical societies who discussed getting a grant to hire someone to manage the process of collecting event information from each member, compiling a newsletter, and sending it back out to the members of all of the participating organizations.

→ That seemed like a lot of effort and expense.

→ Individuals would only receive information about events from organizations that participated in this group, regardless of where the individual or the other organization was located.

I attended an outstanding reenactment near where we live that I only found out about because I drove past the local fire station and saw a painted plywood sign out in front promoting the event.  It was a beautiful fall day and the event was really well done, but there weren't nearly as many people there as there should have been.

→ If information about the event had reached more people, I knew there would have been hundreds more in attendance.

At the event, I asked one of the reenactors how I could find more events like this one.  He gave me his business card and suggested that I contact him in the spring.

→ There should be a place where things are listed online.

There were many online calendars, but our history events were buried and hard to find.  There were several online calendar systems, but none fit the requirements I had.

→ Took into account distance to travel so it could include events anywhere, including in rural areas.

→ Simple, easy to use, with a clean interface.

→ Could be configured so that anyone with an account could enter or edit.

→ Handled all kinds of event repeating patterns, including ongoing events, such as exhibits.

→ Enabled organizations to enter lengthy, detailed information (text and photos) about their events.

→ Enabled individuals to interact with these, including posting comments.

→ Could be set up and provided as a service.

If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know.  I read every question, and frequently your suggestions are the basis for new features and new products.

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