July 19, 2013

The 2013 Leadership in History Awards from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)

Updated August 17, 2013: Slides with more information on and links to each of the winning projects are in this post in the Resources section.

Congratulations to this year's award recipients, who will be recognized at the 2013 AASLH Conference, “Turning Points: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Change," on September 20th in Birmingham.  If you have changes to or suggestions for the links below, please let us know.  The list, as issued, is here.  (The 2012 winners, with links, is also available.)

You can add your history-related organization, site, event, or exhibit to The History List.  Read what other organizations say about why the are participating or learn what makes The History List valuable for history organizations.

The Albert B. Corey Award 

Southlake Historical Society

The Albert B. Corey Award recognizes primarily volunteer-operated historical organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work.  Regional chairs may recommend any primarily volunteer organization that is nominated for the Award of Merit. This is an award made at the discretion of the Awards Committee.


The Sitka Historical Society for the exhibit Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood 100-Year Panels 


The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture Mobile Website

Lakeport Plantation for the Lakeport Plantation Permanent Exhibits


Mesa Historical Museum  for Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience


Louis P. Doody, Betty Kikumi Meltzer, and Malki Museum’s Malki-Ballena Press for the publication Losing Ground: The Displacement of San Gorgonio Pass Cahuilla People in the 19th Century

Gerald W. Haslam and Janice E. Haslam for the publication In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S.I. Hayakwa 

Museum of Teaching and Learning and Ray Rast for the exhibit  A Class Action: The Grassroots Struggle for School Desegregation in California

Oakland Museum of California, Lee Simpson, and the California State University, Sacramento, Public History Principles and Techniques Class, Fall 2011 for the exhibit What's Happening Sacramento?


Aspen Historical Society  for the exhibit  Seasons of the Nuche: Transitions of the Ute People  

City of Fort Collins Preservation Division and Landmark  for the preservation and interpretation of the Coca-Cola/Angell’sDelicatessen Ghost Sign

History Colorado for excellence in preserving and interpreting the history of Colorado

History Colorado for the publication of  A Civil War Scrapbook: I Was There Too!

Ann E. Komara for the publication Lawrence Halprin's Skyline Park


Deborah Edwards, Dr. Mark Jones, Amy Trout, and Dr. Cynthia Roznoy for the exhibit Art for Everyone: The Federal Art Project in Connecticut

Litchfield Historical Society  for the publication Litchfield, The Making of a New England Town

The New London County Historical Society, Mystic Seaport, The Stonington Historical Society, The New London Maritime Society, and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum for the exhibit The Rocket's Red Glare - Connecticut and the War of 1812

Writer's Block Ink and Connecticut Landmarks for the project Stories of Slavery and Freedom 

District of Columbia 

President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site, for the exhibit Can You Walk Away? Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in the United States


John H. Hendricks for the publication Following the Tracks of Daniel Callahan 

History Miami for the exhibit The Guayabera: A Shirt's Story. This nominee is also the recipient of a History in Progress Award.


Georgia Historical Society for Today in Georgia History


John H. Mock for his passionate dedication to preserving the heritage of Lewiston, ID


John Adelmann and the students of Dubuque’s Central Alternative High School for The Dubuque Shot Tower  project

Living History Farms  for the exterior shell restoration of the Flynn Mansion (fundraising video; description upon completion)


Joliet Area Historical Museum  for the exhibit Strike Up The Band! 100 Years of the Joliet Township H.S. Bands

Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences and Channy Lyons for the exhibit Skirting Convention:  Illinois Women Artists, 1840-1940


Maine State Museum  for the exhibit Malaga Island, Fragmented Live.  This nominee is also the recipient of a History in Progress Award.


Gordon E. Katz for the publication "102 Gentlemen & A Lady" The Story of the Atlantic Hotel Company in Ocean City, Maryland

Julia A. King for the publication Archaeology, Narrative, and the Politics of the Past The View from Southern Maryland 


Judy Anderson for the publicationGlorious Splendor - The 18th-Century Wallpapers in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts

Gore Place for My Farm at Waltham: Outdoor Multimedia Tours at Gore Place

Historic New England,  AVA Gallery and Art Center, and CATV of the Upper Valley  for the documentary  Connecting the Threads: Overalls to Art - The H.W. Carter and Sons Factory

Lowell National Historical Park and The University of Massachusetts, Lowell for the exhibit Dickens and Massachusetts: A Tale of Power and Transformation

Newbury Preservation Trust, Thomas Kolterjahn, and Karen Holt for the Newburyport Powder House Restoration Project

Calantha Doane Sears for a lifelong commitment to preserving the history of Nahant, MA

U.S.S. Constitution Museum for the project A Sailor’s Life for Me! (featured in a case study on The History List.)


Historical Society of Saginaw County for Project 1893: Unearthing Saginaw's Great Fire

Sandra L. Planisek for chronicling and preserving the history of the village of Mackinaw City, MI


Alexander Ramsey House and Minnesota Historical Society  for the Ramsey Redevelopment Project

Bill and Bonnie Daniels Firefighters Hall and Museum for the exhibit 81 Minutes: Story of the 35W Bridge Collapse

Brown Historic Society  for the exhibit Never Shall I Forget: Brown County and the U.S.-Dakota War

Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, Claudia Pratt, and Amanda Nordick for the exhibit Hjemkomst Sagas: One Dream, A Viking Ship, Many Stories

Minnesota Historical Society  for the exhibit Then Now Wow

Minnesota Historical Society  for the project The U.S. Dakota War of 1862.  This nominee is also the recipient of a History in Progress Award.

Nicollet County Historical Society and Gustavus Adolphus College  for the exhibit Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota-U.S. War of 1862

Gwen Westerman and Bruce White  for the publication  Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota 


Missouri History Museum  for the exhibit Underneath It All


Nancy Plain for the publication Light on the Prairie: Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska’s Pioneer Days

L. Robert Puschedorf for the publication Nebraska's Post Office Murals: Born of the Depression, Fostered by the New Deal


University of Nevada Press for the publication The Gold Rush Letters of E. Allen Grosh and Hosea B. Grosh 

New Jersey 

John Whiteclay Chambers, II, for the publication Cranbury: A New Jersey Town from the Colonial Era to the Present 

Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission for the West Jersey Time Traveler Interpretive Program 

New York

The New York State Museum for the exhibit An Irrepressible Conflict:The Empire State in the Civil War

Shaker Heritage Society  for the Virtual Watervliet.  This nominee is also the recipient of a History in Progress Award.

North Carolina

North Carolina Museum of History  Award of Merit for the exhibit History in Every Direction: Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Discovery Gallery

The Awards Committee, at its discretion, may present an Award of Merit to a nominee whose work is highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness. 

North Dakota  

State Historical Society of North Dakota for the documentary The People of the Upper Missouri: The Mandans


The Betts House for the exhibit The Big Shake: How the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes Rocked the Ohio River Valley


Oregon Historical Society for the exhibit Oregon Voices: Change and Challenge in Modern Oregon History


PA Civil War 150, Senator John Heinz History Center, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation  for the publication The Civil War in Pennsylvania: A Photographic History

Senator John Heinz History Center for the exhibit From Slavery to Freedom

Rhode Island 

Rhode Island Historical Society for the John Brown House Museum Audio Tour

Hearthside House Museum  for the exhibit Color and Light: Early 20th Century Portraits of Hearthside

South Carolina 

Spirit of ’45 Committee and Travelers Rest Historical Society for the Spirit of '45 Celebration

South Dakota 

South Dakota Humanities Council for the publication What Makes a South Dakotan

The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College  for the 44th Dakota Conference


Oaklands Historic House Museum for Wedding Dresses Through the Decades (video)


Texas Archive of the Moving Image for their new website


Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Canada’s Mormon Trail Steering Committee, for the Southern Alberta Historic Markers and App Project


Vermont Agency of Transportation, the New York State Department of Transportation,  and the Federal Highway Commission for the Lake Champlain Bridge Commemoration Project.  This nominee is also the recipient of a History in Progress Award.

Peacham Historical Association, Jutta R. Scott, Michelle A. Sherburne, and Lynn A.Bonfield  for the publication A Vermont Hill Town in the Civil War: Peacham's Story

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation for the exhibit “More Than Two Works”: The Life and Legacy of Calvin Coolidge 


Community Design Assistance Center, Virginia Tech for the publication Lost Communities of Virginia

Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation for Anna's Adventures Video Series

The Library of Virginia and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission for the Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access

Loudoun County Public Schools for the Frederick Douglas Elementary School Memorial Exhibit

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media for the website teachinghistory.org

Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission  for the Civil War 150 History Mobile


Granite Falls Historical Society for the project Technology Journey

Museum of History and Industry for the exhibitTrue Northwest:The Seattle Journey

West Virginia 

National Park Service, Southeast Region for the Hispanics and the Civil War: From Battlefield to Homefront Initiative

West Virginia Botanic Garden, Inc. for the exhibit "No More Wiggle-Tail Water": Interpreting the History of Morgantown's Water Supply


Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School, Department of Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Arijit Sen for the project Picturing Milwaukee: Thurston Woods Pilot Study

History Museum at the Castle for the exhibitProgressive Appleton: Through the Lens of W.D. Schlafer

Martin C. Perkins for his scholarship in the field of historic preservation and the significant role he played in the development of Old World Wisconsin

Wisconsin Historical Society Press and Wisconsin Public Television for the publication Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin's Historic Bars and Breweries

 Wisconsin Library Services for Recollection Wisconsin

 Wisconsin Public Radio for the audio essay series Wisconsin Life


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July 10, 2013

Guide to social media for historic sites and history organizations

We're working on a guide to social media for historic sites and history and heritage organizations.  It will be available individually in electronic form at no cost.  If the first one is well-received, we'll do a follow up with more advanced topics.  (To be notified when the guide is available, and for occasional updates on The History List, sign up here.) 

We're looking for your experiences, insights, recommendations, and questions regarding increasing awareness of and attendance at your site and events, including . . .

  • Using Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Flickr, HistoryPin, Pinterest, and others
  • Policies and practices, including getting started, gaining followers, growing and expanding, and managing growth
  • Handling reviews and recommendations, including Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google, and others

Here's an example of a great tip we received from Matt Wilding, who heads the web and social media efforts at The Freedom Trail Foundation:

Guide to social media for historic sites and history organizationsEveryone knows you’re supposed to use hashtags, but often they’re not used very well. Using a tag regularly that might be used by someone else (such as #thisdayinhistory, #history, #mapoli, etc) is a good strategy, but a really good way to boost visibility is to find ways to tie what you’re posting to what’s going on in the world. For example, we have used #pirates when the Pittsburg Pirates are being buzzed about. #Occupy and #OccupyBoston were handy during the Occupy Movement to post about the British Occupation.

Our goal is for this to be useful regardless of the size of your organization or your level of experience with social media.

Please send problems you've encountered, your solutions, your ongoing struggles, your questions, and your successes and failures.  We'll attribute your tips and suggestions to you—unless you'd rather we not.  Just let us know.

Your contributions can be as short as a single sentence or question, a few bullets, or a longer form case study with before and after data points.  

Our deadline for submissions is July 20.  Send us a note, and please include links and screenshots, where appropriate.  

To receive updates on The History List, including information on the guide, sign up here.

And check out the case study we wrote last year about Matt's ongoing "On this day" campaign of 365 videos, which are posted on YouTube and promoted through Facebook and Twitter.

Update on The History List on social media

We started with Facebook and Twitter accounts for The History List.  We recently added Facebook and Twitter accounts under the "Seeing History" name.  

Going forward, the accounts for The History List will primarily focus on the interests of the organizations that participate on The History List, including ways to increase awareness and attendance.  Seeing History is primarily focused on individuals and families looking for something interesting to do in their communities or as part of planning a trip.  The recommendations on Seeing History are drawn from listings on The History List.  In the months ahead we will introduce additional ways organizations can publicize the events they list on The History List through social media.

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May 19, 2013

Using QR codes at historic sites and other ways to meet the needs of mobile visitors

Using QR codes at historic sites and living history museums to meet the needs of mobile visitors was discussed recently in the closed LinkedIn group for the Using QR codes at historic sites: Boston Redevelopment Authority "This Building Has History" QR code campaign during Preservation MonthAssociation for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM):

Question: How to Interpret a Living History Museum with QR Codes?

I am looking to design a QR code tour for our living history site and my problem is that there are so many possibilities that it's hard to narrow it down. What works? Where to start? Does anyone out there have a success story or advice to share?

Some of the respondents reported that they'd implemented these and had some statistics.  

Using The History List is another option to meet the needs of all mobile visitors.  Since our move to a responsive design is complete, a historic site can publish the URL to their page on The History List and users of smartphones and tablets can use it for a tour of the facility.  Pages on The History List can have as much text and as many photos and videos as desired.  There is no cost.  More information on the way in which history organizations can use The History List, with links to examples.

The discussion that follows is my response, edited slightly and with links added.  The photos of the preservation month campaign "This Building Has History" from the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Landmarks Commission from May 2012—the signs were still up in February 2013 when these pictures were taken—are discussed below.

Using QR codes at historic sites and other ways to meet the needs of mobile visitors

If the goal is to increase a visitor's understanding of and interaction with a place, I'm skeptical of the utility of QR codes and am interested in seeing the key stats in Neil's report.  Making your site— both your website and your physical site— easy to use for people on tablets and smartphones seems like Using QR codes at historic sites: Traditional sign and QR code on The Old Corner Bookstore in Bostona smarter way to spend additional time and money.

The reach of QR codes

Based on the "20% of 50%" figure quoted, you're starting with 10% of your population who even has the ability to call up the information.  If 1 in 4 people actually does—a very generous estimate—you're reaching 2.5% of your visitors.

Question: When was the last time you saw a QR code?  Now, when was the last time you pulled out your smartphone and scanned a QR code?  We notice the codes because they stand out graphically, not because we've scanned them and found great content.

Updated May 19, 2013: Rachelle Clayton added this anecdote to the original discussion:

I was recently at a tourism conference where the speaker was pushing QR codes and their benefits. I did a quick poll of the tables around me. Out of six tables of ten (60 people), all into social media and enhanced visitor experiences, 100% had smartphones or iPhones. One had ever scanned a QR code (in a provincial park), and only that person knew how to scan or even had the app to do it. 

Responsive design as a way to reach mobile visitors

Instead of creating a tour based on QR codes, invest in a website built using responsive design.  For an example of the way responsive design works, look at Old Sturbridge Village's page on The History List

If you're on a laptop or desktop, take your browser window and re-size it—make it narrower, like a tablet, or narrower still, like a smartphone—and you'll see that the content automatically rearranges so that you don't have to zoom in to read it or scroll side to side. 

With responsive design, users on all devices with browsers, including tablets and smartphones, are able to consumer your content just by visiting your site.  They don't need a special app.  A new report shows that 9% of all web traffic to US sites was from tablets and another 7% was from smartphones; both numbers continue to grow. 

To go back to our thought experiment: When was the last time you used your tablet or smartphone to browse the web?

What responsive design means for historic sites and living history museums and facilities:

- Ensures that a growing percentage of your web visitors have a great experience.  The design of some sites today makes them unusable on a smartphone.  (If you wonder what your site looks like on the dozens of different combinations of devices, browsers, and OSs that your visitors use, there are online services that you can try our for free.  We use crossbrowsertesting.com.)

- Enables you to forestall development of a dedicated application for iOS and Android.  Or, if you already have created them, track the use of your apps and the cost to build and update them and compare that to the cost of creating and maintaining a single website that works across all platforms.  (A dedicated app makes a lot of sense for folks like ESPN or American Airlines, but it's unlikely to generate a rate of return that's high enough for most of us.)

- Solves your outdoor use problem.  Simply add the URL of the section of your site with your tour to your signage and materials, such as http://www.ExampleHistoricSite.org/tour.  (For those with really long URLs, you might also print a URL that's created using a URL shortener, such as bit.ly or goo.gl.)

Responsive design options for historic sites and living history museums and facilities

- For sites built on WordPress or another content management system (CMS) that has a responsive framework: WordPress and some of the other CMSs that have responsive templates, so if your site was built on WordPress or another that has a responsive framework, talk with the person who handles your site about implementing responsive design.

- For sites built using other CMSs: It's become easier for developers to build these sites, which use HTML5 and CSS3, since the introduction of Bootstrap from Twitter and other frameworks.  If your developer hasn't talked with you about this already, ask them.

- For all sites: Regardless of what you do with your own site, you can take advantage of your organization's responsive page on The History List.  Listings are free.  As you saw above, the organization pages are responsive. (Soon the entire site will be.)  You can, at no cost, build out a page for your facility that is as long and detailed as you wish, with dozens of pictures and video clips and thousands of words of text on the page, and then publicize that URL.  (Use a URL shortener, such as bit.ly or goo.gl to generate a URL that's much shorter to enter.)  All at no cost, and without making any changes to your current site.

Learn more about the way in which your organization can use The History List to attract and serve visitors.

More about the photos aboveUsing QR codes at historic sites: Boston Redevelopment Authority "This Building Has History" QR code campaign during Preservation Month: Information on the Old Corner Bookstore

The photos are of the "This Building Has History" May 2012 QR campaign from the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Landmarks Commission.  The pictures were taken when I came across the campaign en route to an event at Old South Meeting House in February 2013. 

The first one I saw was on the pillar.  I thought at first it was a handbill.  Once I got closer, I read the explanation, dug out my iPhone, looked through my apps to find a QR reader, scanned the code, and clicked on the link.  This brought up a webpage with a PDF similar to to the one to the right.  In order to read it on a smartphone, you had to zoom in and then scroll side to side and up and down.  (The link returns a 404 error today.) 

The irony is that they could have simply plastered the very same PDF on the pillar and skipped the QR code entirely.  

The PDF to the right is the one that comes up when you scan the poster on the door in the photo above.

The green sign, which can be read easily by everyone, is nearby.

As with many programs that start out with good intentions, it appears that this became focused on a particular tactic (QR codes) and lost site of the goal (increase awareness and appreciation of historic buildings).  One way to spot such a problem in advance is to think through the user experience carefully.  And throughout, tracking expenditures and focusing on results helps you keep the program from drifting off-course.

Modifying the campaign

Here's what could have been done instead with a QR codes and some of these same assets:

- Develop a flier that has information about the building and has a QR code for additional information that doesn't fit or can't fit on the flier.

Using the one to the right as an example, remove the "Now" photo, which doesn't add any value when you're standing in front of the building, and put the QR code there.  Link the QR code to a page with a slide show with pictures of the location over time or a video clip of someone who campaigned for the preservation describing those efforts or of an historian describing the importance of the Old Corner Bookstore.

In the case of this location, now a quick service restaurant, don't put the flier on the door people are using to enter and exit the store, but put it off to the side where someone can read it without disturbing others.

Reducing the density of text and adding bullets with key points or a pull quote will increase the likelihood that more people read at least part of the information.

For more information, and at the end of the campaign, rather than breaking the links, redirect them to a site that can easily be read on a smartphone—such as a site created using a responsive design.

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February 27, 2013

How history authors, experts, and costumed interpreters can use The History List

Updated July 28, 2013

Yes, The History List includes hundreds of organizations and their events.

However, individual presenters, such as authors, filmmakers, and lecturers, performers, costumed interpreters, musicians, artisans and craftsmen, and other experts who present history-related programs can take full advantage of The History List by using an Organization page and listing themselves as the “organization" and then adding their events.

There are two requirements: These must be scheduled events, such book tours, lectures, or programs or exhibits at an historical society, history museum, or historic site, and they must be directly relate to history.

It's three simple steps:

1.Sign in—Login to The History List with Facebook for immediate access or request a free account on The History List.
2.Click “Add events”--When you enter your events, list yourself as the organization presenting them.  These must be scheduled events and they must relate to history.
3.When you’re finished, complete your organization page.  The events you added will already be listed at the bottom of your page.

As with listings for organizations, there is no cost. 

The slides that follow walk through this and provide tips and examples.  To view the slides full screen, click on the icon with the four expanding arrows on the right end of the grey bar below the window with the slides.

If you are unsure of whether your program, event, or exhibit belongs on The History List, ask us.

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January 23, 2013

Bumper stickers for summer history camps

Wouldn't it be great if we saw more like these? 

There are thousands and thousands of summer camps and programs.  Now there's one resource just for history summer camps and program: "The History List Guide to Summer Camps and Programs at Historic Sites and Institutions."  And as with listing other types of events on The History List, there is no cost your organization and program.  

Learn more and view examples of listings for summer programs at historic sites.

"Your kid went to summer camp.  My kid went to live in the 1830s" -- Bumper sticker for history summer camp


"My daughter spent her summer in the 1830s" -- Bumper sticker for living history summer camp


You can add your history summer camp or program to "The History List Guide to Summer Camps and Programs at Historic Sites and Institutions."  Start here.

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