December 4, 2013

History Camp: An idea for an unconference in Boston in 2014

A small group of us are starting to plan "History Camp," a topic-specific unconference (or "BarCamp") to be held in the Boston/Cambridge area in late winter/early spring 2014—assuming, that is, that enough people are committed to making it happen and in attending.  If there isn't a critical mass, then it won't.  So it's up to us.  Are you interested?  If so, please dive in.  We'd love to have you.

The information below is from the wiki page on

When is it?

On a Saturday in February (unlikely), March, or April

Where is it?

Somewhere in the Boston or Cambridge area, or the surrounding area.  Do you have a space where this could be held?  The idea space will have one large room and several smaller rooms (classroom size) for the sessions.  If you have a space, please let us know

Who is organizing this?  How can I help?

Thanks for asking--especially that second question.  Here's the page for volunteers

What is a BarCamp or Unconference?

  • It's a self-organizing conference.  People who share a common interest get together and create the framework for the event.  The on-scene volunteers, presenters, and everyone else who attends make it happen.  The topics that are presented are the ones of interest to the presenters.  The sessions that are well-attended are the ones that are of interest to the attendees.
  • It's free, though it uses a pay-what-you-want model to cover the cost of things like coffee in the morning or lunch.  Ideally, folks will chip in $10 or $20.  However, no one is required to pay anything and no one should feel that they shouldn't attend because they can't chip in financially.  They may want to consider volunteering a little time to help organize, set up, or clean up at the end.  The goal is to break even.  If some individuals or organizations step up as sponsors, then we'll have t-shirts.  If we're not able to find a free space, the event won't happen. 
  • Read more about BarCamps on the home page and other pages linked from it. Browsing the Boston BarCamp 2010 session board
  • There is a great annual barcamp in Boston.  Browsing their site gives you an idea of what a large, well-run barcamp looks like.  (The photo shows the session board on Saturday at the 200 Boston Barcamp.)  Since we're just starting out and since there is a specific topic area, we expect that we'll have a much smaller group, but the goal is the same: Creating a place and time where people can share their enthusiasm for history and their knowledge and insights from with others.

What is History Camp? 

  • History as broadly defined, across geographies and over time.  Yes, it's Boston, but this isn't intended to be limited to the Revolutionary War--or on the United States, for that matter.  Ultimately, it's the speakers and attendees that will define the scope.  Hopefully it will be broad in a way that is of interest to many people.
  • What about genealogy?  Sure.  
  • Has this been done before?  Not that we know of.  There's a very successful program from George Mason University called THAT Camp, The Humanities and Technology Camp.  History Camp is envisioned as being a true BarCamp, open to all.  No need to apply.  No advance screening of topics and presenters.  
  • In short, History Camp is what we make it.  Please join in.
  • It is not, however, a venue for a sales pitch.  In other words, if you are an expert at preserving very old books, do not come and give a talk about how you provide a great service and why people should hire you to repair and preserve their old books.  Rather, give a talk that has useful information, perhaps tips and techniques, so that, regardless of whether the person listening hires you or decides to undertake the work themselves, they walk away with new information that they value.

Who is this for?

You, if you're interested in history.  We hope that students of all ages, teachers and professors, authors, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors and board members, genealogists, and, most of all, history enthusiasts come.

What topic areas might be covered?

Here are some broad topic areas.  They're offered as a way to stimulate ideas and interest.  Would you like to present on one or more, or collaborate with someone else to present?  If so, please insert a bullet with the specific topic, and add your name and e-mail address.  Is there a topic you're interested in that's not listed?  Please add it.

  • Historic eras and events, trends, battles and wars, historic figures, little-known history.
  • Historic sites: Background, preservation, generating attendance. 
  • Careers: Becoming an interpreter or Park Ranger (full time or for the summer), working in a history museum.
  • Education: Getting a masters or PhD. 
  • Preservation of artifacts, such as caring for old books or clothing that has have been passed down in your family.
  • Historic preservation: Sites, commercial and industrial buildings, homes. 
  • Teaching history: In grade school and high school, in college, educating the public broadly.
  • Digital history/humanities. 
  • History books and blogs: Popular and enthusiast publications, getting published, creating and maintaining a site or blog.
  • Genealogy: Research tools, recommendations for specific techniques or overcoming specific hurdles 
  • History games and gaming
  • Reenacting: How to get involved, putting on a large-scale reenactment
  • please add more . . . 

Specific topics requested or committed (with your name and e-mail address) 

  • Example of requesting a topic: Wanted: King Philips War in Sudbury, Marlborough, and surrounding communities
  • Example of committing to a topic:  Lessons learned from holding the first History Camp -- Lee Wright

Okay.  Now I get it.  Sounds fun.  How can I help?

Great!  Here's the page for volunteers


  • What if I can't get there at the beginning or stay until the end?  Come whenever you can and stay as long as you like. 
  • My son/daughter is in junior high and likes history.  Can I bring them with me?  Definitely! 
  • Can I come in my reenactor attire?  Definitely!

And thanks to . . .

. . . these individuals and organizations.


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November 13, 2013

Getting a job as an interpreter at a historic site: What to include on your resume and why


"What should I include on my resume if I want to get a job as an interpreter at a historic site?"  That question and others like it have been asked on various lists, however I have yet to see anyone who hires people post a reply.

I recently talked with someone who is responsible for hiring interpreters at a historic site in the greater Boston area and was fascinated by what she looks for when she reviews resumes.  Some of it surprised me, and I knew all of it would be of interest to anyone looking to get a job as an interpreter at a historic site.  Note that this site is not owned by the National Park Service.  (The photo of the interpreter was taken at Old Sturbridge Village; Old Sturbridge Village is not the historic site where the person interviewed for this post works.)

Six critical skills

Historic interpreter in the farm at Old Sturbridge Village

Interest in history: "I can't tell you how many cover letters I get in which the writer claims that they really love history, but when I look through their resume, they've never done anything that shows they have that interest--not even joining the history club in college."

Dealing with children: "They might have worked at a children's museum or been a teacher."

Communicating to the public: "This is fundamental.  Have they had to talk to the public before?  I need to see that experience on their resume.  Mybe they were a tour guide at their college.”

Customer service: “Customer service experience—-hospitality—-is a key role for interpreters.  They’re the people that our guests, who coming here on their free time—-on the weekend or maybe on vacation-—interact with  They want to learn, but they also want an enjoyable experience.” 

Dealing with pressure: "We have a lot of people come through, and sometime it gets hectic.  People have to know how to deal with that and not get flustered."

Experience handling money:  "All or our interpreters may, at some point, be involved with selling tickets or items in the gift shop.  Working as a cashier at a supermarket or a waiter or waitress clearly shows that they can handle money, but people will leave those jobs off their resumes.  They're thinking that those jobs are going to detract from their history work, but I'm looking for experience handling money, so when I see those types of jobs, that boosts their chances.  They definitely should leave them on. . . Being a cashier at a supermarket is great experience.  You can deal with money and pressure, and you had to be nice to every person that went through your line, even if they weren't." 

Other comments

"Mormon Missionary!  I saw that once and I called that person immediately.  Those people have to get out, introduce themselves to others, interest them in what they have to say, and be polite, regardless of the reaction of the person they're talking with.  And then, even if they had the door slammed in their face, they walk down the street, knock on another door, smiling and pleasant."

"Some people put down their experience with archives and collections, and that's fine, but since we do interpretation and aren't involved in that area, that experience just isn’t that relevant as an interpreter, at least at our site.  And because those jobs turn over so rarely, it's not as if that person is  likely to even have an opportunity to be considered for that position.  It is a good demonstration of an interest in history and in museums, but six different internships in archives makes me think you ought to be looking for a position in archives.  A guide job is not likely to turn into an archives position.   I'm really looking for people who want to be museum interpreters."

“A museum studies degree helps, but that’s certainly not enough on its own.  I’m willing to help a museum studies or public history student get started with an entry level position, but they need to have the other skills.” 

"Our hiring is somewhat seasonal, and I hang on to resumes.  So you may not hear from me for three months, but I've kept your resume, and I'll pull it out and look at it for our next round of hiring."

"It's a small positive if someone speaks a foreign language.  Sometimes they put it down separately.  If they've studied the language in school or spent a semester abroad, I assume that they can can speak at least a little of the language."

"You don't need to list that you know Microsoft Word or have 'computer skills.'  This is an interpreter job, not an office job.  I'm far more interested in their verbal skills than their computer skills."

"People need to be patient and to realize that not everyone has the same background as they do when it comes to the period we represent.  You can't talk down to people, and yes, you'll get some dumb questions, so teaching or coaching experience shows me that you can break things down and understand how to explain things to someone who just doesn't have the knowledge or background that you do.  Some people need you to start with the basics., but that doesn't mean that they aren't smart.  They've come here and have shown an interest.  What a great opportunity for someone who loves teaching."

"A masters or PhD in history does not guarantee you a spot on the short list, and you don't have to have to have been a history undergrad.  You do need to have some of these other skills, I need to see those on your resume."

See below for comments received after this was posted.

To get a better idea of the work of interpreters at historic sites, Mystic Seaport has a video on the roles of interpreters at their site. (July 14, 2016)

More resources for job seekers:

Comments received since the initial post include . . .

Another thing we often look for is people with a bit of acting experience.  Community theatre in addition to the love of history often moves that person up on our list.  You automatically know that they are okay with costumes, scripts and first person interpretation.  Having a Masters or PhD cannot guarantee that.

— Public Programs Coordinator at a state museum (November 13, 2013)

Be sure to include special skills and successful experience you might have: storytelling, music, theater, puppeteer, drawing/painting/sculpting, historic trade or domestic art, whittling, historic gardening or agricultural activities, horse backing riding, etc.  These are skills that might enhance one's interpretation and serve different learning styles.  And, please indicate that you understand that interpretation is more than just giving toursthere are a lot of different modes of interpretation.  If you don't know about this, read up on the current literature and intern with good mentors or trainers.  Look at the work and workshops of National Association for Interpretation; Association for Living History, Agricultural and Farm Museums; and specialty skill organizations.

— Kathryn "Katie" Boardman
Principal at The Cherry Valley Group, Adjunct Professor CGP, Board Member at Cooperstown Graduate Association (CGA)
(November 18, 2013)


Have you hired interpreters or others for a historic site or other history organization?  If you'd like to share your recommendations, let me know.  We'll add them here or in another post; we won't publish your name or organization.

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October 31, 2013

Presenting on collaboration at the 2013 New England Museum Association conference

Updated November 11, 2013: The final presentation is in this post in the Resources section.

Together with Adriene Katz of the Shelburne Museum, Jennifer Brundage of the Smithsonian, and Debbie Douglas of MIT, I'm participating on a panel at the upcoming New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference on collaboration: "Collaborations: Who, What, When, Where, Why--and Why Not."

The session is Thursday, November 14 at 9 a.m.

In order to make the session as helpful as possible, both to those in attendance and those who read the slides afterward, we're interested in your thoughts: 

  • What examples of collaborations have you been involved with or know of?
  • What insights have you gained?
  • If you were to create a checklist to evaluate or plan a collaborative project, either within an institution or between institutions, what would you include?
  • What questions would you like to see addressed?

Please post your thoughts and suggestions below or send them to me.

I hope to meet you at the conference—send me a note if you'd like to arrange a meeting—but we'll also post our slides and a master checklist after our session so that everyone has access to the information.  In fact, we've posted one of them as a case study: Forming a regional group of historical societies to increase awareness and attendance.

As part of the presentation, I'll also mention the informal collaboration around the holiday campaign for history, history organizations, and historic sites: "Make this holiday historic!"

2013 NEMA Conference Program

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July 20, 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

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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