June 28, 2012

Case study: An online game, iPad app, and 120 lesson plans teach life aboard the USS Constitution

Part of an occasional series of case studies on the way in which history organizations are reaching out to new audiences.  The first in the series covered the way in which The Freedom Trail Foundation promotes their historic tours with daily video clipsContact us to suggest or submit a case study.


Title: "A Sailor's Life for Me" online game with educational curriculum and a free iPad app from the USS Constitution Museum in recognition of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812

Description: In this award-winning online game and educational curriculum, “A Sailor’s Life for Me!”  users explore the ship, scrub the decks, and fire cannons.  Meeting real sailors who served on “Old Ironsides” in 1812 compels users to not just learn history, but experience and explore it.  The educational curriculum links directly from the game and includes 120 printable lesson plans and activities for the classroom or home that utilize history, science, math, social studies, art and language arts to explore Constitution and life at sea in 1812. 

Screenshot from "A Sailor's Life for Me" from the USS Constitution Museum

Screenshot from "A Sailor's Life for Me" from the USS Constitution Museum

Screenshot from "A Sailor's Life for Me" from the USS Constitution Museum

Objective: Teach the War of 1812 through the lens of USS Constitution and make this history available to all.

Research and development: The staff of the museum spent more than ten years researching the 1812 crew of Constitution.   Stephen Biesty did the illustrations.  Eduweb did the interactive development.

Funding: The Office of Navy Commemorations and the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Results (with stats through March 15, 2012):

Since its launch in January 2011, the website has had 35,830 visits from 23,345 unique visitors who generated 99,578 page views.

The free iPad app, released in February 2012, has been downloaded 879 times from 59 countries.

Institution: The USS Constitution Museum site and the organization and their events on The History List

For more information, contact Jodie McMenamin, Development Officer at the USS Constitution Museum

Case study date: June 26, 2012

To suggest or submit a case study, contact us.

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June 19, 2012

The Vermont History Expo: 150+ history organizations and thousands of guests

Updated: August 10, 2012: A shorter version of this appears as a case study in the new Resources for organizations section.

The Vermont History Expo 2012 took place this last weekend in Tunbridge, Vermont, bringing together more than 150 historical societies and related organizations for a two-day event expected to draw 4,000 - 6,000 attendees.

Because of the interest shown in this event by several people in other states, I took pictures of every aspect of the event, including the print materials and signs.  In the 400+ photos below you'll also see pictures of nearly every booth and display.  (Tip: To view a larger image, click on "Link" on the right below each photo.)

Vermont History Expo 2012: Vermont in the Civil War

The history behind the Vermont History Expo

The Expo, which now takes place every two years, began in the year 2000 and is organized today by staff and a small group of volunteers, with the financial support of several sponsors.  During the two days I learned about the history of the Expo from Addie Minott, a long-time volunteer with her local historical society who, as a board member of the Vermont Historical Society, was one of the driving forces behind the first Expo, and from Tess Taylor, Director of Education and Public Programming at the Vermont Historical Society, and Mark Hudson, Executive Director of the Society.

The idea for the Expo came from an initiative by three counties in 1999 who all agreed to open on the same Saturday.  The next year the Expo was born as a state-wide event with 85 of the state's then 90 historical societies participating.   The Expo continued yearly until 2008, when it switched to every other year.  An annual theme was added in 2005.  These have included "Women in Vermont History," "Travel and Transportation," "Back to the Land," "Industry and Innovation," and this year's theme, "Vermont in the Civil War." 

One of the important results from that first Expo to the present day is that more communities have started or revitalized their local historical societies, such that today there are 197 societies in Vermont.

Connecting with organizations across Vermont

Mark Hudson expressed his interest in letting the state society's member organizations know about The History List as a no cost tool for publicizing their organizations, sites, and events.  (Dennis Fiori, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and Carol Knauff, Assistant Director of Development for Communications at the Society, came on board early on and have been very supportive, including participating in the beta and providing helpful feedback.)

Also during the Expo, conversations with . . .

  • Peter Gilbert, Executive Director of the Vermont Humanities Council, underscored the value of The History List as well as  other outreach efforts designed to connect people to our history.  One recent program from the Vermont Humanities Council is the "Civil War Book of Days: 150 Years Ago—This Week in the Civil War," a weekly e-mail newsletter with content drawn from letters, poetry, speeches, news reports, and more.
  • Kate Bradley, who  recently joined the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation in Plymouth Notch as the Director of Engagement and Special Collections, reminded me about the special events coming up this Fourth of July.  Coolidge was born on the the Fourth in 1872, and Kate is going to be adding those special events and the Foundation's slate of lectures to The History List.
  • Brooke Paige, who has for each of the last several years done a deep dive into some aspect of Vermont business and industry and mounted a major exhibit on that topic at the Expo, all at his expense.  This year's subject: The "common cracker" in Vermont.  See the photos above for several of his display this year.
  • Phebe Meyers, an intern with Vital Communities, who was in the "Vermont History Detectives" tent.  Pictures of the tent, the materials, and some of the "Vermont History Detectives" signs in booths, are in the pictures above.

Similar events in other states

Several people replied to a post in a LinkedIn group asking if anyone knew of other states or regions with something similar:

  • Jessica Rivas of the Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles: "In Los Angeles, we do a much smaller scale event called L.A. Heritage Day for all museums, historical societies, etc. in the greater Los Angeles area. While the event continues to get larger and integrate more things each year we are a long way off from something on the scale of your event. I hope we get there soon this event sounds great!"
  • Kay Demlow: "In Oregon we have the Oregon Heritage Commission, supported by our SHPO, which is part of Parks and Recreation. They provide a regular list serve, which announces events, job openings, achievements and other news from any of the heritage constituents. These include city, county and other historical societies, local landmarks boards and commissions, preservationists, planners, and many more. Once a year they host the Oregon Heritage Conference, which brings us all together for three days of workshops, tours and speakers. It's in a different town every year, so we get to see success stories and hear about issues from other regions around the state. It's a great service to all of us!"
  • Brenda Baratto: "We have the annual Landmark Conference in South Carolina. It's put on by the Confederation of South Carolina Local Historical Societies. Just had this year's in April in North Augusta. What a wonderful way to learn about the local communities, their history and their historical projects and to network and meet colleagues."
  • John Robinson: "In Pennsylvania we have the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, which holds regular conferences. "Pennsylvania’s cultural community is rich and diverse. Museums, galleries, zoos, science centers, visitor centers, historic sites, monuments, parks, libraries, archives, and educational institutions contribute to a new economy of ideas in the Commonwealth. We invite you to join together with us to share best practices in advocacy, economic and community development, education, and cultural tourism."

    "In addition, under the Federation's umbrella is another group. "APACHS, the Alliance for Pennsylvania County Historical Societies, is a network of the Commonwealth’s sixty-seven official county historical societies. Despite a broad range of size and scope of services, county historical societies share common goals and face similar challenges. APACHS creates opportunities to learn from one another, build rapport among colleagues, and provide mutual support. Meetings are held at various locations throughout the year as well as at the statewide museum conference."

Added June 23:

  • Martha B. Katz-Hyman: "New Jersey has the New Jersey State History Fair each year in May at Washington Crossing State Park. I've been, and it's a great gathering of local and state historical societies, living history presentations, and demonstrations of all kinds."
  • Vince Murray: "The Arizona History Convention has been active for over fifty years."

If your are connected to any of these as an organizer, volunteer, or participant, or if you know of another similiar event, please add it to The History List and add a comment below so that others learn about it.

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June 10, 2012

Adding a new organization and event to The History List

Adding a listing to The History List is cut and paste simple. Anyone--staff, interns, volunteers, enthusiastic supporters--can add a listing.     This video shows adding a new event and a new organization to The History List.

To view this video full screen--it will be easier to see details--click on the video and once it starts playing you'll see symbols appear in the black bar at the bottom of the video.  Click on the symbol on the right end of the black bar.  It's the "Full screen" symbol to the right of the YouTube logo.

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June 7, 2012

The History List, with thanks to the NCPH, AAM, NEMA ALHFAM, Mass Humanities, NAPC, and more

With The History List now open to all organizations, we're focused on spreading the word.

Thanks to several colleagues who are helping do just that through local, state, regional, and national conferences and publications:

  • Cathy Stanton, Editor of History@Work from the National Council on Public History, in a blog post on a presentation at the national conference in Milwaukee this April.
  • Larry Cebula, Assitant Digital Archivist at the Washington State Digital Archives and an Associate Professor of History at Eastern Washington University, in a blog post following the same presentation at the National Council on Public History's annual conference.
  • Phil Katz, Assistant Director for Research at the American Association of Museums, writing in the AAM's Future of Museums blog.
  • Susan Nicholl. Executive Director at MetroWest Tourism & Visitors Bureau, at the Regional Cultural Convening earlier today in Framingham, Massachusetts earlier today.
  • Deb Friedman, Vice President of Public Program at Old Sturbridge Village and a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums, at the organization's annual conference, Maintaining Relevance in a Digital Age, which begins tomorrow near Dallas.
  • Patty Bruttomesso, Local History Coordinator at Mass Humanities, at the Mass History conference, Taking Center Stage: Conflict & Collaboration in the Peopling of Massachusetts, presented by Mass Humanities, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Program in Public History, the Joseph P. Healey Library and the Public History Track at the University of Massachusetts Boston and taking place Monday in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • Robin Zeigler, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and co-chair of the organization's annual conference, Forum 2012, in Norfolk, Virginia this July.

And thanks to early supporters, including Diane Calvano, who has provided two opportunities (October 2011 and May 2012) to present to the regional Historical Sharing Group she leads, and Gloria Greis, who provided an opportunity to present last December and get feedback at a meeting of The Charles River Group, which she leads.

Is your organization having a meeting or conference in the coming months?  If so, please let your colleagues know that The History List is now open to them--at no cost--to publicize their organization, event, exhibit, or site.  This is a convenient, very graphical one-page handout.

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May 15, 2012

The Rider Tavern in Charlton, Massachusetts is one of the reasons we started The History List

Last night I made a brief presentation on The History List to a group of historical societies that get together and share ideas once a quarter.  (Here's the one-page "How to" designed for staff, interns, and volunteers.)  The group is led by Diane Calvano, who has done a great job creating a forum for historical society board members and volunteers throughout the area.

Last night's meeting was hosted by the Charlton Historical Society and held in Rider Tavern (1799), which the Society owns and has restored over the years.  General Lafayette, entertained at the tavern in 1824, is one of its famous guests.

Rider Tavern, an off-the-beaten-path treasure—Charlton, Massachusetts has a population of around 13,000—is one of the reasons we started The History List: To create a way for organizations such as the Charlton Historical Society to reach beyond their community and let more people know about their events and exhibits, museums and sites.  From the pictures (below) taken last night, I'm sure you can see why Rider Tavern is worth a visit.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer
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