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Case study: A statewide history expo stimulates interest in local history and leads to the creation of new local historical societies

Part of an occasional series of case studies on the way in which history organizations are reaching out to new audiences. Contact us to suggest or submit a case study.


Updated January 24, 2014: Information on the 2014 expo is here.

The Vermont History Expo takes place every two years

Description: The 2012 Vermont History Expo took place June 16–17 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.

Implementation: 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.  (The pictures above include photos of the posters, which list the 2012 sponsors.)

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.”

Results: In addition to the attendance by individuals interested in history, more communities have started or revitalized their local historical societies: Today there are 197 societies in Vermont, up from 90 in the year 2000.

Institution: The Vermont Historical Society and their page on The History List

For more information, contact Mark Hudson, Executive Director (ph: 802-479-8505).


Similar events in other states: When information about this event was posted to a LinkedIn group asking if anyone knew of other states or regions with something similar, several people responded:

  • 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.”
  • 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.”

Case study date: June 19, 2012


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