Workshop: Reinventing the Historic House Museum

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Reinventing the Historic House Museum is a one-day symposium is designed to offer current thinking, practical information, and solutions to the challenges facing historic sites. The Historic House Museum in America is not dead nor is it dying. The field, however, needs to take time to reflect and renew as the world around our historic homes continues to change. The symposium will include presentations by historic house game-changers and local historic site administrators, discussion, a boxed lunch, historic site visit, and a brainstorming workshop at a historic house museum to try out the new ideas proposed during the symposium.

Reinventing the Historic House Museum goes beyond basic questions about Historic Houses to delve deeper into core issues regarding relevance, funding, and preparing for the future.

Here are some of issues and challenges that participants from the previous workshop have discussed:

  • How to use the house’s history to tell the larger story of the city and county, as well as the house.
  • Moving town museum into a historic house, so how to interpret both the house/family and town collections? How to renovate the house for museum purposes.
  • What are the best ways to preserve the collections when we have no environmental controls (tarnishing of silver, textiles, rugs, photographs)?
  • How to raise funds to maintain buildings at a state-owned site.
  • Finding new ways to interpret the house to keep it engaging and interesting.
  • How to change community perceptions of the site/museum?
  • Attracting funding, developing maintenance plans and building attendance at a very rural location.
  • Balancing long-term thinking versus everyday demands.
  • Balancing preservation/conservation with being more available/access/education.
  • Need to take a look at the bigger picture of operations and management.
  • How to educate the board about the challenges and needs of museums.
  • How do I better prepare students for careers in museums (particularly historic sites)?