History News Summer 2018

Page 1



New Directions for LA CASA CORDOVA

Public History in Hong Kong

House Museum to Private Residence

Latinos and the New South



Contents SUMMER 2018 VOLUME 73, #3







3 On Doing Local History

8 New Directions for La Casa Cordova: Recentering the Latinx Past and Present in Tucson

By Carol Kammen

5 The Whole Is Greater By Alima Bucciantini

28 Award Winner Spotlight By Melinda Meyer

30 Book Reviews By Lila Teresa Church and Christina Bulow

34 AASLH News

ON THE COVER Historic Upsala mansion in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood.

By Lydia R. Otero

Photo: Alex Aberle and Violette Levy

14 Failing Forward: ¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South By Kate Baillon, Janeen Bryant, and Kamille Bostick

19 Giving Upsala Its Best Shot: Returning a House Museum to a Private Residence By David Young, Thompson Mayes, and Carrie Villar

24 Public History in Hong Kong: A Survey


Fundraising Basics for Local History Organizations By Jamie Simek

By Benjamin J. Hruska

History News is a publication of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). History News connects the people engaged in history work to new questions, ideas, perspectives, and each other. By featuring news, current issues, trends, and best practices from throughout the history community, it informs, inspires, challenges, and links together those who preserve and interpret the past. THE MAGAZINE OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR STATE AND LOCAL HISTORY

EDITOR John Marks | ASSOCIATE EDITOR Aja Bain | ADVERTISING Darah Fogarty DESIGN Go Design, LLC: Gerri Winchell Findley, Suzanne Pfeil

History News (ISSN0363-7492) is published quarterly by American Association for State and Local History, 2021 21st Avenue S., Suite 320, Nashville, TN 37212. Periodicals Postage Paid at Nashville, Tennessee. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to History News, 2021 21st Avenue S., Suite 320, Nashville, TN 37212. Article manuscripts dealing with all aspects of public history are welcome, including current trends, timely issues, and best practices for professional development and the overall improvement of the history field, particularly articles that give a fresh perspective to traditional theories, in-depth case studies that reveal applicable and relevant concepts, and subject matter that has the ability to resonate throughout all levels of the field. For information on article submissions and review, see about.aaslh.org/history-news. Single copies are $10. Postmaster, send form 3579 to History News, AASLH, 2021 21st Avenue S., Suite 320, Nashville, TN 37212. Periodical postage paid in Nashville, Tennessee. Entire contents copyrighted ©2018 by the American Association for State and Local History. Opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the American Association for State and Local History.

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From the Editor 2


repression and used their unique political relationship with mainland China to open spaces for sharing history not sanctioned by the state with millions of visitors every year. Each of these authors demonstrate that when difficulties and setbacks are met with creativity, experimentation, and perseverance, public historians can move the field forward in exciting ways. We hope to bring this spirit of creativity to History News, too. As you might have noticed, the magazine has new editorial leadership. Aja Bain has moved into a larger role as Associate Editor and John Marks is the magazine’s new Editor. We’ve already started working with authors, members, and AASLH staff to think about what parts of the magazine we can improve—you might even notice some early changes in this issue. But, as we begin to think about History News in new ways, we’ll surely make mistakes. But we’ll also learn from them and work hard to continue to produce a publication that informs, inspires, challenges, and links together those who preserve and interpret the past.

John Marks

Aja Bain



ry as we might, sometimes things just don’t work. Historic house museums fail. Community engagement attempts miss the mark. Preservation efforts lose steam. Failing is an inevitable, perhaps even necessary, part of the historical process. But failures also present opportunities. As long as we respond creatively and productively, challenges and failures can show us a better way forward. The authors in this issue convey that message loud and clear. David Young, Tom Mayes, and Carrie Villar show us how thinking outside the box about the challenges facing a Philadelphia historic house museum led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to conclude that the best way to preserve the house was to make it someone’s home. Lydia Otero reveals how present-day preservation and interpretation efforts have revived a very different kind of historic house, that of Maria Cordova in Tucson, Arizona. Although white preservationists in the 1970s removed Cordova from her home to tell an exclusionary story about the region’s past, more recent efforts have reinterpreted the house’s story to emphasize the city’s Latinx history. Kate Baillon, Janeen Bryant, and Kamille Bostick frame their story about engaging Charlotte’s growing Latinx community around this very notion of “failing forward.” They note that through “a willingness to accept failures…we are able to build a stronger, more authentic story together.” Benjamin Hruska examines how public history institutions in Hong Kong have responded to

On Doing Local History

By Carol Kammen

The Stuff of History


hose of you who know me will probably faint, but recently I bought a new phone. Technology is not one of my strong suits, but my son complained that I was embarrassingly antiquated and needed to update. At the store, the young woman, who was exceedingly patient, talked while she fiddled with the old phone and attempted—without a proper password—to move content, phone to phone. We chatted: what do you do, she asked. I’m a historian, I answered. Oh, she said. You probably know so much stuff. Her words struck me. Perhaps knowing so much stuff is what’s the problem. Perhaps thinking you have to know— as in, remember—so much stuff is why people don’t think they like history. This young woman knows far more than I will ever understand about the phone and other sorts of technology— and I would say to her, though I didn’t, oh, you know so much stuff, too. And her stuff intimidates me. But does our “stuff” intimidate others? Do other people think being a historian means knowing stuff—like the dates of the Civil War, or when the automobile became affordable, or the date of the Treaty of Versailles? Is this what “bothers” people about history: knowing, or thinking they need to know and remember, such things? Because knowing stuff is not the point. While my technician knows stuff about phones—interesting and nifty stuff—I simply use the technology she makes available to me. And historians use what we know to ask questions that illuminate the human condition in time and over time. Our “stuff” is the guts upon which we seek understanding. But while most of us do know that the Civil War came after the American Revolution—and I have had students who didn’t know that— we also know that we can always look up the specifics when we need them. Still, I suspect that our stuff intimidates many others. And because of that, and unlike my new phone, they—those others—don’t particularly think that they use our stuff or think they like it. But our

modern world depends on what we know and how we use the past; how we treat it, how we invite others into it, how the questions of the past reflect our modern concerns (thank you, Carl Becker) and how learning to think historically aids us in critiquing our own time and the problems we face. So where does our liking our “stuff” come from? Why do we like it? That is a question I have wrestled with for some time and it is a question my husband always asked of his honors students: write about the historian in you,

Knowing stuff is not the point. Historians use what we know to ask questions that illuminate the human condition in time and over time. he directed. That is, create an essay that explains why you came to a history class, to think about a career in history, to show the influences that have shaped your interest in being in a history program today. When my husband was elected president of the Organization of American Historians, his history department colleagues asked what they might give him to mark the occasion. They suggested gifts that might be appropriate but were surprised when I suggested they write about how they came to be historians. What were the influences, the triggers— the clues that this was the right career for them? And so at the dinner given in Michael’s honor, they presented him with a large binder explaining their own paths to history. It is a stunning document. Some of the answers of the professors were similar to those of the students: they liked going to historic sites, their

parents took them on trips to interesting places; they found the study of history interesting/thrilling/exciting/perplexing. They felt they were detectives mining the past. All of them, professors and students, admitted that they like the thrill of the hunt: where to go for information (these were pre-Google days); what libraries had collections that would help; were there documents still in private hands; what part of the government held answers for them. Research, everyone agreed, provided a thrill. Sometimes a collection yielded the exact document needed; sometimes the reason for the search was nowhere to be found, and sometimes other things caught their attention and led them to different or new questions or insights. Then there was the puzzlement of information: how to sort it; how to think about it; what it tells us and what pattern the historian can put on it to make it useful, challenging, and interesting to others. How to make sense of what they had found demands the same skills as when we try to figure out the complexities of the present. Then there was the writing which some of the students and some of the professors found joyful and others found tedious— especially so for most of the students. Yet, they admitted that the beginning was good, the ending brought relief, and that it was the middles that were a challenge. As with most things, right? So these essays about the historian in me became important documents to write—and to keep—because they show influences, point out lessons, and remind us of the tiny steps taken to lead us into this field. This is the very question that James Banner and John Gillis asked in their book Becoming Historians (University of Chicago Press, 2009), a question that I wish they had asked of my husband, although in many ways his whole career was a reflection of his early curiosity about what had been and what was in the process of becoming, how we have thought about and considered the past, and what difference those memories of past events have made to us. HISTORY NEWS


can only hope that the dean has been duly impressed with what Dwight has done with history and his life over all these years. Of late, he has taught a course on New Mexico and Las Cruces local history.

On Doing Local History >

Write Your Story

A number of historians responded to Banner and Gillis’s request for essays and among them was Dwight Pitcaithley, who recently met me in the eastern corner of Arizona for a lunch at the Horseshoe Café (which we both recommend) in Benson and then sent me his essay for the book. Dwight, as many of you know, was the Chief Historian of the National Park Service and his career has touched many of our lives in one way or another, he having been instrumental in linking NPS historians with those in the OAH and AASLH and NCPH. Dwight’s essay is a graceful musing about his pathway into history, which was not at all straight and focused, but somewhat exploratory. As if in a cave, Dwight took a couple of turns before hitting the History Road. I don’t think he would mind my saying this, because he titled his essay “Taking the Long Way from Euterpe to Clio.” He writes that his first push to history came when the dean thought he might not be college material at all. With this challenge and his background as a summer employee at Carlsbad Caverns National Park (in jobs that involved picking up litter and cleaning bathrooms), history opened up quite clearly—and I

Who were your


What was your


Where are you


The point of all this is that writing about our relationship to history is not at all a bad idea. It tells us where we have come from and why, even if we started out picking up litter and even if we ended up far from our origins. That is a personal and a history story. So: have you written where the historian in you came from and where it has been heading? What were the influences on your history career? Shouldn’t you write this essay, yourself? And isn’t this something the staff at history museums and historical societies might also be asked to consider? Their


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pathway into history is also interesting, even if it was unanticipated and haphazard. I would also consider this assignment essential for board members of a historical organization: why are they seated on a history board, what brought them there? What do they like about it? What has surprised them? Visitors, too, should be invited to express their pathways to your door. In many cases I will bet there is a slight pause and then many will say something like “I never liked history in school…” but this local history really interests them. The uptick in interest in things local is evident everywhere: we should tap into it. Singly these essays, about the historian in me, are good for persons to know themselves better, to understand their lives in the places where they live. Gathered together, these narratives tell us a lot about who historical organizations attract, who comes in on their own, about the motivations of people who enter history’s many doors and the reasons they return. Overall, they explain something about people’s responses to knowing about where they live, where they visit, and how they fit into the picture. Knowing breeds a sense of responsibility to place—and to all that stuff—that becomes information with meaning. And overall, these essays help us explain about all that “stuff.” The stuff we know and the stuff we seek to understand, the stuff that explains why things are one way and not another, the stuff that unveils the pushes of one place and the pulls of another. In a mobile society, as ours is, the stuff of history gives people an idea of where they are in the world and gives them a stake in making it a good place to be. We explore and curate that stuff not to be antiquarians, but to be explorers and detectives, to understand the wonder of place and to see people in time and over the years. So yes, Melody the phone technician, we historians do know a lot of stuff, but knowing is not the point. Thinking about it is; finding it; organizing it; teasing out its meaning is. The stuff is important— and what we do with it even more so. t “On Doing Local History” is intended to encourage dialogue on the essential issues of local history. Carol Kammen can be reached at ckk6@cornell.edu.

The Whole Is Greater

By Alima Bucciantini

Getting in the Door Is the Battle


have cerebral palsy. It’s a neuromuscular disability that can have a wide range of effects, but for me it means that I wear braces on my legs and usually use a snazzy colored crutch to walk. My disability has been both an integral part of my life and not a big deal. It’s always been there, but my parents never let it stop me doing anything I, or they, wanted to do. Everyday experiences like going to the museum were often seen as good excuses for practicing practical life skills, like climbing stairs. We all know how many stairs can be outside museums! We went everywhere, and I don’t remember often looking for an accessible entrance or alternative route. Instead, my parents would encourage me to make it work, and help me subtly when I needed it. This approach fostered my independence and sense that I could do anything. It also meant that I didn’t even think to mention my disability when I got my first museum internship over the phone as a college sophomore. I just happily assumed I could do anything and everything, and that I would be as accepted as any other intern. After all, I could make it work— I was at college by myself, living independently away from family. Why would I not be able to intern? It was a shock, then, when I was greeted on my first day by a boss who looked at me and expressed concern that I could do the job required. I had no good response, other than silence. I was unsure of my rights, and also unsure if she was right! All of a sudden I felt more disabled and more visible than I ever had before. For the record, I was able to do everything. There is nothing too inaccessible about volunteer management and program research, even on the National Mall. Everything can be worked around. I would not have accepted an internship that required me to be on my feet all the time or go running or anything—that would have been ridiculous for me and everyone involved. I went on to have a wonderful, busy, and eye-opening summer working for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. I helped to recruit,

train, and manage volunteers, I entered data in databases, and I researched upcoming exhibitions and sourced objects. But running under all of it was a feeling that I had to prove myself. Every intern has this, of course, but I felt that I couldn’t ask for any help, show any weakness, or ever let them know I was tired. I had to be better than that. The other thing was that I did not go to anyone there about my concerns, or about the fact that I did not feel part of the team. I have told this story to only a few people in the years since that internship.

language. This means jobs with these requirements are under no responsibility to accommodate people who cannot fulfill these physical tasks. I can’t safely climb a ladder. Probably no one wants me to try to lift fifty, or even twenty-five, pounds and go anywhere with it—but is that what makes a curator? Instead of doing that, I have worked with art and objects by taking things out of storage (carefully, safely), putting them on carts, moving them to tables, sitting down or balancing myself against something, and handling them. Technology

At a time when we are—or should be—trying to diversify the museum and public history field, why are we not lowering barriers? During that time, I began to realize that the world does not see me the way my parents do. Everyone has this realization sometime, but it was especially harsh for me. I had to come to terms with the fact that the museum world, where accessibility is supposedly considered in audience terms and when designing labels and exhibits, does not often have a level of comfort with disability in its staff. There is a ‘them’ to be considered with accessibility in mind, and an ‘us’ who does the considering. But according to the Census Bureau, one in five Americans has a disability of some sort, even if not all are visible ones like mine. Even more will acquire a disability at some point in their lives, at least temporarily. When I finished my Ph.D. program, I began looking contemporaneously at academic jobs and curatorial jobs, seeing as my specialty was museum studies. All the museum job postings have “must be able to lift twenty-five pounds” under essential job skills. Others upped this to fifty, or added climbing a ladder. If a job function is listed as essential, it falls outside the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) “reasonable accommodation”

also helps a lot. There are programs that allow you to create whole gallery layouts, with your own collection, in your own gallery space, arranging and rearranging each case and wall to your satisfaction in virtual reality without getting on a single ladder. You can then hand the printouts and specifications to a facilities and installation team and just oversee while they climb the ladders. All of this is to say that the type of language that I encountered as I entered the field and still see today is an unnecessary barrier to entry. At a time when we are—or should be—trying to diversify the museum and public history field, why are we not lowering barriers? Or at the very least, thinking critically about why they are there? Museums, at their start, were meant to be exclusionary spaces. They were meant to keep out the riff-raff and be imposing temples of learning. But luckily we have evolved past that now and are embracing a more community-oriented, open-door policy. Disability is part of the community, and in the museum world, that can be more than just ADA standards. It’s about representation, and really thinking HISTORY NEWS


Learn more…

Amanda Cachia, “Disability, Curating, and the Educational Turn: The Contemporary Condition of Access in the Museum,” Oncurating.org (December 2014), www.on-curating.org/files/oc/dateiverwaltung/issue-24/PDF_to_Download/Oncurating_Issue24_A4.pdf.

Art Beyond Sight, “Disability and Inclusion: Resources for Museum Studies Programs,” www.artbeyondsight.org/dic/about-new. Arts Council, “Disability in the Arts and Cultural Sector Workforce in England,” www.artscouncil.org.uk/community-and-place/disability-arts-and-cultural-sector-workforce-england. Caroline Braden, “Welcoming All Visitors: Museums, Accessibility, and Visitors with Disabilities,” University of Michigan Working Papers in Museum Studies (2016), http://ummsp.rackham.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Braden-working-paper-FINAL-pdf.pdf. Job Accommodation Network, https://askjan.org. North Carolina State University College of Design, “Principles of Universal Design,” https://projects.ncsu.edu/ncsu/design/cud/pubs_p/docs/poster.pdf. Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (eds.), Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum (New York: Routledge, 2010). Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibit Design, www.si.edu/Accessibility/SGAED. Zachary Small, “A New Initiative Places Curators Who Identify as Disabled at UK Museums,” 15 May 2018, https://hyperallergic.com/442437/dash-artsannounces-initiative-for-disabled-curators.

The Whole is Greater > about what makes the collection and the work space open to everyone. I get so frustrated sometimes at conferences and reading texts about disability in museums, because there is so often language about working with the disability community in the museum space, as if there is a clear divide between that community and those who are doing the work. While there might not be many museum workers with visible disabilities

like me—though there would be more if the barriers discussed above were lowered—I am sure there are many with invisible disabilities such as mental illness, vision impairment, hearing impairment, ADHD, and so many others. How much better could we be as staff if people felt they could be open about those issues, and used their experience with their disabilities to make their understanding of what visitors want and need from museums better? My friends and students say that they see historic sites differently after going

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with me. They notice where the elevators are or aren’t, how often there are benches to sit on, and how easy it is to read labels and to navigate around rooms. They then translate that experience to their friends and family who might visit with kids in strollers or with elderly grandparents. Because the thing is, what makes life easier for me also makes life easier for a lot of people who might like to be in the museum. This is the beauty of universal design. It’s not that I’m the only one that can see this, but who is doing it? Everyone should be. As just one person with a disability in the field who wants to see museums and public history grow, here are my recommendations. Think about how you can be accessible to disabled workers on your staff, starting with your job ads. Use the diversity of your staff as an asset, one that can help you connect to and build your audience. Think about your framing. Is accessibility something you have to do, just because of ADA standards? Change it, and make it an asset. A truly accessible space is good for the community. It’s good for babies and good for the elderly, and along the way, it’s good for us disabled people, too. It’s good for everyone. t Alima Bucciantini is Assistant Professor of Public History at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She likes working in the space between museums and academia, bringing together students, faculty, and communities in innovative ways to break down barriers to museum access and explore new ways to present art and artifacts. Her monograph, Exhibiting Scotland: Objects, Identity, and the National Museum, is now available. Alima can be reached at emailalima@gmail.com.

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Prentiss Weinberg

New Directions for


By Lydia R. Otero

n 1972, preservationists officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places the house in downtown Tucson, Arizona, that Maria Navarrete Cordova had lived in for most of her life and had labored to keep in her family’s possession. Designated as La Casa Cordova, her home’s historical marker states that it is one of the oldest standing structures in Tucson and that portions of the house were built before the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, when the United States acquired southern Arizona. Dying just three years after its listing on the National Register, Cordova departed resentful of efforts by the new owners of La Casa Cordova to orchestrate her invisibility.1



La Casa Cordova: Recentering the Latinx Prentiss Weinberg

Past and Present in Tucson

Shawn Rossi

Interior of the new La Casa Cordova.

The preservation and restoration of La Casa Cordova provides an example of how narratives of exclusion grounded in settler colonialism got imprinted on the built environment in the Southwest by preservationists in the 1970s. Their decisions involving periodization in particular allowed them to actively manipulate the historical meanings attached to the home and to marginalize its owner, Maria Cordova. While the house’s historical marker states, “The house was named for Maria Navarrete Cordova, whose family acquired it in 1896,” it also obscures her subversive actions and efforts to resist the power of eminent domain. Revisiting this preservation effort provides a constructive example of the challenges involved in re-interpreting sites that have worked to erase and disrupt people of color’s connection to place and history. In this case, it also involves looking beyond the information provided on an institutionally sanctioned bronze marker and revisiting the efforts of previous generations of preservationists for actions motivated by bias and exclusion.


orn in 1895 in the small town of San Miguel de Horcasitas, in the state of Sonora, Mexico, Cordova’s family had lived in the region since the 1840s. Shifting geopolitical relations between the United States and Mexico in the 1840s and 1850s forced her family and others in the region to navigate a host of new challenges. In 1848,

the U.S. acquired most of Arizona—but not the southern and most densely populated quarter—under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This southern portion remained part of Mexico’s northern state of Sonora. Five years later, the United States annexed this area—which included Tucson and was inhabited primarily by Native Americans and tucsonenses—under the terms of the Gadsden Purchase, or La Venta de La Mesilla, as it was known in Mexico. Although December 30, 1853, marked the official transfer of national sovereignty, Mexican troops remained in Tucson until 1856. No other U.S. city remained under Mexican control longer than Tucson, where Anglo Americans represented only a small minority of settlers. In fact, Mexican people outnumbered Anglos throughout the nineteenth century and until 1920, when Anglos became the majority.2 Cordova descended from upper-class parents, and she experienced wealth and privilege beyond most Mexicans. These advantages diminished, however, once she moved to the United States as a child and entered a system with different racial and ethnic hierarchies. She acquired what would become La Casa Cordova from her great aunt, Refugio Rambaud, and took ownership of the house in 1934. She did not work outside the home and supported her family by renting out portions of the house and establishing the Cordova Brothers Smoke Shop, run mostly by her sons. But Cordova tended to customers daily and the house’s location near the courthouse and police department before downtown redevelopment in the 1960s made it a popular destination. In 1960, Cordova made the local papers when she delivered a letter to the mayor and council claiming that all of the land in downtown Tucson still belonged to her and her family. In 1965, Cordova and her son Raul filed a joint petition in U.S. District Court requesting that the federal and local government formally recognize their Spanish land grant. This move threatened private property ownership in the most developed area of downtown—even the courthouse in which the suit was litigated sat on property the Cordovas claimed as theirs. In a letter to the Tucson Daily Citizen, Raul mediated their claims by offering that he did not intend to displace or “inconvenience any innocent people (living on) the land now.” Rather, he sought clear title to his “historic family home” and expected compensation for



California Historical Society / University of Southern California Libraries

Tucson in the early 1900s.


the rest of the land. The federal court dismissed Cordova’s claim, but this publicly defiant move challenged perceptions and legacies that celebrated nineteenth-century Anglo American pioneers, or settler colonists, who upon their arrival in Tucson had quickly and unrestrictedly acquired large portions of the most desired properties downtown. Tucson’s early setters, with last names such as Hughes, Mansfeld, Steinfeld, and Drachman, who arrived from distant lands and once comprised the minority population, ensured for themselves the right to govern and endorsed legal transactions that gave them an advantage when it came to property ownership and the acquisition of wealth. From the 1960s through the 1980s, elite descendants of these influential Anglo Americans also commanded the local preservation scene and spearheaded projects that elevated their families’ social position and importance in the city’s history.3 On March 1, 1966, the voters of Tucson approved the Pueblo Center Redevelopment Project, which targeted the most densely populated eighty acres in Arizona. The state’s first major urban renewal project included government buildings, a modern retail complex, a performance arena, and a community conference facility. For close to a century, Mexican Americans or tucsonenses had created their own spatial reality in this same area that most called “la calle.” Here, they patronized small retail and service shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues and openly lived and celebrated their culture. To make way for the new structures, however, city officials removed residents and ordered the condemnation of nearly three hundred properties in the urban renewal area. Although Maria Cordova’s house stood within the area targeted for demolition, the City of Tucson’s Historical Sites Committee had recommended that it, as well as fourteen other older adobe homes, be spared because of their historic value. Once the city took title to the Cordovas’ property, they intended to enter into a ninety-nine-year lease with the Tucson Museum of Art (hereafter TMA) for a dollar a year, with the museum taking on responsibility for the structure’s restoration and operation.4 City and museum officials expected the Cordova family to accept what had been assessed as a fair value for their home and vacate. That the Cordovas desired to maintain possession


of and live in their house proved an unexpected obstacle. In 1971, Maria and Raul Cordova challenged Tucson’s efforts to condemn their house and to categorize it as a “slum property,” requesting that the Arizona Court of Appeals intervene. In the end, the city condemned the property through the power of eminent domain because the city intended to put it to “public use.” The Cordovas were formally evicted on April 25, 1972, when the courts denied further appeals and issued a judgement that the house was worth $135,250.


s a woman of relative means, Maria Cordova had taken pride in her home and had surrounded herself with books and fine furnishings. Photographs submitted shortly after the property’s listing on the National Register in 1972 allow us a glimpse into her interior space. Oil paintings of historical landmarks painted by Cordova hang on the walls; one is prominently displayed over the fireplace. Her paintings had been exhibited at the Arizona State Museum about seven years before her eviction. In contrast to this lifestyle, restoration efforts sought to transform the house into what the Junior League (the organization tasked by the TMA to lead the preservation effort) referenced as its “original” condition, from when Tucson was a Mexican outpost. This decision meant that anything affiliated with the Cordovas or considered modern was removed—including the Cordovas themselves.

The rear section of the Cordova House “may be the oldest surviving structure in Tucson.” Preservationists’ zeal to preserve the physical structure presented mounting difficulties to the Cordovas, the long-time owners and occupants of the property, as they continued to resist city directives by refusing to vacate. Preservationists in the 1970s never publicly contested urban renewal dictates and the land redistribution policies that resulted in transferring the Cordova property to the TMA. They also willfully ignored Cordova’s connection to the home. Evidently, to preservationists, the structure’s best use entailed recasting and restoring the house to an imagined Mexican past. This reinvention, however, required a clean slate. Thus, the well-being of the Cordova family, the rental income generated from the property, and the Cordovas’ desires to remain in the home come across as a non-issue— as if the Cordova family’s disappearance were part of a logical historical script. The Junior League, a group comprised largely of elite women with close associations to the local Anglo power structure, had conducted another preservation project in the area that was similarly problematic with regards to their treatment of the region’s history and historical residents. They had garnered attention for restoring the Frémont House, named after Arizona’s Territorial Governor John C. Frémont. In so doing, they ignored claims that cast doubt that Frémont ever spent a night in the home and purposely overlooked the Mexican American families who had built


he Junior League stated to the Daily Citizen in January 1975 their goals for transforming the house and the history they aimed to highlight, stating, “We want it to be an environmental experience. The restoration will be as pure as possible. Exterior walls will be of raw, unplastered adobes, sealed with a special product to protect them from the erosion. The floors will be of mud-packed dirt so they’ll even smell like dirt as they did in the earliest days.” Thus, plaster was removed from the walls and the wood floors were taken out. Restorers also removed all the inside plumbing and constructed a new outside area for cooking. Periodization also demanded that the house be stripped of all heating and electricity. Outside, they added a new well and turned a small building that the Cordovas had used for storage into a faux outhouse. Doors made of rough plank with hand-forged nails replaced more contemporary ones. The Junior League invested countless hours and funds into their preservation agenda. Their actions and deci-

On Congress Tucson (flickr) by CC 2.0

and lived in the house. They completed their restoration in 1972 and were surprised to encounter resistance from the Mexican American community for overlooking the Sosa and Carrillo families’ connection to the house and naming it after Frémont; in 1993, the name was officially changed to the Sosa-Carrillo-Frémont House on the National Register. But this incident and criticism provided at least one important lesson: one year later, when preservationists targeted Maria Cordova’s home, they never considered naming the structure after anyone else. When it came to La Casa Cordova, the Junior League embraced the opportunity to direct the restoration effort and went as far as matching the funds awarded by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for their project. And, although they had learned how to tap into local and national funding networks and heeded the lessons about naming the structures they targeted for preservation, the Junior League overlooked the more substantive lessons of community and historical inclusivity as they pursued their goals from a purely Anglo perspective that ignored more than one hundred years of the house’s history. The nomination form listing the house on the National Register of Historic Places, dated May 4, 1972, claims that the rear section of the Cordova House “may be the oldest surviving structure in Tucson” and that it was “also the City’s oldest continuously occupied residence.” The preservationists requested the National Register listing “on the basis of the house’s value to the City of Tucson as an architectural entity which has survived from the period when Tucson and all Arizona south of the Gila River were once part of Mexico.” Revealingly, the form also discloses that “Because of pending legal difficulties between the City of Tucson and the Cordova family, the historical surveyors and others have been denied access [by Cordova] to the interior of the house.” Undeterred, the historical preservationists who authored the nomination optimistically and dismissively ventured that “When this situation improves and an inspection of the house’s interior is permitted, this report will be amended accordingly.” Maria Cordova finally left her home a few months after the filing of the nomination and died less than three years later in 1975.

sions were not arbitrary or neutral. Junior League efforts indicated more than a desire to divorce Cordova’s history of struggle and resistance from La Casa Cordova. The imagined Mexican past this elite group formulated and tangibly recreated held great symbolic value. It worked to remind the larger community of the benefits that accompanied settler colonialism and highlighted the “progress” and modernization Anglos had brought to the region. This re-imagining of La Casa Cordova also shifted attention away from land policies such as urban renewal that targeted people of color and offered an alternative story of nameless people who lived in Tucson long ago and who had willingly disappeared into the past. On November 21, 1975, a small crowd of preservation-minded Tucsonans met to celebrate the completion of the La Casa Cordova restoration process. The Junior League announced that “it had two goals—to restore the house as authentically as possible, and help bring about the establishment of a Mexican museum in the house.” Although the Junior League often expressed that they envisioned a Mexican Museum, once they restored the house they relied on the TMA to make this a reality.5 As planned, the restored La Casa Cordova effectively erased the Cordova family entirely. It invited visitors to roam the patio and the house’s interior, complete with period furniture acquired from outside sources, without mentioning the people who once lived there. The displays highlighted the house’s connection to Mexico but none mentioned how the TMA had come to acquire the house. Junior League preservationists’ expressed hopes that the new the La Casa Cordova would inspire a sense of pride in the city’s Mexican heritage are difficult to comprehend considering their role in reinforcing historical categorizations that placed Mexican Americans in unequal and substandard spaces. In contrast to their interpretations at La Casa Cordova, the TMA’s other home restoration efforts associated with Anglo American “pioneers” touted Anglos’ innovative spirits and their enthusiastic embrace of modernity.6 Efforts to establish a Mexican Museum, although talked about in the press, were never actively pursued and the TMA never tapped into the house’s potential to educate the public

Tucson today.



FURTHER READING ●B ettina O’Neil Lyons, A History of La Casa Cordova and the Gabino Ortega Family and the Family of Maria Navarrete Cordova (Tucson: Tucson Museum of Art, 1980). ● Lydia R. Otero, La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010). ●L orenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

about Mexican Americans as active contributors to the building of Tucson, issues of displacement, and burgeoning social movements such as the Chicanx Movement. Ultimately, the restoration resulted in promoting misleading portrayals of Mexican people as pre-modern and belonging to the distant past in houses with dirt floors and outhouses. In the end, the TMA has found it more expedient to close down the bulk of La Casa Cordova for the past ten years, with the exception of a small room at the end of the house that features an intricately crafted and whimsical nacimiento (nativity scene) erected in 1978 and open to the public during the winter months. They used the house’s interior and former living quarters for storing random office equipment.7 In recent years, the dormant house came to symbolize bad decisions and missed opportunities. Maintaining the older adobe house also proved expensive. In 2016, the TMA received funding to initiate a series of needed repairs to La Casa Cordova and to make the house’s interior accessible to the public. This forced the organization to revisit the meanings and stories associated with and previously assigned to the structure. More than four decades had transpired since the restoration had left the house frozen in time, and after reflecting and revisiting the research archives, the TMA moved in a more inclusive direction. They decided to add another layer to the building’s history, one that included Maria Cordova and her family. In June 2017, they reopened another room in La Casa Cordova. Their new exhibit prominently includes Maria Cordova’s letters and a few large, one-dimensional installations that also feature her words and image. The TMA did not shy away from the issue of families displaced by urban renewal, and a looped video station featuring Mexican Americans reflecting on the past and the changes in downtown form a critical part of this exhibit. The



Born and raised in Tucson and having deep family roots on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border inspired the author’s interest in regional history. In 2011, the Border Regional Library Association awarded Lydia R. Otero’s book La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City a Southwest Book Award. Their newest book project, Quién lo dice?: Narratives of Exclusion and Historical Preservation in a Southwest City, highlights the activism of women who launched separate historical projects spanning more than three decades in the latter half of the twentieth century in Tucson. Otero wishes to thank Marianna Pegno at the TMA for insisting that Maria Cordova’s images and words made their way back into La Casa Cordova. 1 The Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission and Arizona Historical Society installed the bronze marker. 2 Here, I use “Anglo American” or “Anglo” to refer to someone of EuroAmerican descent, even though many of the people I am grouping together under this designation did not trace their roots to England, to reflect a usage widely accepted by Tucsonans in the past. 3 Two of the main preservationists had descended from the Mansfeld and Steinfeld families, powerful merchant and landowning families since the nineteenth century. 4 Urban renewal is the focus of my book, La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010). 5 Sue Giles, “Art Museum Gets ‘Keys’ to La Casa Cordova,” Tucson Daily Citizen, November 24, 1975, 10. 6 Those involved with the restoration declared that “It is hoped that the museum will give Tucsonians [sic] a sense of pride in their Mexican heritage.” “La Casa Cordova Getting ‘Old’ Adobe Look,” Tucson Daily Citizen, January 3, 1975, 21. 7 The elaborate nacimiento or nativity scene crafted by Maria Luisa Leon Teña involves many layers and miniature scenes and has become a local attraction during the holiday season. Since the TMA did not announce La Casa Cordova’s closure, longtime TMA employees estimate that it has been closed for more than ten years.

Prentiss Weinberg

Public Domain. From New York Public Library

Tucson postcard, early 1900s.

TMA anticipates telling a fuller story of Mexican Americans in Tucson when it opens more rooms in the house in the future. The current political climate that too often references walls and borders highlights the need for more Latinx historic places and stories. Sites like La Casa Cordova serve to counter portrayals of all Latinx people as recent arrivals by accentuating this ethnic groups’ extensive history as active contributors in local and national history. It is also tells the story of a vibrant binational woman who remained true to her cultural and political beliefs. In the world of Latinx heritage conservation and heritage conservation in general, the new exhibit in La Casa Cordova represents constructive change. That the museum is currently only one small room may underwhelm visitors, but its exhibit represents a dramatic shift of priorities, one of inclusivity and that prominently integrates the history of Maria Cordova with her former house. t

La Casa Cordova today.



Photos Levine Museum



Latinos and the New South By Kate Baillon, Janeen Bryant, and Kamille Bostick

Below: Local food

entrepreneur Zhenia Martinez and contributing artists José Vázquez and Rosalia Torres Weiner stand in front of Vázquez’s piece, an altar to his grandfather, in the ¡NUEVOlution! exhibit.



n February 2009, the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened its ambitious look at demographic change in the South with the exhibit Changing Places: From Black and White to Technicolor®. The exhibit boasted video talkback booths, a park-like setting that included benches, a break dance area, hopscotch, a community bulletin board, a picnic table with “recipes for conversation,” and five environments that explored themes ranging from “What do I keep, what do I change?”—which looked at how people are adapting, maintaining, and modifying cultural traditions—to communication barriers, stereotypes, and those individuals building cultural bridges. Changing Places asked great questions. It created space for discussions about cultural exchange and explored traditions of both new and longtime residents, and it included content and context that situated the community’s past, present, and future. We translated the gallery guide into the city’s five most common languages. Visitors came to see the exhibit and civic leaders used it to dialogue about the future of Charlotte. But the masses of immigrants and newcomers who we had hoped would make their way into the exhibit and see their stories reflected didn’t manifest. Many came, but not in the numbers we expected. As we reflected upon why, the reason became obvious. The exhibit was vibrant, and included video interviews with many individuals who shared their stories of making Charlotte their home, but it had failed to center on the communities’ experiences of change: individuals were a part of the exhibit product, but less so of the exhibit process. The historian/curator teams ventured into the community, conducted oral history interviews, and then selected the stories. Later these teams went to the selected individuals to gather artifacts and anecdotes to bring those stories to life for visitors. Thus, those communities and people whose stories were told were not as invested as they could have been, and the visitorship of those key demographics was low. The exhibit, while well done, was very museum-centric and was closely aligned to a traditional approach to exhibit making. Failure recognized. After we recognized that, we partnered with some key community organizations, expanded our outreach and engagement opportunities, and extended the run with a new direction. We knew success had to be a process and we were determined to get it right. Changing Places had many successes, but it also wouldn’t be our last failure. We made mistakes in the subsequent exhibition, a re-launch of our award-winning exhibit COURAGE: The Carolina Story that Changed America, which looked at school desegregation. It was paired with the exhibit Para Todos Los Niños, an account of the 1947 Mendez v. Westminster case that challenged school segregation for a Mexican family, which we created in partnership with the Museum of

Family visits ¡NUEVOlution! at Levine Museum of the New South.

Tolerance. This time, we didn’t connect it strongly to the young people who would need it most. Again, failure recognized. We worked with a community sponsor, connected with schools across the county, and finished strong. Privileging a single voice in exhibits is risky—particularly as we moved toward a more community-engaged platform for programming. We realized that assembling a diverse team to guide the exhibit process was more important than ever to increase relevance, acceptance, and authenticity in the project. Bringing in community members from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and economic strata, including recent immigrants as well as individuals whose families had been here for generations, made the project more likely to succeed. By mid-2012, we had been selected for the MetLifefunded Innovation Lab for Museums grant, administered by the Center for the Future of Museums, and had begun to understand that a willingness to acknowledge when we were not getting it right had value. Exhibitions were not the product; they were a means to interact with and learn from and about the community. They were a part of the process in community engagement. Exhibits were not just showpieces, but part of a programmatic toolkit to foster trust and learning in a community. To make the most of exhibits, we began to embed in our practice the need to include key stakeholders in the design and formulation of an exhibit. It happened with

our re-conception of Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. Listening sessions assisted in developing a new curatorial approach that was centered upon some of the key learning outcomes participants had named. Partnering with artist John Love to develop the conceptual framework for the exhibit created new opportunities for dialogue, and we developed a dialogic learning arc to help structure exhibits. The approach continued as we launched Out of the Shadows: From Kinsey to Stonewall, adding local components to the Stonewall National Archives’ exhibit by developing additional exhibits within Perspectives on Equality, a local, regional, and national look at the struggle for LGBTQ rights. Looking back, we had been building our muscles for engaging the community and failing forward with content and design. Our next exhibit, ¡NUEVOlution! Latinos in the New South stretched these muscles to their capacity but also taught us some invaluable lessons. s part of the Innovation Lab grant, we partnered with two other museums, the Atlanta History Center and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, to boldly look at a key issue that affected the nation, particularly those of us living in the South. Not only were we thinking about visitorship in a changing age, but new data was showing that in cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, and Birmingham, the Latino population had grown over the course of the past two HISTORY NEWS


A feedback wall asks visitors to reflect on identity and perception.

decades. Charlotte and Atlanta were atop the Nielsen list of fastest growing major Latino metro areas nationwide, up over 400 percent since 2000. In North Carolina alone, more than two dozen small and mid-sized municipalities were now over 20 percent Latino. What the museums recognized as an important hinge of history offered a chance to not only think about how to do museum work differently, but to also create an exhibit that would be approached differently. The Innovation Lab forced us to gather a team of stakeholders, including community voices before an exhibit concept idea emerged. Known as the Latino New South Project, our team included multinational, cross-generational, interstate perspectives to help shape a larger narrative. We added a new iteration of “listening sessions” as fundamental to the process, rather than just as an outlet for reacting to our ideas. It was a liberating concept, but one that was not without problems.

FAIL URE 1: Failure of a Framework As we began working with exhibit developer Darcie Fohrman, we had to first look for the unifying idea of the exhibit. What was the big idea? What did we want to center the exhibit on? We couldn’t name it. This wasn’t an inability on our part, but a slow recognition that there wasn’t a single word or simple concept to describe a cultural, social, and geographic change that affected everything from the economy and customs to identity and politics. In failing to find a big idea, after months of trying, we realized we needed to create a new approach and a new way of organizing the exhibit. We pushed forward and decided that we would need to start by identifying existing assumptions, interests, and perspectives.

FAIL URE 2: Recognizing Limitations and Battling Oversimplification As we continued to develop the ¡NUEVOlution! exhibit, we knew early on that we wanted an experience that spoke to the impact Latinos were having on the South and how the South was impacting Latinos. There needed to be an intentional and reciprocal exploration. However, as we began to vet early versions of the exhibit, it became clear we were missing the mark. Our early prototyping and listening sessions (which came after weeks of staff investment finding facts, stories, and conceptual design) revealed disconnects. One early iteration focused too much on economic shifts. Another lacked resonance with community groups. We were working through the process with one Latina staff member at the time. Melina Monita-Pacheco was not



only invaluable in helping bring in other community voices and exposing where we needed more capacity, but she also helped to lead many of the listening sessions. We brought in scholars like UNC Charlotte urban geographers Heather Smith and Owen Furuseth, UNC Charlotte history and Latin American studies professor Benny Andres, University of Alabama American Studies professor Michael Innis-Jiménez, cultural marketing expert Cecilia Garibay, and exhibition leaders like Evelyn Orantes, Curator of Public Practice, from the Oakland Museum of California. We worked with Levine Museum board members to develop community partnerships and deepen museum resources, including with Davidson College professor Magdalena Maiz-Peña, Pacino Mancillas, and a growing list of advocates and community members young and old. With each conversation and insight, we moved away from a one-dimensional understanding of the emerging Latino New South. These great individuals called out the gaps, gaffes, spaces for growth, and strides we were making. Through them, we saw our own failures up close. We could not center the Latino experience from the perspective of “other” (leading to critical staffing choices), Spanish language needed to appear first, and first-person narratives had to be lifted and honored through video rather than elevating curator voice. We also had to confront the stereotypes, misconceptions, and assumptions held by staff so that we would not produce an exhibit without the cultural competence in marketing, programming, education, and guest services to make a matching and full visitor experience. We conducted monthly learning sessions that worked to build trust among staff and to get them to go out of their comfort zone to meet others in the community at cultural events, small businesses, and elsewhere. We had frank discussions as a whole staff that helped us to understand one another better, and decreased instances of projecting our fears upon one another. This process was eye-opening, and it also let us begin to plan how we wanted to include more interactivity and empathetic moments in the exhibit.

FAI L U R E 3: Ensuring Productive Feedback Loops One key strategy with ¡NUEVOlution! was the refined use of our listening sessions. We repeatedly and intentionally listened to key stakeholders throughout development. More than a mere focus group, it was rather a session that sought to uncover reaction, direction, insight, and opportunity. From previous projects, we had learned that the more we involve the community we are talking about, the stronger the product and the more invested this community will be. When it comes to listening—and listening well—we had to build the relationships with participants so they would trust us. Being transparent in our process, and showing participants where their feedback had impacted the project helped to establish deeper trust. It took many years to build the contacts and key alliances that we leveraged for this project. Many times when we lacked inroads, we were able to connect with individuals with whom we had relationships to cultivate others to participate in weighing in on the project. Our feedback loops, via listening sessions and more, meant we were constantly reconnecting and nurturing

the relationships with individuals and session participants throughout the process, including updating them via email and phone or re-engaging them in additional feedback sessions. All of these efforts ensured their sustained involvement, while listening to and addressing their concerns and questions helped us to develop mutually beneficial relationships with several organizations and individuals. Overall, we created community ambassadors through this process. Working closely with us and being a group that we listened to equally with scholars or historians gave the listening session participants a stake in the outcome of the project. But, as proud as we were of this outcome, there were key setbacks. For one, we failed in previous work in building many sustainable relationships. When we examined our process, we saw that we could easily bring in community business leaders but we also needed everyday community members who had just as much to offer. Given the specificity of some of the issues in ¡NUEVOlution!, we also struggled, at first, to talk with undocumented populations. In working with two other institutions in two other cities, we noted that what posed a challenge in one locale was not always a barrier in another. In Charlotte, getting entry with the undocumented families required more work than it did in Birmingham. Additionally, we had to make sure we didn’t overprivilege the voices in the room to the detriment of the whole process. It would be easy to let the bias of one group slip in as we sought to incorporate their points of view. In particular, there was a session where, in asking about connections and concerns, key misunderstandings about African American history surfaced. While we finished the session, it was obvious to the facilitators that the process hadn’t worked. Staff invited participants to see related exhibits, but the bigger lesson was the need to make sure we incorporated connections and teachable moments into the exhibit. After that session, we sought to inform against negative misconceptions and beliefs by bringing them into sharp focus, like with our hall of slurs, an auditory and experiential method to demonstrate desencuentros (or uncomfortable moments) like overhearing comments made by both English-speaking and Spanishspeaking individuals about Latinos. It was important to offer stories not just of struggle, but of success, hope, courage, and community building, and to tie them to historical events such as the public demonstrations to preserve DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the Selma to Montgomery March during the Civil Rights Movement. The images of people marching in support of DACA were strikingly similar to those of crowds marching in pursuit of recognition and rights over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

FA I L U RE 4: Working Out the Key Details Even as we had agreed that we wanted to have a bilingual exhibit, creating the product proved a challenge. When it came to translating the exhibit, we also learned that the Spanish language included a set of variations based on regions and country of origin. We couldn’t, in honoring what we had learned in our listening sessions, consider not doing this as we translated the exhibit. We worked with a Latino marketing company, AC&M Group, who assisted

not only with translation, but also created “transadaptation,” which takes into account the nuances of language. With accurate language, we also had the unforeseen problem of making sure the exhibit wasn’t dominated by text. With two versions of the text, we had double the amount of words. Museum historian Tom Hanchett and new Latino New South Coordinator Oliver Merino spent hours shortening content and resubmitting text for transadaptation. We further engaged AC&M to develop culturally-appropriate marketing since we knew our usual channels would not help us reach the broad audiences we hoped for. As we filled the exhibit with stories and visuals of a changing South, we kept trying to find the “iconic” object to convey the idea of ¡NUEVOlution!. Through rough drafts of

content, we were unsuccessful. Quite plainly, there wasn’t one single item that could cover the entire experience of being Latino in the New South or being a part of how the South was becoming more Latino. We considered images, flags, menus, and signs, but none of them fit. A change in direction happened when our Vice President of Exhibits Kate Baillon, with the encouragement of Evelyn Orantes, decided to turn to artists to create or submit pieces specific to the exhibit. We had long felt that art offered an additional lens through which to learn and understand history. With a grant from MetLife that supported our endeavors, our VP of Exhibits reached out to artists who worked in a wide array of media across the three states. The fourteen artists selected included a musician, muralist, graphic designer, graphic novelist, installation artists, painters, sculptors, and North Carolina furniture maker Steve Terry who partnered with Atlanta artist Francisco Bermudez to create seating using a high-resolution scan of his painting to create the fabric. Other artists included: Nico Amortegui, Rodrigo Dorfman, Edwin Gil, Pilar Martinez, Ricardo Levins Morales, Rosa Murillo, Edward Noriega, Mario Petrirena, Alejandro Santoya, José Vázquez, Lila Quintero Weaver, and Rosalia Torres-Weiner. We asked them to create pieces that would anchor portions of the exhibit and help readers visualize and contextualize the Nuevo South. One important facet of this request was giving power to the artists to select or create items that worked for them. We trusted their process and vision rather than curating or dictating artistic content.

Visitors draw their American dreams and add them to a feedback wall.



FAIL URE 5: Keeping It Authentic One huge responsibility of creating an exhibit about a living, changing history was making sure we were credible and trustworthy stewards of the stories we were telling. Once we realized we could not rely heavily on artifacts and we should share the voice of expertise, we settled on having first-person videos within the exhibit. But some of the early submissions of these videos seemed overproduced. We had hoped to have a more organic quality, similar to oral histories on video, but given who the interviews were with, that didn’t always happen. Instead of scrapping them, we worked to make sure we had a mix of videos that were story-based and some that were more stylistic. Another setback with the videos was that after the first batch was created and shown to our listening session participants, many questioned our ratio of stories of struggle to stories of success. This reading helped us to rethink how we were casting the story of the changing South. There are many things to celebrate and many things to lament. We couldn’t tell every story in only 3,500 square feet, so we embedded video talkback booths, tweet stations, and interactives so that visitors could share their stories as well. Failures are not reasons to stop in the exhibit-making process. In fact, had we not failed often and openly with this exhibit, ¡NUEVOlution! would not have been the award-winning, conversation-starting exhibit that it was. Visitors would not have come in and left with tears in their eyes exclaiming how they saw their stories or the stories of their families and friends. They would not have visited and commented with incredulity about how we might be changing too fast. It would not have sparked comments about the true purpose of looking at the changing South, the importance of policy, and the shortcomings of seeing difference versus commonality. Among our failures, there were many lessons learned in approaching the exhibit as we did. LE S S O N 1 : An exhibit is not a product; it is a process and program. In fact, programming and exhibit development need to

work in tandem as part of a holistic approach in the shared goal of creating impactful and informative experiences. LE S S O N 2 : Let go and share ownership. In serving twenty-first-century audiences and telling more inclusive stories, we have to move past the traditional museum approach of having a single narrative, typically that of an all-knowing historian or a curator who wants a nice, neat story. There is value in expanding the narrative and opening projects to a multitude of voices who have an investment in the outcome.

L E S S ON 3 : Good work takes time. One of the biggest lessons we took away from ¡NUEVOlution! and the many steps that led to building a better exhibit, experience, and connection between community and our institutions was that the process takes time. While we began this chronicle in 2009, there was a longer relevant history of community reciprocity, use of space, board member development, and fair representation that made it all possible. Trust-building is complicated on both sides of any collaboration, and there were many collaborations that had to take place to produce ¡NUEVOlution! L E S S ON 4 : Embrace a public-facing, iterative process. In comparison to closed processes, where we create exhibits and experiences in a vacuum and then test them (hoping we have it right but much too late to create real substantive change), embracing a circular process—one that is outward-facing—creates a stronger result. Part of this outward-facing process means returning to groups throughout development to ensure learning objectives are being met in accurate and responsive ways. Giving ownership of the story to the participating individuals or groups ensures accountability, accuracy, and greater authenticity. It creates buy-in, builds consensus (within organizations and communities involved), and develops community ambassadors for a project. This increased trust between the institution and community flourishes when the power dynamic shifts and a willingness to adopt different ideas is embraced. Feedback can create a change in direction, and with a willingness to accept failures or discover the underlying weaknesses, we are able to build a stronger, more authentic story together. t Kate Baillon is Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at Cape Fear Museum. She served as Vice President of Exhibitions at the Levine Museum from 2007-2017. Kate seeks to create equity and access through thoughtful exhibit design and community engagement. Specifically, she believes in working in collaboration with communities, institutions and departments to create platforms and access to build community at the intersection of history, science, and exhibition. Kate can be reached at kbaillon@nhcgov.com. Janeen Bryant, founder of Facilitate Movement, is a community engagement specialist and catalyst for building organizational capacity. Formerly Vice President of Education at the Levine Museum of the New South, her work focuses on the power of interpersonal communication, the impact of shifting demographics on visitor interactions, and experiential learning activities to make social change history relevant and accessible to any learner. She is active within multiple industry-wide initiatives including Museums and Race and Mass Action, and can be reached at facilitatemovement@gmail.com. Kamille Bostick, Vice President of Education at the Levine Museum (2015-2017), is a former newspaper reporter, high school teacher, and museum educator who now serves as Director of the Writing Center at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. She specializes in curriculum and program design, audience and community engagement, and is trained in dialogue facilitation. Her current work centers on access, education, and empowerment. Contact her at kbostick@ livingstone.edu.



Levine Museum of the New South.

Photos Alex Aberle and Violette Levy

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison

Giving Upsala Its Best Shot:

Returning a House Museum to a Private Residence


hange is hard. Recognizing that something is no longer working and taking the steps to change direction can be even harder—and messier. Throughout the United States, while many historic house museums are thriving by engaging new audiences, tackling the critical issues of today with relevant and deeply meaningful programs, preserving their historic buildings, and nurturing communities of supporters, others are challenged and withering. This phenomenon has been discussed and debated at the annual meetings of AASLH, the American Alliance of Museums, and elsewhere for over a decade, dating back to Kykuit forums on the future of house museums convened by the National Trust for Historic Preservation at the Pocantico Center in 2002 and 2007. As Stephanie Meeks, President of the National Trust, said about house museums in 2014, “To save these places, we must be willing to challenge our own ideas of preservation and consider new models.” In the case of the historic Upsala mansion in the Germantown section

By David Young, Thompson Mayes, and Carrie Villar Clockwise from top left:

Interior view of Upsala after new ownership. Alex Aberle and Violette Levy, the new owners of historic Upsala mansion. Upsala before renovation. HISTORY NEWS


Upsala is a transformative story of dedicated community engagement,

Upsala Foundation/National Trust for Historic Preservation; Courtesy Cliveden of the National Trust

of Philadelphia, Cliveden, Inc. and the National Trust conof the building. At that time Germantown prided itself as a sidered many different models. Ultimately the one that was suburb in the city; its genteel historic setting was home to landed on was to return Upsala to its original use as a private 108,000 people, of whom 10,000 were African Americans. residence. Local preservationists led a community effort to save the The National Trust frequently receives calls from orgaproperty from being developed into a grocery store and nizations looking for guidance about options for challenged restored it in 1944. The Upsala Foundation operated the sites that are responsible and thoughtful. The story of finding building as a house museum until declining visitation (in the a new future for Upsala may serve as an example for other single digits in 2001) and rising deferred maintenance made organizations facing similar challenges. Upsala is a transforits use of the property unsustainable. In 2005, the Upsala mative story of dedicated community engagement, commitFoundation was dissolved and the property and its collected preservation, and ultimately, successful new stewards. tions were transferred to the National Trust to be managed Stewardship, in this case, brought Upsala back to its origby Cliveden, Inc. In accepting the property, the National inal use, coming full circle from residence to house museum Trust and Cliveden, Inc. planned for Upsala to be operated and ultimately back to private home. The 2017 sale of Upsala by Cliveden, Inc. as part of its overall operations, with the completed a decadehope that it would prolong process to find vide Cliveden, Inc.’s a suitable steward for preservation mission the Federal style resiwith a more active and dence and former house visual presence on both museum. Through sides of Germantown dedicated engagement Avenue. with an array of stakeIn their twelve holders, consideration years of stewardship, of many possible uses, Cliveden and the and binding perpetual National Trust conprotection of the propducted substantial erty, the National Trust preservation projects, and Cliveden, Inc. have including exterior resdemonstrated how a toration and capital house museum can tranrepairs. At the same sition to a different and time, Cliveden and the more sustainable model National Trust explored for its stewardship while many programmatic still protecting signifoptions for use of the icant historic features house and 2.5-acre In 1944, following a fire at the mansion, the Upsala Foundation raised money and maintaining close site, none of which to restore the building and open it to the public as a house museum. ties to its community. proved financially susThe process of moving tainable, particularly Upsala from an unsustainable nonprofit stewardship model after the economic recession of 2008. Cliveden explored to a more sustainable private residential use presents several various local partnerships, including an archaeology cenimportant lessons for the field. ter for Germantown, a showroom for a local contractor Much about Upsala’s original transition from residence to who would restore the building, and a bookstore with a house museum will be familiar to others who steward similar café and performance space. None of these proved finanproperties around the country. Built in 1798 as a wedding cially viable or sustainable either. Meanwhile, the building present for John Johnson III, Upsala stands on Germantown hosted various tenants, including the offices of the National Avenue directly across the street from Cliveden (a historic Trust’s Philadelphia field office and the local Mount Airy site that has been operated as a co-stewardship site of the Business Improvement District, of which Cliveden, Inc. is a National Trust for Historic Preservation, by Cliveden, co-founder. Inc., since 1981). Upsala was built on the site of part of Despite diligent stewardship and broad consideration the Revolutionary War Battle of Germantown, where of alternative uses for the building, Cliveden, Inc. and the Continental Army soldiers prepared to attack Cliveden, National Trust ultimately determined that they could not which was then held by British forces. Used as a residence sustain Upsala without severely limiting the capacity to preuntil the late 1930s, Upsala (so named by later residents who serve and operate Cliveden. However, in looking for new were fans of a Swedish novel of the 1890s) was vacant when possible uses, both the National Trust and the Cliveden, a 1942 fire destroyed the roof and much of the upper floors Inc. boards and staff were committed to a solution that



committed preservation, and ultimately, successful new stewards. continued good stewardship of the historic building, provided some community access to the property, and allowed it to play an active role in the ongoing revitalization of Germantown. In the words of a Cliveden board member, “We want to find a next steward who can give Upsala its best shot.” Cliveden, Inc. and the National Trust hoped that finding the best shot for Upsala would also serve as a model—or at least an example—that would be helpful at other sites looking for solutions.

Seeking Community Input


n late 2013, Cliveden, Inc. received an unsolicited offer from a private individual to purchase Upsala in order to restore it as a residence and showcase for his collection of colonial maps and decorative art. Although Cliveden, Inc. and the National Trust did not think it appropriate to accept a private offer for Upsala without any public process and without exploring other options, the offer spurred the organizations to initiate a more engaged process to find a new future for Upsala. In the summer of 2014, Cliveden, Inc. initiated discussions with community organizations, public officials, and neighborhood stakeholders to explore the options for the future of Upsala, asking for ideas about its use. Cliveden had become accustomed to active community engagement as part of its ongoing stewardship and mission. The institution was a leading partner in the economic revitalization of Germantown Avenue, combatting decades of disinvestment born of racial politics and parochialism. In contrast to the 1940s, at the turn of the twenty-first century, the population of greater Germantown stood at 101,000, with over 64 percent African American residents. The 2010 U.S. Census recorded the population of the greater Germantown area as approximately 83,500 people with an African American population over 74 percent. House museums such as Upsala did not reflect the demographic makeup and were often considered clubby and irrelevant. At the same time, Cliveden regularly sought neighborhood input as it expanded its museum interpretation to address the site’s historic connections to plantation slavery in the Philadelphia region, engaging in community forums and seeking diverse input. Two “Cliveden Conversations” programs addressed the future of Upsala and invited community members to learn about the site’s history, the current circumstances, and weigh in on their ideas for suitable uses. Cliveden Conversations were an existing program series that was already a trusted community forum and they brought forward a wide range of ideas, from proposals that had already been examined and had not proven to be sustainable, to the idea of transferring the property to other nonprofits for various uses, to selling the property subject to appropriate protections. In exploring the possibilities for Upsala through these discussions, Cliveden and the National Trust were fully aware that legal issues would need to be considered. Legal con-

cerns—even the fear of them—can easily derail efforts to identify and implement a new sustainable future for a historic site. Each historic site has unique legal issues and it is essential that the organization seeking to chart a new future knows of these restrictions and obtains the advice of qualified counsel about how such restrictions may be treated. As an outcome of the stakeholder engagement, and after consideration of legal concerns, the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. determined that it would be important to have an open, transparent, and public process to see if there were any other viable, realistic, and sustainable alternatives for Upsala. After consulting with the Office of the Attorney General, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued that sought proposals for the acquisition, preservation, and reuse of Upsala. The National Trust issued the RFP and, in close collaboration with Cliveden, Inc., publicized it widely in order to ensure a broad pool of responses. As nonprofit organizations with preservation missions, the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. saw protection of the historic character of Upsala as an essential principle. Even prior to developing the RFP, we determined that a historic preservation easement was necessary as part of any proposed transfer of the property, regardless of who would become owner of the property after transfer. The easement protecting Upsala includes the exterior of the building, the significant rooms and features on the interior, the landscape surrounding Upsala, and also provides limited public access, including access for the reenactment of the Battle of Germantown held at Cliveden and Upsala each year. The RFP resulted in multiple credible proposals that were considered, although none were accepted because they were not considered financially sustainable or proposed too many changes to the protections covered by the easement. The RFP process, however, was important to ensure that we had openly explored all potential avenues for the reuse of Upsala, including providing nonprofits, for-profits, agencies, and individuals the opportunity to propose options. After the Request for Proposals process, Cliveden, Inc. and the National Trust questioned whether the traditional real estate market would produce more financially viable and sustainable options, and decided to place Upsala on the real estate market, subject to conditions that ensured its preservation. The listing of Upsala in September 2016 generated great interest, resulting in nine proposals, each with enthusiasm for the historic property. There was also significant media interest in Philadelphia about the sale, offering a chance to talk about alternative models for house museums and preservation easements as a tool for historic properties. Each of the nine offers for the property expressed keen interest in preserving the history of the site, and they offered a wide array of proposed uses. One called for a law office with residences in the back, another proposed a nonprofit religious school, while several others proposed a hybrid of private residence with

Flowering tree on Upsala property.



The new Upsala owners are active in the neighborhood, bringing life public gallery space for art, concerts, or community meetings. The offer accepted in late December 2016 came from buyers with demonstrated experience in preserving buildings, who accepted the preservation easement with no changes, had a plan for returning the house to its original use as a private residence that was compatible with existing regulatory requirements, and with demonstrated financial capacity to care for the property. Following the execution of the sale contract, the National Trust, in close cooperation with Cliveden, Inc., asked the Office of the Attorney General to consent to the transfer, which it did. For Upsala, the community relations, public engagement, and preservation issues were interwoven with the ethical and legal issues. The National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. could not have avoided public controversy, nor obtained the consent of the Attorney General’s office, without demonstrating that the process was engaged, transparent, and ethical. Throughout the process, we made clear that any funds resulting from a transfer would be used for restricted preservation purposes, consistent with our respective missions. Many people needed assurance that funds would be committed to preservation, not operations, salaries, or something unrelated. In the years-long process for Upsala, the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. were guided consistently by their own ethical standards, the American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics, and the American Association for State and Local History Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics. These standards also guided the treatment of Upsala’s collection of historic artifacts and decorative arts.

unnumbered object that could possibly be a collections item was found, it was included. Erring on the conservative side meant that some likely non-collections items, like reproduction puzzles or games, were included on the list and treated as museum objects. As the inventory was conducted, Cliveden, Inc. evaluated whether the Upsala objects could be incorporated into Cliveden’s interpretation, identified local and regional institutions that might be interested in receiving some of the objects, determined which objects had clear title and which were long-term old loans, and prepared a deaccessioning request for consideration by the National Trust’s staff and board collections committees. Simultaneously, objects needed to be removed from Upsala as the house was prepared for pre-sale inspections, repairs, and staging. Upsala’s collection was packed and moved to offsite storage for the remainder of the process. Once the National Trust approved the deaccession request,



hen Upsala was transferred to the National Trust, the contents of the property were conveyed as well. The collection of the Upsala Foundation, nearly two hundred historic objects, some with provenance to the Johnson family who built Upsala, was the typical mix of decorative antiques and objects used to furnish a house museum. When the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. decided to find a new steward for the property, the collections also needed to be addressed in an ethical and transparent process. Upsala’s artifacts were never fully accessioned into the National Trust collection, always remaining with their original Upsala numbering system. Nevertheless, the National Trust, conscious of its responsibilities, followed the same process for determining the disposition of the objects as it would for any other object in its museum collection. The National Trust’s deaccessioning process is thoughtful, deliberate, and measured. Before decisions could be made about what would happen to the Upsala collection, a complete inventory was conducted to determine exactly what was in the house. If an



Exterior of Upsala mansion.

objects were transferred to local museums and other National Trust sites, with another group of objects sent for sale at public auction. Sale proceeds were deposited in a restricted account that can only be used for the direct care of the collection at Cliveden. The most challenging aspects of stewarding the Upsala collections involved identifying old loans and contacting lenders or their descendants. Many objects had been on loan to the Upsala Foundation for decades and the original lender had died, moved, or disappeared. This step demanded methodical detective work, using Internet searches and phone listings to find information about potential heirs for the objects. Long after the sale of the home was finalized in April 2017, National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. staff continued working to finalize issues involving the collection.

to the history of an old house museum in dynamic new ways. Each step in the process for determining the future of Upsala’s collection was surprisingly complex and time consuming, but necessary to ensure the process met professional standards. There were unexpected financial costs as well. Beyond the extensive staff time required to complete the process of updating policies, informing board committees, and reaching out to area collecting institutions, there were costs for the professional appraisal, storage, and moving of objects. The National Trust is fortunate to have staff legal counsel, but without that, there would have been additional costs for outside attorneys as well.

Lessons Learned


he lessons that the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc. learned from its nearly two-decades long involvement with Upsala hold useful takeaways for preservationists, historic site staff and boards, and people interested in the future of house museums. First, Cliveden’s stewardship of the property involved dedicated and highly intentional outreach that was continual and focused; they informed public officials, neighborhood associations, community forums, and local businesses and residents and then re-engaged them when appropriate. The lengthy and multifaceted process included zoning analysis, tax assessment appeal, preservation law, collections policies, realtors with preservation know-how including experience with easements, and a community-wide request for proposals. Informing the Office of the Attorney General early, midway, and throughout the process was crucial. Second, close attention to the legal issues from the outset opened a path toward a new steward, and the use of a historic preservation easement helped ensure that Upsala would be protected, thus reassuring both the public and vital constituencies that the historic character of Upsala would be preserved. Upsala’s easement preserves the historic features and significance of the property in perpetuity, while allowing the new owners the flexibility to adapt it for contemporary residential life. The public access requirement of the easement requires the owners to make the property part of the annual Battle of Germantown reenactments held the first Saturday in October, maintaining its public benefit and close ties to the surrounding community. The easement provides guarantees of access, preservation, and protection of landscape and interiors not generally offered with local or national designations. Finally, Upsala received sound stewardship long before the transfer to the new owners last year. Under stewardship of the National Trust and Cliveden, Inc., Upsala went from a museum to an office to a community platform for considering adaptive solutions, and now returns to its original purpose—as a private residence for a young family excited to live in a historic home. This is a win for preservation, a win for the Germantown community, and, most importantly, it gives Upsala its best shot. The new owners are already active in the neighborhood, welcoming thousands to the

property on Battle Day, decorating it for Halloween, documenting their discoveries and rehabilitation on Instagram (@historicupsala) and bringing life to the history of an old house museum in dynamic new ways. While every site is different and every community has its own specific circumstances, the process—and ultimate success—at Upsala highlights key tools and processes to consider when seeking a new solution for a house museum. The Upsala process showed there is wide interest in old houses, and a desire to protect their beauty and history, as well as to share their special features with other people. The results speak to the interest in local history and make clear that those preservation values can be sustained even if not always in the form of a house museum. t

Fireplace detail.

Carrie Villar is the John & Neville Bryan Associate Director of Museum Collections at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In that role, she oversees the collections management of the 60,000 objects, historic structures, and landscapes at National Trust sites across the country. Thompson M. (Tom) Mayes, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has written and lectured widely on historic house museums, preservation public policy, and the future of historic preservation. A recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize in Historic Preservation in 2013, Mr. Mayes is the author of Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). Dr. David Young served as Executive Director of Cliveden of the National Trust from 2006 until June 2018. He is now Executive Director of the Delaware Historical Society. 1 For readings on the decline of house museums from the last decade, see the essays, including a report on the Pocantico conferences, in Forum Journal: America’s Historic Sites at a Crossroads 22, no. 3 (Spring 2008). See also Cary Carson, “The End of History Museums: What’s Plan B?” Public Historian 30, no. 4 (Fall 2008): 9–27, as well as more recent coverage, such as J. Freedom du Lac, “Struggling to Attract Visitors, Historic Sites May Have to Face Day of Reckoning,” Washington Post, December 22, 2012; and Ruth Graham, “The Great Historic House Museum Debate,” Boston Globe, August 10, 2014. 2 Stephanie Meeks, “Stepping into the Future at Historic Sites,” Forum Journal 28, no. 4 (Summer 2014). 3 The 1940 U.S. Census tallied 108,083 people in the 22nd ward, 10,044 of them black (500 more than in 1930). The 1950 Census showed that, collectively, the German Township (Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill) contained 105,334 people, of whom approximately 10 percent were black. In 1950 the wards of Germantown proper (i.e., not the entire 22nd ward) numbered 69,615 (61,448 white, 8,167 nonwhite). This represented a decrease of over 13,000 white residents. 4 Population analysis of the entire township comes from Barbara Ferman, Theresa Singleton, and Don DeMarco, “West Mount Airy, Philadelphia,” in Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 4, no. 2 (1999): 30. 5 2010 Census placed the population of the Germantown neighborhood at 61,500 (83.9 percent African American) and the Mount Airy neighborhood at 22,000 (64.8 percent African American). https://statisticalatlas.com/place/ Pennsylvania/Philadelphia/Race-and-Ethnicity#figure/neighborhood.



Public History in Hong Kong: A Survey

BY BENJAMIN J. HRUSKA Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.

streets, first-time visitors from the West are overwhelmed by a whirlwind of experiences. Dazzling lights, seas of people ebbing and flowing, a cacophony of honking erupting from city streets, all point to an amazingly high population density. The true uniqueness for historians is that Hong Kong is the only place within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where public historians can freely practice.1 As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC, the residents of Hong Kong enjoy the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly stemming from British rule.2 As a result, Hong Kong functions as a pocket of freedom not only for the residents of Hong Kong, but also residents of the PRC. Visitors from mainland China can see a range of thoughtful and creative public history programs and exhibitions in Hong Kong, all of which stem from freedoms unknown in the PRC. Within the PRC the possibilities of experiencing public history independent of state approval is limited at best.



Such museology concepts as multiple interpretations of the past, or embracing a version of history other than that approved by the state, simply do not exist in historical displays on the mainland. Thus, public history institutions in Hong Kong affect more than just Hong Kong’s seven million residents. With large visitation from citizens of the PRC, these Hong Kong institutions function in educating and introducing the field of public history to visitors from a nation consisting of over 20 percent of the world’s population.

“A Floating City” Beyond the high-rises echoing modernity, a sense of smallness persists in Hong Kong. This theme is clearly seen in a survey of its leading public history institutions. An author of fiction exploring the soul of this place in the 1980s coined the phase “a floating city.” 3 This analogy points to the transition underway at the time, from the mixture of control and culture tethering

Benjamin Hruska


long with major urban centers like London, New York City, and Tokyo, Hong Kong functions as a crossroads for cutting-edge concepts in technology, architecture, and fashion. In walking the

it to the British Isles ending and the movement toward the unknown reunion with the communist PRC. Like a pawn in a game of chess, this small outpost with a big economic influence was morphing from one sphere to another. Hong Kong retains a dual identity. The roots of this specific cultural space extend much deeper than just the obvious pairings of East and West, traditional and modern, and Cantonese and English. Historically it has functioned as a doorway, a place for transit, and thus inherits a unique history. Outside global forces have continuously shaped and reshaped both the physical and psychological landscapes.4 Such a unique space, both in the cultural and social sense, yields a rich harvest for public historians. One exhibition in particular, with the use of a life history of a single individual, explores Hong Kong’s binaries.

Little Dragon

westerners, Hong Kong residents, and citizens of the PRC. Many feel a personal connection to Bruce Lee; this concept is exemplified with the display of a fan’s collection of Lee memorabilia. This collection demonstrates to those PRC visitors that history can be in the realm of not only the state or a museum, but also the individual. Additionally, PRC visitors see that a fun topic can also reject the label of “happy history,” as this exhibition includes addressing the discrimination Lee faced as an Asian American seeking leading roles in 1960s Hollywood. This collection of comics, T-shirts, and action figures, beyond just displaying a wide assortment of Lee memorabilia, includes an interview with the American collector speaking of his motivation. A digital screen shows Jeff Chinn discussing harassment endured growing up in 1960s California as the only Chinese student in his school. He said his life changed the day he saw Lee interviewed on television when Lee stated he was proud of his Chinese heritage. The curatorial design incorporating the collection of a fan testifies to a number of public history themes, including being comfortable with multiple interpretive voices and the professional curation of pop-culture topics.

Born in Seattle, raised in Hong Kong, and starting his young acting career in the studios of California, Bruce Lee exemplified the blending of western and eastern characteristics. An exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum utilizes a range of artifacts, engaging exhibition text, and digital components to interpret the life and career of Bruce Lee, who is known locally in Cantonese by the name Little Dragon. A central curatorial theme is the duality of his No topic better demonstrates the divide between the background, Cantonese and American. Exhibition labels are PRC and the western world than the events surrounding bilingual, using both Chinese characters and English. Placed June 4, 1989. Inside the PRC, the military crackdown against among workout equipment and pro-democratic protestors, known in the movie props, digital screens show West as Tiananmen Square, is banned from interviews with Lee and iconic fight public discussion. With state control over scenes, including battles against the the media, Internet, and history textbooks, likes of Chuck Norris and Kareem the state denial around the events has litAbdul-Jabbar. erally transformed the crackdown, which Innovation is seen in demonstratkilled hundreds if not more than a thouing Lee’s fighting techniques with a sand, into a non-event. The incident can display blending the worlds of the only be publicly memorialized in one place real and the digital. Among a gathwithin the PRC: Hong Kong. ering of period workout equipment Yet even in Hong Kong the pressure not from the late 1960s, a digital proto discuss Tiananmen is felt. In 2016 the A large image of Bruce Lee welcomes jection of Bruce Lee is cast on the world’s only museum dedicated to rememvisitors to the Bruce Lee exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. black screen in bering Tiananmen, the June 4th Museum the background. located in Hong Kong, was forced to The interest generated in seeing an aniclose. While officially closed due to the nonrenewal of a mated Lee wield nunchucks grabs all visitors. building lease due to zoning issues, the leadership of the The digital Lee then turns right and spars with museum feels that strong political pressure from Beijing on an artifact hanging from the ceiling, a punching the building owners is behind the closure.5 Since the closure, bag. When Lee lands a roundhouse kick, the actual bag dedicated public history volunteers, using the deconstructed lurches backwards, which produces excited conversations museum, set up and disassemble temporary exhibitions at in a number of languages. In blending the digital and the public events and festivals. physical worlds to showcase the fighting talent of Lee, the These volunteers are particularly busy in the weeks leadcurators produce a period-correct exhibition space to set the ing up to the June anniversary. The largest public event is stage for the digital Little Dragon. an annual candlelight vigil that takes place in Hong Kong’s In embracing Bruce Lee, the Hong Kong Heritage Victoria Park. Numbering in the tens of thousands, this Museum has found a true rarity. By interpreting the life of gathering of Hong Kong residents starts with a moment of a single international film star they create a connection to silence. Those gathered hold an array of candles, includthree very different audiences, thus linking the identities of ing traditional, battery-powered, and displays of burning candles on smartphone screens. Once observed, a round Left: Outside the Hong Kong Heritage Museum stands a permanent of applause is offered for those brave protesters killed and statue of Bruce Lee, who is known locally as the “Little Dragon.” Benjamin Hruska

Rob Young (Flickr); CC BY 2.0.

Illegal History




A mother and son view an exhibition on early agriculture of the region at the Hong Kong History Museum.

Titled “Pillar of Shame,” it originally came to Hong Kong in 1997 for the annual candlelight vigil marking the eighth anniversary. At the conclusion of the anniversary, the statue was displayed at a number of locations before finding a permanent home on the university campus.7 For PRC visitors this represents a migratory method of public commemoration, as to commemorate the event at the actual location is illegal. Any public reference to the crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, even just holding a sign mentioning the victims, results in arrest within seconds. But in Hong Kong, functioning as a pocket of freedom where public history can operate, this statue serves as a daily reminder of those victims who died in the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen.

Institutional Legacy In sharp contrast to the PRC, Hong Kong retains the British tradition of devoted citizens chartering and supporting institutions. In open societies, the freedom of public expression facilitates the bottom-up approach to addressing societal problems. Volunteer-based groups form the lifeblood of organizations devoted to improving society on the local level. In the United States context, such organizations have addressed a host of societal problems, as seen in movements supporting women’s suffrage, grassroots environmental protections, and the ending of child labor. An additional avenue of such organizations can be the preservation and protection of history, which can produce preservation efforts, historical societies, and successful lobbying for zoning protections for historic neighborhoods.



n Great Britain, groups of citizens dedicated to public knowledge sprouted in the nineteenth century and produced institutions devoted to historic and scientific knowledge, with legacies going back more than two centuries. For example, the British Museum first opened to the public in 1759. This notion of citizens banding together to charter institutions and museums outside the confines of the national government spread throughout the empire, including Hong Kong. Beyond just a physical space, either a museum or an archive devoted to history, what gives these institutions true meaning is the individuals connected to these sites. Board members, volunteers, and administrators: these roles that form the bedrock of institutional memory emerge from a society that allows open dialogue and expression on a collective past. The importance of this institutional legacy is easy to overlook in North America. However, after China’s Communist Revolution of 1949 any private gathering of concerned citizens was officially banned. The waves of repressive actions within the PRC against those deemed enemies of the state in the decades that followed certainly dampened any passions among its citizens in banding together in any way outside of the protection of the Communist party. Thus, the PRC is mostly a void if one is looking for longstanding grassroots organizations devoted to history. While every new Starbucks expunges a small portion of the first thirty years of failed Marxist economic theory in the PRC, the legacy of a vacuum of citizen-based institutions devoted to history is not so easily erased. Thus, for the visitors from the PRC, the biggest introduction to public history in Hong Kong is the ability to visit institutions (other than those operated and funded by the government) devoted to the public presentation of history. One of the most visible Hong Kong institutions, both in terms of public cultural footprint and central location on the waterfront, is the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Located on Pier 8 on the Central Harbor Waterfront, the museum includes thirteen galleries on three different levels. With annual visitation over 100,000, this museum is a premier example of the multiple roles a cultural institution can play. The museum’s large permanent exhibition interprets the rich maritime history in the Pearl River Delta. From the time of the Qin and Han Dynasties expanding the Chinese Maritime Silk Road, these waters have carried international commerce. One of the more unique curatorial themes is the merging of maritime technologies from the West and the East starting in the seventeenth century. Ship models, simulated trade routes on digital screens, Scrolllock [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Hruska

injured. As any public memorialization in the PRC quickly results in arrest, many PRC citizens make the journey to Hong Kong to participate. Beyond these anniversary events, a statue in the student union of the University of Hong Kong, at least for the time being, commemorates Tiananmen. Composed of a mixture of bronze, copper, and cement, the piece by the Danish artist Jens Galschoit stands over eight meters high. The thinning tower as it rises from the base is made from mangled bodies representing those killed. On the base in bronze are three statements: “The Tiananmen Massacre,” “June 4th 1989,” and “The old cannot kill the young forever.”6

and a rich collection of objects, when combined, present two thousand years of maritime history. However, the most creative aspect of exhibition is the display on the history of the twentieth century. After learning about Imperial Chinese maritime history and the impact of the British presence in transforming these islands into a modern international port, the visitor enters the Hong Kong International Terminals Gallery. Twentyfoot-high glass walls offer a view of the historic Victoria Harbor in real time. Just one pier away, the historic Star Ferry docks after its six-minute journey across the harbor to neighboring Kowloon. The busyness of Victoria harbor is hard to digest looking out at the waterway with the comings and goings of ferries, cargo vessels, cruise ships, and police and fire vessels. In interpreting this space, curators utilize two methods that represent the bookends of curatorial technology. On the modern end of the technology spectrum is a digital screen displaying real-time radar soundings. Copious green signatures, each with a corresponding numerical sequence identifying the vessel, grant a picture into the true scope of the harbor traffic. Using a well-versed museum technique, the curators utilize a pair of binoculars, which are fitted inside with a cut-out of the HMS Iris. This British vessel sailed into the harbor in the 1840s, ushering in colonization. Visitors young and old can look out at the modern day waterway and see the Iris sailing into the harbor that would be named for the British monarch at the time.

2047 Twenty years ago the formal handover of the British colony of Hong Kong to the PRC took place. The agreement included a fifty-year grace period before the full implementation of any major legal transformations. Hong Kong, at least for now, retains the individual rights including freedom of speech that are necessary for public historians to operate. Such freedoms are unknown inside the PRC for the most part, thus Hong Kong functions today as the only window into public history for over 1.4 billion people.

From exhibitions discussing the nation-state shooting down its citizens, to institutions hosting programs without major concern of government pressure after the fact, Hong Kong today is demonstrating to citizens of the PRC the convergence of open societies and public history. The year 2047 is on the forefront of Hong Kong residents’ thinking about the future. The incredible transformations within the PRC over the last twenty years demonstrate that any thoughts on the true impact of full reunification are mere speculation. What this will hold for the field of public history in Hong Kong (or the PRC, for that matter) is equally unclear. However, what is clear is that the individual freedoms enjoyed for the moment are of critical importance for public history to take place in Hong Kong. If a survey of public history in Hong Kong teaches us anything, it is that we should not take for granted our freedom to collaborate with others on understanding and discussing openly our collective past. These are at the core of what we do, whether on the local, state, or national level. t Dr. Benjamin Hruska is a history instructor at Basis International School in Shenzhen, China. Before this, he served as the Court Historian for the Department of Defense’s U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He is the author of the book Interpreting Naval History at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). 1 For a more detailed discussion on the possibilities of public history inside the People’s Republic of China, see Na Li, “Public History in China: Is it Possible?” Public History Review 21 (2014): 20-40. 2 “GovHK: Hong Kong – the Facts,” GovHK, accessed December 6, 2016, www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/facts.htm. 3 Xi Xi, Marvels of a Floating City and Other Stories (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1997). 4 Ackbar Abbas, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1998). 5

Mak Hoi Wah, interview with author, February 3, 2017.

Jens Galschoit, Pillar of Shame, 1996-7, copper, bronze, concrete, 8 m., Hong Kong, University of Hong Kong. 6

7 “Cleansing the Pillar of Shame,” The Hong Kong University Students’ Union, accessed August 9, 2017, www.hkusu.org/news/article/?id=23&language=en.

Hong Kong skyline at night.



Award Winner Spotlight

By Melinda Meyer

Scripture Rocks Heritage Park


he Jefferson County (PA) Historical Society’s Scripture Rocks Heritage Park preserves the legacy of Douglas M. Stahlman, who lived in a wooded area near Brookville, Pennsylvania, from 1906 to 1915 and inscribed more than five hundred boulders with Biblical references and inspirational messages. The 4.6-acre park, which opened in 2016, features sixty-seven of Stahlman’s “scripture rocks” connected by a 1.4-mile trail and a series of interpretive panels. The project earned the Jefferson County Historical Society a Leadership in History Award from AASLH in 2017, two years after the publication Scripture Rocks: Why Douglas Stahlman Carved His Legacy in Stone also received an award. Development of Scripture Rocks Heritage Park took seven years and was led by Jefferson County Historical Society Executive Director Ken Burkett, who shared, “Our goal was to create the society’s first ‘outdoor museum’ with the purpose of engaging area residents and out-of-state visitors. The park provides access for individuals seeking outdoor hiking experiences and a venue for group and school tours and education programs on history, environmental studies, and archaeology.”1

An eccentric Pennsylvanian

Douglas Monroe Stahlman was born on a farm in Jefferson County on August 17, 1861, one of ten children. Following a brief stint as a teacher, his restless nature overcame him and he became a traveling book salesman in Tennessee, where he met his future wife, Marion Alsobrook. Shortly after their wedding in 1897, the couple moved to Valparaiso, Indiana. The Stahlmans welcomed a son, Glen Davis, in September 1898. Their second son, James M., arrived three years



later. After the birth of James, Marion had difficulty recovering and sought the treatment of a physician while Stahlman was away in Chicago studying the teachings of self-proclaimed faith healer John Alexander Dowie. Upon returning home, Stahlman dismissed the doctor, choosing to rely on faith for her healing. Marion’s death from blood poisoning on February 15, 1901 brought scandal to the family as the community blamed Stahlman. He was incarcerated for a time and declared insane, and his children were placed with his wife’s family. In 1908, Stahlman returned to Jefferson County where he was met with both support and contempt. His faith

drew him to rock outcrops scattered throughout the woods near the town of Brookville for prayer and meditation, and over a four-year period, Stahlman dedicated more than five hundred rocks as sacred places, or outdoor churches, from which his followers could hold services. In 1912, he began inscribing the rocks that had been dedicated with scriptures, prayers, and messages. Stahlman then disappeared from the written record for a few years. He reappeared in 1915 when he was jailed, declared insane, and transferred to Dixmont State Hospital located northeast of Pittsburgh where he spent the rest of his life, dying on August 26, 1942.

Chris Lasher

Preserving a legacy

Fast forward nearly one hundred years, and Stahlman’s life’s work—his mysterious scripture rocks—is the stuff of local legend. His legacy inspires curiosity and

Clockwise from left:

Douglas Monroe Stahlman; a peaceful spot along the 1.4-mile trail; entrance signage; panel at Faith Rock.

discussion, and preserving it became the focus of the Jefferson County Historical Society in 2009. Using Stahlman’s unpublished, nineteen-chapter manuscript, The Dedicated Rocks, as a reference, the historical society and Northfork Chapter 29 of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology set out to locate and document his work. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission awarded the historical society a Keystone Historic Preservation Planning Grant to conduct a detailed mapping survey of a concentration of sixty-seven rocks near Port Barnett. The idea to develop the site as an outdoor museum, or heritage park, evolved from the mapping project. In 2014, the Jefferson County Historical Society entered into long-term lease agreements with the owners of the property that contains the sixty-seven rocks that were surveyed, and groundbreaking for the heritage park occurred soon after. Over the next year and a half, a core group of volunteers gave more than 3,800 hours, countless tools, and large machinery to the project. Volunteers cleared and graded 1.4 miles of walking trails and spread 160 tons of gravel. Financial support for Scripture Rocks Heritage Park came from several different sources. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region, and the Jefferson County Hotel Tax Committee awarded grant funding to the project, and an additional $46,000 was raised from Jefferson County, local businesses, and individual donors. The park opened to the public on June 11, 2016. Trails provide visitors with access to sixty-seven of Stahlman’s inscribed rocks, including Chapel Rock, where Stahlman lived for a time and penned the seven composition notebooks that make up his manuscript.

In addition to the rocks themselves, the park contains twenty interpretive panels that present information about Stahlman’s life and work, lumber history, geology and rock formation, native plants and animals, and a recent archaeological study of a Native American rockshelter found on the park grounds. For a small donation, visitors can pick up a park guide at the trailhead or at the historical society. Scripture Rocks Heritage Park, which was named one of the top ten most interesting places to visit in Pennsylvania in 2016, was visited by just over nine thousand people within the first six months of its opening. After her visit to the park, Carrie Fischer Lepore, Deputy Secretary from the Pennsylvania Office of Marketing and Tourism, said, “We believe that the Scripture Rocks Heritage Park will be a tremendous asset to Jefferson County in terms of recreation and education, and are extremely optimistic about the park’s potential to create a new tourist attraction in the commonwealth.”2 If you aren’t able to visit Scripture Rocks Heritage Park in person, Scripture Rocks: Why Douglas Stahlman Carved His Legacy in Stone offers a careful biog-

raphy of Stahlman and an archaeological analysis of the stone carvings that have been found and identified. It also contextualizes his unorthodox endeavor in the framework of religious movements of his time. Visit ScriptureRocks.com for more information. t

Melinda Meyer is President of Erie Yesterday in Erie, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at erieyesterday@gmail.com. 1 Scripture Rocks Heritage Park AASLH Nomination Form, March 2017. 2 John Straitiff to AASLH Leadership in History Awards Committee, February 2017.



Book Reviews > The book also includes program ideas that librarians and archivists may utilize to enhance the services they provide. While Fostering Family History Services is intended for information service providers, it is suited to anyone seeking to understand how librarians, archivists, and volunteers serve the needs of local history researchers. t

Fostering Family History Services: A Guide for Librarians, Archivists, and Volunteers By Rhonda L. Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller (Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2016), xvii + 269 pp. Reviewed by Lila Teresa Church


esearch in family history continues to generate wide interest for writers and historians, and this work provides both a primer and an instruction manual for this popular pursuit. The expertise of librarians and archivists is invaluable for such an undertaking, the authors assert, especially when “some of the pieces are missing, due to lost records, or scant, in time periods that predate the existence of vital and census records” (2). To that end, Fostering Family History Services lays important groundwork for helping information providers understand how best to serve the needs of their patrons. The authors provide an extensive overview of the diverse types of records and resources a family researcher might consult, as well as tips on those they may not have thought about yet. In addition to discussing sources, the book emphasizes the importance for those providing services to offer tools, guidance, and frameworks (how to research) in addition to basic information (where to research). Descriptions of specific sources are often followed by discussion on how to help patrons process and preserve them, or even create their own for the future. Chapter three discusses current best practices that librarians may follow to support oral history projects and individuals interested in producing such sources, and advocates for training patrons on how to preserve and store their photograph collections. Chapter four shifts focus from collections held by organizations and cultural heritage institutions to materials in the custody of families and individuals. Clark and Miller offer guidelines that librarians, archivists, and volunteers can follow to help family members assess materials,



determine their historical significance and value, make decisions about disposition and donations, and choose appropriate methods for storage. This chapter also includes sections on personal archives and approaches that families and individuals may utilize to preserve private collections. The penultimate chapter in Fostering Family History Services is appropriately entitled “Mining the Riches.” Clark and Miller focus on seven categories of local history materials that they identify as ones most commonly used by beginning researchers, as well as several categories of uniquely relevant resources. Clark and Miller describe the informational contents of these materials, along with their formats and availability, demonstrated uses, and reliability for research purposes. The authors also provide tables for the respective materials along with summaries of how to locate records in various formats. The book concludes with a chapter pertaining to family history resources available in digital format. National portals such as the Digital Public Library of America, the Internet Archive, and the Chronicling America National Digital Newspaper Program, for example, provide researchers with free access to a wide array of searchable documents, including books, maps, and newspapers. It also discusses how researchers may acquire access to materials through state and regional-level digitization projects. This chapter offers guidelines that information service providers may utilize in training patrons to use digitized collections. Chapters are meticulously documented with citations from the professional literature, and include lists of other print and electronic resources for further reference.

Lila Teresa Church, Ph.D. is an independent scholar and archival consultant. She served on the AASLH Annual Meeting Program Committee from 2009-2011. She can be reached at LTChurch@mindspring.com.

Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections: A Practical Guide for Museums By Angela Kipp (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), xix + 180 pp. Reviewed by Christina Bulow


n her book Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections: A Practical Guide for Museums, Angela Kipp outlines the best approaches to tackle the daunting task of identifying the needs of and caring for small, unmanaged collections. Since not all museum professionals work with previously documented and organized collections, her book is meant to act as a guide for those who find themselves responsible for sorting, planning, and caring for collections that have seen little to no professional museum care. In her first chapter, aptly titled, “Congratulations, It’s Your Mess Now,” Kipp instructs the reader on how to first develop a new mindset not taught in standard courses on collections management or exhibited in well-managed collections. These “counterintuitive” mindsets are: “1. Think of the whole collection, not single objects, 2. You are a collections manager, now think like a project manager, and 3. See the big picture, work in small steps” (1). Kipp states that by focusing on the collection as a whole rather than on individual objects, you will better be able to face your inherited mess.

Chapters two through five describe how to approach unmanaged collections, starting with the initial walkthrough to planning, organizing, and ultimately, implementation and documentation. Each chapter lists a “logical exit.” Kipp defines these as natural stopping points throughout the process that will allow you or your “future self” to pick up where you stopped. This helps to break up an overwhelming situation into smaller, more manageable goals. The remaining chapters discuss useful strategies for utilizing local resources, including people inside and outside your institution. Chapter six explores how to create and foster human relationships to find useful resources, while chapter seven reviews documentation strategies. Chapter eight tackles storage issues from the perspective of longterm planning based on your objects,

resources, and available space. Finally, chapter nine outlines creative fundraising and support for your institution. Each chapter features real world examples that illustrate successes from other institutions, including a “grandmother fix” of painting windows in a storage space to reduce light levels and establishing a numbering system for storage spaces to replace confusing common names. The ethos of this book is that you may make mistakes, but the goal is to learn from those mistakes and continue with your mission to improve the collections. Finally, the last chapter includes success stories from seven institutions, describing their strategies and processes for organizing unmanaged collections.

Although the methods outlined in this book do not follow strict best practices of museum studies courses and literature, it gives readers the tools to accomplish varying levels of good practice concerning collections care, documentation, and collections planning. Kipp lets the reader know that it is okay to make a series of small improvements when you do not have the time, money, resources, or staff to completely overhaul your collection to meet all best practice standards. This book not only serves as a useful guide on how to approach unmanaged collections, but it also leaves the reader with a sense that they are not alone in their situations. Every collection has room for improvement, and any improvement, no matter how small, can be considered a success. t Christina Bulow has been the Assistant Curator at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor for three years. She completed her M.A. in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester and has worked as a volunteer and contractor in small- and medium-sized museums. She can be reached at cnsell16@gmail.com.

Omeka.net is a web publishing platform for sharing digital collections and creating media-rich online exhibits. Omeka.net offers the perfect platform for your digital public history work. With a range of reasonably priced plans, Omeka.net provides a hosted solution for individuals, courses, and institutions.

Sign up today at www.omeka.net/signup Omeka.net is a project of the Corporation for Digital Scholarship



AASLH acknowledges and appreciates the extraordinary support of our Institutional Partners!

Platinum Partner

Premiere Partner


Alabama Department of Archives and History

Association of Village Council Presidents

Atlanta History Center

Bethel, AK

Atlanta, GA

Montgomery, AL


Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Charleston, SC

Belle Meade Plantation

Billings Farm & Museum

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Butterworth Center & Deere-Wiman House

Nashville, TN

Woodstock, VT

Austin, TX

Moline, IL

California Historical Society

Cincinnati Museum Center

Conner Prairie

First Division Museum at Cantigny

San Francisco, CA

Cincinnati, OH

Fishers, IN

Wheaton, IL

Florida Division of Historical Resources

Hagley Museum & Library

Historic Ford Estates

Historic House Trust of New York City

Tallahassee, FL

Wilmington, DE

Grosse Pointe Shores, MI

New York, NY


Partners continued

Historic New England

History Colorado

History Nebraska

Idaho State Historical Society

Boston, MA

Denver, CO

Lincoln, NE

Boise, ID

Indiana Historical Society

Kentucky Historical Society

Massachusetts Historical Society

Michigan History Center

Indianapolis, IN

Frankfort, KY

Boston, MA

Lansing, MI

Minnesota Historical Society

Museum of History and Industry

Nantucket Historical Association

National Trust for Historic Preservation

St. Paul, MN

Seattle, WA

Nantucket, MA

Washington, DC

North Carolina Office of Archives and History

Ohio History Connection

Old Sturbridge Village

Patapsco Heritage Greenway

Raleigh, NC

Columbus, OH

Sturbridge, MA

Ellicott City, MD

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Senator John Heinz History Center

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Lexington, MA

Pittsburgh, PA

Dallas, TX

Strawbery Banke Museum

The Strong

Tennessee State Museum

Virginia Historical Society

Portsmouth, NH

Rochester, NY

Nashville, TN

Richmond, VA

Harrisburg, PA

Thank you for your support as we continue to grow!

Wisconsin Historical Society Madison, WI

Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources Cheyenne, WY



AASLH News Meeting Our Fundraising Goals



Aja Bain


ate last summer, AASLH raised funds to help history organizations hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, collecting enough to quickly provide twenty-six mini-grants. Having called on the generosity of members once, we knew we might need to invoke extra persuasion for AASLH’s own Annual Fund campaign. That is where three longtime leaders in the field and stalwart members of AASLH stepped in. Denny O’Toole (Co-founder of Cañada Alamosa Institute, Monticello, New Mexico), Sandra Clark (Director of the Michigan History Center), and Carl R. Nold (President and CEO of Historic New England) pledged to match every dollar given, up to $17,000. By the end of June, AASLH members contributed more than $18,000, which means the spring portion of the Annual Fund campaign raised over $35,000, and the total for the entire fiscal year will be approximately $51,000. Thank you all for your terrific support! These funds could not have come at a better time. AASLH is launching a new website and resource center that will vastly improve members’ experiences with online professional development and continuing education, and we are piloting the Master Local Historians program and enhancing the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs). Each of these key projects is made possible by the Annual Fund.

StEPs Enhancement Project

AASLH first introduced the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs) to the field in 2009 after four years of development funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. StEPs is a self-study program that helps small- to mid-sized history organizations assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against national museum standards, and currently over 950 organizations are enrolled. Changes over the past nine years, not only in the museum and history fields but in other areas of society as well, signal that it is time for a program update. Phase One focuses on updating the StEPs workbook with new content on topics such as digital collections; diversity, inclusion, and equity; environmental sustainability; transparency and fraud prevention; and fundraising. Volunteers from a variety of history museums and organizations have been recruited to help with the StEPs Enhancement Project. Teams met in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in April to discuss their progress and will reconvene in September at the AASLH Annual Meeting. Undoubtedly, organizations enrolled in StEPs will want to know how an updated version of the workbook will affect their work in the program. The current plan is to allow those already enrolled in StEPs to continue using the original workbook version for twelve to eighteen months after the new version is published in 2019. This means two workbook versions will be in use until at least early 2020. We welcome input on this plan as we move further into the Enhancement Project. For more information about the StEPs Enhancement Project, contact Cherie Cook, AASLH Senior Project Manager, at cook@aaslh.org or (573) 893-5164.

go to the Atwood Resource Center at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska for the AFN (Alaska Federation of Natives) Photo Identification Project; the Detroit Historical Society in Michigan for the exhibit Detroit ’67: Looking Back to Move Forward; and to James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia for the exhibit The Mere Distinction of Colour. A full listing of awardees is available on our blog at www.aaslh.org.

Collections Camp: Military Collections Workshop


n late June, AASLH and the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in Newport News, Virginia, hosted the biennial Military Collections work-

2018 Leadership in History Awards


e are proud to announce the winners of the 73rd annual Leadership in History Awards. This year, AASLH will confer forty-three national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. “This year’s award winners demonstrate the power of relevancy, collaboration, experimentation, and a more inclusive history to challenge communities to think critically about the past and present,” said Nicholas Hoffman, AASLH National Awards Chair and Managing Director of Education and Visitor Experience at the Missouri Historical Society. AASLH will also confer four of our higher level awards in 2018. The Albert B. Corey Award, which recognizes volunteeroperated historical organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work, goes to the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center in Tijeras, New Mexico, for their project INSIDE OUT: Memories from Inside the Closet. History in Progress (HIP) Awards

Above: Museum of the American Military

Family and Learning Center.

Benchmarking Inclusive History and How You Can Participate

shop, led by Myers Brown, Archivist at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, and Gordon Blaker, Director of the U.S. Army Artillery Museum in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. This workshop focused on the care, conservation, and exhibition of military artifacts, as well as the unique challenges of large, potentially hazardous, and controversial collections. Participants got a crash course in artifact identification and handling, as well as safety and ethical concerns, during their three days onsite. Museum staff also led tours of their exhibit and collections spaces, including their outdoor exhibit of helicopters, tanks, locomotives, and other macro artifacts.


hanks to an IMLS National Leadership Grant, the Naperville Heritage Society (Naperville, Illinois) is spearheading multiple phases of research on the inclusive history museum, and we are thrilled to help. We are spreading the word so that lots of organizations can contribute to the data gathering and benefit from this important work. AASLH will also be the repository for the benchmark data that Naperville and their project’s research director, Susie Wilkening of Wilkening Consulting, collects. It is our duty and a privilege to share these results with the field. Benchmarking began with a nationwide survey asking organizations about how they are sharing more inclusive history, both through collections and through interpretation. (You can participate at bit.ly/inclusivehistory.) A second phase of the study will ask organizations to sign up for a free audience survey in September 2018. Participants will gain insight into how their audiences might respond to the inclusion of different viewpoints, new interpretations of history, and the presentation of a more inclusive history of their community or site.

Spring and Summer Conference Reports

Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center


Below: Outdoor exhibit at the U.S. Army

Transportation Museum.

n April, Continuing Education Manager Natalie Flammia attended Encuentro 2018, the third convening of Latinos in Heritage Conservation and the thirty-third annual Rhode Island Statewide Historic Preservation Conference. Conference sessions highlighted the successes of strong networks and intrepid grassroots movements in achieving equity in heritage conservation locally, and emphasized the need for continued and collaborative efforts at a national level. We were proud to be a sponsor of this event and look forward to working with Latinos in Heritage Conservation in the future. You can learn more about LHC at www.latinoheritage.us and #NuestraHistoria on Twitter. Program and Publications Manager Aja Bain presented at the ALHFAM (Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums) conference in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in June. The conference, held in the capital city of the Cherokee Nation, featured sessions focusing on interpreting multicultural history and tours of the Cherokee Heritage Center and the state’s only surviving antebellum plantation. Aja’s session, “Many People, Many Pasts,” presented case studies and tips for presenting inclusive and accurate history at living history sites, even if they were set up to tell monocultural stories. Participants are currently in discussion to create a new Professional Interest Group around this topic.

History Check-Ins with OAH

Aja Bain


ant a quick update on where scholarship sits for a topic in American history? AASLH has a partnership with the Organization of American Historians (OAH) to create webinars that do just this. OAH, the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history, is mining its Distinguished Lectureship program for this new webinar series, “History Check-Ins.” We piloted two such webinars in 2017—one on World War I and the other on immigration history. And in April 2018, we moved forward with the first of

AASLH thanks the following individuals for their leadership as members of the

AASLH LEGACY SOCIETY. The Legacy Society provides AASLH members an opportunity to donate to the endowment via estate planning.

Ms. Sylvia Alderson* Winston–Salem, NC

Anonymous Mr. Bob & Ms. Candy Beatty Franklin, TN

Mr. Robert M. & Ms. Claudia H. Brown Missoula, MT

Mr. & Mrs. Charles F. Bryan Jr. Richmond, VA

Ms. Linda Caldwell Etowah, TN

Ms. Mary Case & Mr. Will Lowe Washington, DC

Ms. Terry L. Davis Nashville, TN

Mr. Stephen & Ms. Diane Elliott St. Paul, MN

Mr. John Frisbee* Concord, NH

Mr. J. Kevin Graffagnino Barre, VT

Mr. John A. Herbst Indianapolis, IN

Mr. H. G. Jones Chapel Hill, NC

Ms. Katherine Kane West Hartford, CT

Ms. Kathleen S. & Mr. James L. Mullins Grosse Pointe Shores, MI

Mr. Dennis A. O’Toole Monticello, NM

Ms. Ruby Rogers Cincinnati, OH

Mr. David J. Russo Ontario, Canada

Mr. Will Ticknor Las Cruces, NM

Mr. Jim & Ms. Janet Vaughan Washington, DC

Mr. George L. Vogt Portland, OR




Aja Bain

AASLH News >

tuned for three more History Check-In webinars in 2018: “Women’s Suffrage,” “Native American Activism,” and “Immigration and Citizenship During the WWI Era.”

#AASLH2018 Online Conference Sessions


ur Online Conference is a yearly component of our Annual Meeting where six of our most popNortheastern State University in Tahlequah, site of ALHFAM conference. ular sessions are reworked for a virtual audience and broadcast live from the conference to registered viewers across four new webinars for 2018: the nation. It’s a great way to get a sampling of the conference Prof. Caroline E. Janney preeven if you can’t attend, and to bring these important discussions sented “The Lost Cause: The to your institution to share with colleagues. AASLH will air Confederacy’s Most Enduring three sessions per day during the conference on Thursday and Myth.” Friday, September 27-28, and topics will include advocating for The response so far collections care, evaluation, positioning museums as community has been tremendous. As centers, preparing for the Nineteenth Amendment centennial, President and CEO John and more. A full listing and registration information is available Dichtl notes, “What’s exciting on our website. about the History Check-Ins is that the program really National Museum of African American History & plays to our strengths and to Culture StEPs Partnership OAH’s.” We have long experihe National Museum of African American History & ence in providing continuing Culture is offering an institutional development opportunity education for staff and volunfor organizations devoted to the research, preservation, and teers of history organizations, interpretation of African American history, art, and culture. and OAH is committed to Beginning in early fall 2018, seven organizations will receive the production and sharing a year-long assessment, planning, and shared learning opportuof historical scholarship and nity using AASLH’s StEPs program (Standards and Excellence to outstanding instruction Program for History Organizations). in American history. Stay


During the one-year NMAAHC project, the seven participating organizations will focus on two of the six StEPs workbook sections: Management and Mission/ Vision/Governance. Using guidance from a mentor, in-person meetings, webinars, and other tools, participants will form a cohort intended to provide support and a new community of colleagues. For several years, AASLH has encouraged the formation of StEPs groups not only for the benefit of increased networking, but also for the shared learning, validation, and empowerment the group structure offers. At the end of the project, the participating institutions will not only be a part of a cohort, but they will be able to demonstrate progress toward or fulfillment of national standards in the two StEPs workbook sections. More information is available at blogs.aaslh.org/ applications-being-acceptedfor-nmaahc-steps-program or by contacting Nicole Bryner, NMAAHC Museum Programs Specialist, Office of Strategic Partnerships, at (202) 633-1542 or brynern@si.edu.

T H E A M E R I C A N A S S O C I AT I O N f o r S TAT E a n d L O C A L H I S T O R Y acknowledges and appreciates these Endowment Donors for their extraordinary support:

Dr. William T. Alderson Society

AASLH President’s Society

Friends of the Endowment Society

Mr. Leslie H. Fishel*

$10,000 – $49,999

$5,000 – $9,999

Madison, WI

National Heritage Museum


Ms. Sylvia Alderson*

Mr. Edward P. Alexander*

Atlanta History Center

Ms. Barbara Franco Harrisburg, PA

History Nebraska

Atlanta, GA

Anonymous Mr. John Frisbee*

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Mr. Rick Beard

Mr. James B. Gardner

Harrisburg, PA

Washington, DC

Concord, NH

Williamsburg, VA

Mr. & Mrs. Salvatore Cilella

National Endowment for the Humanities

The J. Paul Getty Trust

Historic Annapolis Foundation

Ms. Laura Roberts & Mr. Edward Belove

Atlanta, GA

Annapolis, MD

Los Angeles, CA

Mr. & Mrs. Charles F. Bryan Jr.

Indiana Historical Society

Mr. Dennis & Ms. Trudy O’Toole

Richmond, VA

Mr. David Crosson & Ms. Natalie Hala

Ms. Sandra Sageser Clark

Ms. Terry L. Davis

Baltimore, MD


Mr. John & Ms. Anita Durel

Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation

Mr. Stephen Elliott

Winston–Salem, NC

Washington, DC Monticello, NM

Washington, DC

Holt, MI

New York, NY Marshalltown, IA

San Francisco, CA Nashville, TN

Baltimore, MD St. Paul, MN

Mr. Dennis Fiori Boston, MA



Indianapolis, IN

Maryland Historical Society Missouri History Museum St. Louis, MO

Ms. Candace Tangorra Matelic Pawleys Island, SC

Ms. Kathleen S. & Mr. James L. Mullins Grosse Pointe Shores, MI

Lexington, MA Lincoln, NE

Cambridge, MA

Rowman & Littlefield Lanham, MD

Ms. Ruby Rogers Cincinnati, OH

Mr. Jim & Ms. Janet Vaughan Washington, DC

Mr. George L. Vogt Portland, OR

Ms. Jeanne & Mr. Bill Watson* Orinda, CA *Deceased

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AASLH members always get 20% off when ordering AASLH Book Series titles. Use this promotional code at checkout: AASLHMBR20 when calling Rowman & Littlefield Customer Service at 1-800-462-6420 or at www.rowman.com.



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