Minnesota Local History

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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What do you call a museum?

By: admin | January 10, 2007
Hi everyone! Our museum had a board strategic planning retreat this past weekend. Among the issues we looked at was that of our name: the North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting is an unwieldy moniker, for sure. But aside from the issue of whether the words "North Star" appeal to the region we intend for it to-not just Minnesota, but the 5-state upper Midwest-the board was concerned that perhaps the word "museum" in our name was a hindrance, rather than a help.

I just listened. My feeling is that we are, indeed, a museum, and that it is an honorable word, one with a long history and easy-to-understand connotations.

My question for you is this: do any of you know of any recent research into the term "museum" (as opposed to "history center", or any other type of euphemism for museum) with the general public, designed to elicit what image comes to mind when people hear the word? I'd like something to pass along to my board.



Long Mid-Winter Projects

By: admin | January 2, 2007
In reading many of the newsletters from county and local historical organizations, I note some usual suspension of hours to get some major projects done. It would be great to have many of you tell us what you will be doing during the winter visitation doldrums. Or, does your visitation slacken at all this time of year?

Selling History

By: admin | January 2, 2007
Jerome Thompson in Iowa sent a link to a New York Times article on privatizing historic house museums as private residences. The case highlighted is Carter's Grove, owned by Colonial Williamsburg. The story shows that declining visitation due to lower travel costs and rising affluence affects the bottom line. What are the implications to "selling off history"? Are preservation easements (deed restrictions) enough to protect historic sites?

Shift in Visitor Desires?

By: grabitsdm | December 11, 2006
Are the times truly a-changing? One of the things I've noticed traveling the length and breadth of the State of Minnesota is a subtle shift in how the public uses local historical organizations. Many of you have noted not many visitors come to see exhibits any more. When people come it is for a personal reason such as genealogy, house histories, or civic programs. The shift is really telling at new buildings where the exhibit space is quite modest and the research library more robust.

What have you noticed in your visitors? Are they truly shifting their interests away from exhibits and objects? Is this a trend or a fad?

Attracting Post Boomer Audiences

By: admin | December 11, 2006
A year ago the American Association of Museums Museum News carried an article by James Chung and Tara May, "X Tended Family: Attracting the Post-Boomer Audience." (Nov/Dec 2005) Their conclusion was: The desire to fortify families and community life isnt necessarily new or unique to Generation X. But what does differentiate Xer parents from the previous generation is their willingness to make more aggressive tradeoffs for family. & Museums have a unique opportunity to increase their share of that time by delivering an experience that connects families through intellectual and personal enlightenment.
In what ways have you and your museums changed your programming to accommodate Generation X-led families?

Examples of Connecting Visitors to the Past

By: admin | November 28, 2006
On a recent visit to a local historical organization, we learned that they were having difficulty connecting recently arrived citizens to the history of their area. They also noted that not many of the older people were left who remembered the way things used to be. This organization is in the Twin Cities suburbs, but I think connecting people with history always faces this hurdle.

So, what are some ways that you all have found to cross the hurdle of connecting visitors with the past?

Experiences with Permanent Exhibits

By: admin | October 30, 2006
From the H-Public Listserv:

I am doing some thinking about the role of permanent/long-term exhibits at small history museums, particularly local history museums. I have observed that most local history museums feel they need a permanent/long-term overview exhibit that tries to tell the story of their locality. Many of us working in these museums, attempting to re-invent invent our institutions and break out of our reputations as "old-dusty-boring," often do so by investing in new "permanent" exhibits. These exhibits cost much more than anything else has ever cost in the museum's history and give us a new centerpiece with which to draw in visitors.

My question: Do these investments pay off? Are "permanent" exhibits an important framework for establishing a local story and an initial contact point for a museum and its visitors? Or do "permanent" exhibits drain resources and inhibit a museum's ability to remain flexible, relevant and responsive to community needs? I would be interested in hearing about any of your experiences with the role of long-term/permanent exhibits at history museums.

Liora J. Cobin (Brooklyn, NY)

Note on using URLs with your names

By: admin | October 25, 2006
As Mary noted, some of the hot-linked names send users right back to the Blog, rather than to an intended destination. Many of those were me. The staff of the IT Department at MHS has discovered the trouble. The program does not recognize URLs without the "http://" code in front of the URL. So, to get your URL to work correctly, you should copy your URL and paste it into the dialog box when replying to postings on this Blog. IT staff fixed all of the links today for us.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for alerting us to this issue.

David Grabitske

Pension Protection Act of 2006

By: admin | October 24, 2006
From the National Committee on Planned Giving website: In August, H.R. 4, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 became law. This bill contains a two-year IRA Charitable Rollover provision that will allow people age 70 1/2 or older to exclude up to $100,000 from their gross income for a taxable year for cash gifts directly to a qualified charity. The bill also contains several other charitable provisions. The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) provides a detailed explanation of the bill's charity provisions. What will its implications be for fundraising at local historical organizations in Minnesota? As the baby boomers age, fundraising that targets seniors may rise. Have you seen any examples of this at your organization?

Steep Morale Challenges

By: admin | October 4, 2006
Sole staff people often face steep morale challenges. How do those of you who are alone in your museums do it all? I'd especially appreciate some tips on gaining perspective on work when the work is overwhelming, work-life balance, and scoring excellent volunteers. Good thing I like my job! Thanks,Claudia