May 2017 Newsletter

Greetings!

Wow!  Summer’s here, all of a sudden.  Yesterday was HOT and today looks like it’s going to be pretty warm.  It always takes me a week or so to adjust to the summer weather and I’m grateful for the lovely evening breeze from the Carquinez Strait that cools Martinez.

WHY HISTORY?

“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time.  It illuminates reality; vitalizes memory; provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”  Cicero

WHY HISTORICAL SOCIETIES?

Most communities have an organization, usually an historical society and/or a local history museum, that is organized and run by a few people --- volunteers who are genuinely infatuated with history --- that benefits everyone.  Historical societies and museums become the repository of important documents, artifacts, photographs, oral histories, city and county records….anything and everything having to do with the community’s past and current history.  Consequently, historical societies play an important role in protecting and preserving the historical record and also interpreting the past to the public.  They often become the gathering place for folks who want to research, discuss, plan and just reminisce about anything having to do with the place they call “home.”  Newcomers to the community wanting to know the history of the old house they just bought, prospective buyers researching the history of a location that they are considering to purchase for a business, contractors restoring old buildings to their “former glory”, visitors wanting to know about the names of city streets, students writing a paper on some aspect of their community’s history, grandparents wanting to show their picture in the high school yearbook to their grandchildren, city engineers wanting to know the origin of the sidewalk stamps in city sidewalks….These are the questions and the reasons that bring people to their local historical society, and consequently, make historical societies important.  Historical societies and their museums put those of us in the present in touch with the people of the past who shaped our landscape, named our landmarks, made the decisions that ultimately affect us today and inform decisions being made that will affect our future.

Not too long ago I was visiting with some of my fellow historical society curators and directors and we were all lamenting about the same concerns:  What’s going to happen if we don’t get the next generation in the door?” How does a historical society keep from becoming history itself?  How do we encourage the young people and the millennials to become engaged and active in their local historical societies?  How can we attract young volunteers that will carry on the work that’s involved in managing a local historical society and museum?  

Many historical societies are small, underfunded and understaffed, usually run by people with little formal training.  A recent national survey revealed that the core audience for historical societies and museums is white, older and upper middle class, a serious drawback in a country that is being radically transformed in demographic and ethnic terms.  Many local societies serve communities that are rapidly changing due to immigration and changes in the local economy.  These local historical societies are, therefore, struggling to tell stories that remain relevant and significant to their evolving constituencies.

What Does All of This Have to do With CCHS?

These were just a few of the challenges and concerns that my colleagues and I discussed.  When the CCHS Strategic Planning committee first met and started to identify the audience that CCHS should be focusing on, it was determined, based on the data and information that we had accumulated, that we should concentrate on the local historical societies that are CCHS members.  The committee also decided that the way CCHS could best serve our member organizations would be to provide information and training that would strengthen and empower the leadership to fulfill their mission to preserve and perpetuate the understanding of California history. CCHS is committed to assisting our member organizations develop and increase their technical expertise through the many venues that we plan to develop and sponsor, such as workshops, webinars, speakers bureaus, and a Knowledge Base with technical papers addressing a myriad of interesting and critical issues important to the historical community.  We continue to strive to be a premier resource for historical societies and the “go to” organization that the leadership of local societies can depend on for current, accurate and useful information pertaining to the work they do on behalf of their local history.

If you have concerns and/or challenges that you’d like addressed, please forward these issues to the CCHS executive committee and the strategic planning committee.  This can be done by contacting the Regional Vice President in your region and asking him or her to forward your suggestions for training session topics to the appropriate committee.

I look forward to seeing everyone June 22-24 in Roseville for our Annual Meeting! Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Cheers,

Andrea Blachman

President, CCHS

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commented 2017-05-09 09:26:30 -0700 · Flag
I attended the March workshop in City of Industry and several of these topics were addressed. The notes from the speakers are posted in the Knowledge Base area, including some very useful diagrams. The sections on Embracing Millennials and Community Partnerships were both very informative, and addressed some of these concerns about the next generation and working together for groups who can benefit on presenting shared events. The segment presented by Ben Wirick on communicating to individuals who are at different levels of involvement will be very helpful in attracting and retaining members. I’m looking forward to the June meeting, and am truly appreciative of CCHS and the educational opportunities that you present to the members.
Conference of California Historical Societies
Bringing together California's historical community to share California's heritage, learn from one another and strengthen our communities.