Description of the Project
The Pioneer Valley History Network (PVHN) will conduct a series of six workshops to expand the capacities of historical institutions in the Pioneer Valley and enable them to better safeguard our region’s history. The workshops, based on the StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) program developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), teach organizational management and best practices for history organizations. PVHN will provide museum professionals to facilitate each workshop and qualified consultants to act as Mentors to the participating organizations. Funding for this project comes from grants from Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and Mass Humanities. Project participants will have access to incentive money to put their learnings into practice.
A crisis is occurring in our Commonwealth – we’re losing our history. Many other states have state-supported or county-supported historical societies that preserve the material culture that tells their story. In contrast, Massachusetts’ history is locked away in hundreds of mostly-small, largely inaccessible institutions scattered across the state. Most of these institutions (historical societies, archives, museums, sites) are run by well-meaning volunteers, but have no paid staff and little professional expertise. Most of these institutions also have inadequate physical facilities to safely house their documents and artifacts. As such, the holdings of these institutions are often unorganized, neglected, and deteriorating. These primary sources and artifacts are the solid foundation of our history.
The StEPs program was designed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) as a self-directed curriculum for organizational development in the field of public history. Following its guidelines and activities, organizations progress on their own through incremental steps and, upon completion of certain benchmarks, gain “certificates” attesting to their achievement of certain standards of practice. These certificates can be used to bolster their future fundraising efforts.