The 2016 election has made plain that history organizations have a lot to accomplish in the next few years. AASLH will strive for inclusivity and urge its members to be even better at telling the full range of stories about our collective past. We also will continue to make clear that history is relevant to modern life and point out how historical thinking skills can be used to actively address contemporary issues.
As antidote to the shortcomings of the news media and social media, history organizations can and should reach across dividing lines to bring people into real conversation. Our sites, exhibits, and programs can remind Americans of what unique local and national values unite us and which human commonalities link us, while simultaneously pointing out the misunderstandings and inequities that divide.
Moving on from election week, AASLH will need your help to promote the relevance of history and history organizations. Here are three ways you can get involved:
To make the case for history, there’s help in the Value of History statement from the History Relevance Campaign: historyrelevance.com/value-statement. It is important for all public officials (local, state, and national) to know about the vital work history organizations do to educate the general public and the role your organization plays in a democratic and civil society, making citizens more thoughtful about the decisions they make and the consequences of those decisions. You also can borrow from and add to the HR Toolkit in making your case.
Museums Advocacy Day
Members of the AASLH Council, AASLH President John Dichtl, and Chief of Operations Bethany Hawkins invite you to join them at 2017 Museums Advocacy Day, February 27-28, in Washington, D.C. Joining 300 other museum advocates in Washington is a powerful way to support history organizations and their visitors and to press the issues impacting museums. It’s also an exciting form of professional development. Registration is free to AASLH members using this code: MAD2017_AASLH. Whether you can go or not, AAM has developed resources to help build advocacy skills, learn about Congress, make the case for our field, and get involved in advocacy for your museum.
National Coalition for History
With the White House, Senate, and House all of one party, it’s more important than ever for history organizations to build friendships on both sides of and across the political aisle. Through its involvement in NCH, AASLH helps build these relationships and tracks legislation and federal policies affecting the practice of history. One of the best things you can do in 2017 is to convince your U.S. Representative to join the House History Caucus, which already has 27 members.
Last, for an excellent summation of the issues facing museums in 2017, see the American Alliance of Museums’ “Key Takeaways from Election Day 2016: What it means for museums, and how you can support museums today.”
I look forward to working with you as we strive to ensure people value history for its relevance to modern life, and use historical thinking skills to actively engage with and address contemporary issues.
President & CEO
American Association for State and Local History