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What AASLH Membership Means to a Grad Student

Joining any respected professional organization is one task on many students’ checklists. Unfortunately, the “life cycle of membership” often involves applying for membership; paying your dues; mentioning this membership on your résumé to improve your job prospects; and receiving (and accidentally tossing out) a request for membership renewal fees.

I no longer want to spend precious grocery money on memberships that only let me name-drop….and not much else. So, in my first year of graduate school, I shopped around for an association where I could benefit both as a student and later as a professional.

I also didn’t want to belong to something too specialized. As someone who studies cultural heritage preservation, I wanted to join a group that supports a variety of institutions. After comparing about half a dozen organizations, I concluded that, by providing more advantages for less money than other organizations, AASLH was the best match for me.

Since I joined AASLH in April, I’ve reaped more benefits than I ever thought possible from an organization. For instance, I purchased technical leaflets at discount prices to use in my research. These pamphlets are excellent resources, succinctly addressing concerns every public historian faces.

Despite enthusiasm and hard work, we all know how difficult it is to get anywhere with minimal experience. Whether you’re a well-seasoned veteran or a newbie like me, though, it doesn’t matter to AASLH.

For example, few organizations give as much attention to master’s level research as the poster sessions at AASLH’s Annual Meeting. My research partner and I believed the preservation needs assessment we conducted had a good chance of acceptance as a poster session. And it was! It’s exciting to share the results of this project with others in the field who will appreciate it.

Whether or not AASLH accepted my poster, I wanted to attend the Annual Meeting anyway. After looking for ways to defray the costs of attending, I discovered that I qualified for one of their scholarships: the Small Museums Committee scholarship. Fortunately, I won that as well.

Best of all, this scholarship is available to small museum employees and volunteers. And if I hadn’t won the scholarship, I still had an ample safety net. Students can volunteer to work two four-hour shifts at the Annual Meeting to cancel out their registration fees.

AASLH has many more benefits for both institutions and non-entry-level professionals. In addition, AASLH supports other thriving sub-communities, such as the Small Museums Online Community and the Historic House Museum Affinity Group.

To view the full range of benefits and communities, check out http://www.aaslh.org/membership.htm.

Jenna Cooper is currently a master’s student studying preservation at UT Austin’s School of Information and a docent/collections assistant at the O. Henry Museum. She’s also worked with a variety of historical institutions around Austin, TX as a student and volunteer, including the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the French Legation Museum. Before working in the public history field, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and worked in the education sector.

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