st. pual evening

2008 Annual Meeting

Rochester, New York

September 9-12

Discovering the Power of Transformation

How many times in recent years have persons in public history talked about the constant bombardment of new challenges – changing demographics, the technology explosion, the tightening of financial and human resources, more competition in all shapes and sizes, and even our own “mission creep.” The challenges are real and the very timely theme of 2007 reminds us that Relevance = The Bottom Line. With a sharp eye on the issue of relevance, the 2008 AASLH Annual Meeting will focus on the power of transformation.

Most of us in the profession have learned that there are no “silver bullets” or “quick fixes.” However, our profession is a steward of a great transformative power – the power of ideas, people, and places. This power is evidenced throughout American, state, and local history! Rochester, New York (the site of the 2008 AASLH annual meeting) provides wonderful examples of this transformative power, thanks to the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Clearly, these people transformed the world in which they lived. History organizations see this power of transformation as we interact with the public, whether it is using an historical character to inspire a young person to make a difference in their world or providing historical context for an important contemporary issue. What we do DOES make a difference and it can be nothing short of transformative!

In order to harness this transformative power, many of us and the institutions we serve need to revisit our approach to what we do. Once again, Rochester, New York provides a perfect example of organizational transformation – The Strong National Museum of Play. The definition of transform is “to change the nature, function, or condition of.” We must transform the nature of our profession to ensure that we are sustainable and relevant. We must transform our function to embrace new tools, delivery systems, and audiences. We must transform our condition – visitation has been down at many of America’s historic places for sometime and public educational trends are to marginalize the importance of state and local history. Yet, in other sectors of society the interest in history has never been higher.

Both challenge and opportunity abound in our profession. At the 2008 AASLH Annual Meeting we seek to engage in a candid and inspiring – no transformational – conversation that will positively impact each person in attendance and each organization represented.