As Program Manager for AASLH’s Leadership in History Awards program, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is “Why should I apply for an award?” This is a fair question. Everyone who works for a history organization is busy. You have programs to plan, collections to catalog, grants to write, and bathrooms to clean. Applying for an AASLH award takes time. Why add one more thing to your to-do list?

There are many answers to that question, but here are my top six reasons why you should apply for a Leadership in History Award this year.


  1. Shine a national spotlight on your organization. We are all looking for ways to spread the word about the work we do. What better way than to be recognized on the national level with an Leadership in History Award of Merit?
  2. Get featured on the AASLH website. To go with the first reason, Leadership in History award winners get a featured profile on the AASLH website and a banner photo for 3-4 weeks on our home page. We also tweet out links to these profiles and feature some on our Facebook page. That is free national publicity, folks. (Here is a sample.)2015 AASLH-397
  3. Validate your staff and volunteer’s efforts. Sometimes, people who work in history organizations feel like they work in a vacuum. I was a small museum director and understand how you can do things you think are wonderful, but never interact enough with your peers to know if your work is really exceptional. An AASLH Award gives you a huge pat on the back from a panel of national professionals who recognize your hard work and innovation. It is enough to bring a tear to your eye.
  4. Increase your credibility with funders and other stakeholders. If you are looking to apply for a grant or ask for an increase in funding for your public programming, think about how much better your case will be if you can say that you are a nationally-award winning museum. (Just look at the prestige Sylvester Stallone now has because he is a Golden Globe winning and Oscar-nominated actor for Creed.) Potential funders and stakeholders, like your board, donors, county commission, etc., will know that you are doing work that has been recognized by a national organization as some of the best in the country. An award also illustrates that you are meeting best practices and standards and can only strengthen your case as an organization that should be supported. 2015 AASLH-381
  5. Gain a great marketing opportunity. Not only do you get featured on the AASLH website, but we provide you with tools to help you promote your award. AASLH gets mentioned in the press more during award season than any other time of the year as winners have stories about their award carried in the local newspaper, blogs, newsletters, and even on television stations. It is a great way to let your community know about the great history work you are doing.
  6. Help promote the Value of History. This benefit is a bit more intangible than a page on the AASLH website, but it is, perhaps, more important. The more we can tell the stories of the great ways history organizations are connecting with their communities, educating the public, preserving stories, and other things that are part of what we do as public historians (whether professional or volunteer), the more we promote the importance of history. Giving something an award attaches an importance to it. By nominating your project for a Leadership in History award, you help AASLH spread the word about the Value of History across the nation. 2015 AASLH-388

Hopefully, I have convinced you that it is worth your time and effort to submit a nomination for the Leadership in History Awards. Now, get started. The deadline for nominations is March 1. For more information, submission information, and helpful tips, visit the AASLH Awards website.

I look forward to seeing your nomination.

Bethany L. Hawkins is Program Manager for AASLH and can be reached at or 615-320-3203.