Fifty-nine recipients from thirty-four states receive highest honor from AASLH

AASLH Award of Distinction Bestowed to Dennis O’Toole

NASHVILLE, TN—June 2011—The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces the winners of the 66th annual Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. This year, AASLH is proud to confer fifty-nine national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books, and organizations.

“The Leadership in History Awards is AASLH’s highest distinction and the winners represent the best in the field,” Terry Davis, AASLH President & CEO. “This year, we are pleased to distinguish each recipient’s commitment and innovation to the interpretation of history, as well as their leadership for the future of state and local history.”

AASLH is also pleased to announce that Denny O’Toole will be presented with the Award of Distinction at this year’s awards banquet. The Award of Distinction is given infrequently in recognition of long and very distinguished service and contributions on the part of a person working in state and local history who is recognized nationally as a leader in the profession. An individual must have demonstrated the highest standards of performance and professional ethics to be considered for this elite award.

“Denny O’Toole’s leadership positions at Colonial Williamsburg and Strawbery Banke Museum over two decades have left an indelible impact on the field. He created the paradigm for how living history institutions approach public programs. His visionary work challenged and inspired a generation of history professionals to ponder deeply not just what we do, but how we want to affect our audiences,” Kenneth C. Turino, Manager, Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England and Chair, AASLH Awards Committee.

“Perhaps Denny O’Toole’s greatest legacy has been his remarkable oversight of the Seminar for Historical Administration (SHA). Under his leadership, SHA flourished and he has strengthened the professionalism and enriched the lives of scores of men and women in our field. While the seminar students benefited from Denny’s guiding hand, the real beneficiaries have been the people these students served when they returned to their institutions,” Charles F. Bryan, Jr., Ph.D., President and CEO emeritus, Virginia Historical Society.

The Leadership in History Awards Program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout America. Each nomination is peer-reviewed by AASLH’s state captains. Final awards are decided by the Awards Committee, comprised of AASLH’s fourteen regional representatives and the National Awards Chair.

The awards include:

  • The Award of Merit which is presented for excellence in history programs, projects, and people when compared with similar activities nationwide;
  • The Albert B. Corey Award, named in honor of a founder and former president of AASLH, which recognizes primarily volunteer-operated historical organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work.
  • The WOW Award is an award given at the discretion of the awards committee to 5% or less of the total winners of the Award of Merit for a project that is highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, and/or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness.

Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2011 AASLH Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday, September 16, 2011. The awards banquet is supported by a generous contribution from the History Channel.

See the full list of all winners by state.

About The American Association for State and Local History:  AASLH is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history. From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH works to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of local history in America. AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine, and monthly newsletter. The association also sponsors regional and national training workshops and an annual meeting. For more information on the awards program and AASLH, please visit