If you’re still figuring out your summer plans, I’d like to recommend taking the Revitalizing Historic House Museums HIST 0289 – A course taught by Ken Turino and Barbara Silberman, which I took last summer. This course takes a deep dive into historic house museums: the challenges facing many of these museums and strategies to address them—including deciding if the most sustainable use of the house is not as a museum. I enjoyed the course and wanted to share some insights into why you should consider taking it.
It uses historic house museums as a lens for thinking about creating welcoming, community-centered organizations. The course focuses on themes like community engagement, inclusion, creating relevant experiences, and management of organizations for sustainability. These themes transfer across museum types and are essential for the future of museums.
It stretches you to strategically think and plan at the organizational level. We worked through business cases in class where we analyzed documents to develop plans addressing real-world challenges faced by historic house museums (e.g., dwindling revenue, lack of connection with local communities, managing collections, etc.). This built to a final project where we proposed business models for how to use a historic house property.
You don’t need prior experience working in historic house museums. Most of my experience as a museum professional was in informal science education, having only dabbled in working in history contexts. I was able to keep up and learned a lot about historic sites, small museums, and how different aspects of museums operations interact across the organization.
If you’re interested in helping reinvent museums as welcoming, inclusive, community-centered organizations, please check this course out.
Ann Attwood (2020)