On May 9, I wrote my first post about the application deadline for the Seminar for Historical Administration and linked to several webpages which provided additional information about the program. One of those links included an email from Kent Whitworth, Executive Director of the Kentucky Historical Society. In his email Kent said, “the Seminar is the single best investment you can make in developing leaders for your organization.” To read his full email, click here.
Kent practices what he preaches; in fact, KHS has four recent graduates of SHA currently on staff: Jody Blankenship, Director of Education (SHA 2007); Trevor Jones, Director of Museum Collections & Exhibitions, (SHA 2009); Scott Alvey, Assistant Director (SHA 2010); and, most recently, today’s “Why Should You Attend SHA?” blog post contributor, Sarah Milligan, KY Oral History Commission Administrator (SHA 2011).
Sarah, also know as Saraj, is a rock star. For one, she kept the group focused and well fed, by making sure that the seminar classroom was always full of snacks, but more importantly, she was an instigator, posing a lot of questions throughout seminar that forced us think beyond our comfortable “roles/positions.” As a folklorist, she brought a truly unique and refreshing perspective, helping us to investigate the “why” of our thinking, as much as the “how.”
Ready to hear from Sarah?
If you are a fan of this awesome Museum Minute blog, or are just trying to get some information about whether SHA is the right professional development opportunity for you, you might have seen previous testimony from some of my colleagues. In fact, our institutions director has shared an official endorsement for SHA. All of this is to say that when I came into the SHA program in 2011, I had a lot of cheerleaders back at home helping me get ready to attend and cushioning re-entry at the end of the three weeks. It also meant that the SHA program had some high expectations to live up to. Going in, I wasn’t sure if I was the right fit; I have a background in folklore, am currently working as an oral history program manager…not a curator, librarian or museum administrator. I don’t have any formalized academic training in the field of history and didn’t really have a 10 year plan. Why was I a good fit for this seminar? It turned out the answer was all of these things. This seminar isn’t for people who already have it all figured out.
Participants in the 2011 class were from a huge range of backgrounds (anthropology, collections, archeology, business, public administration and yes….history) with a wide-variety of experience, direction and goals. What we all had in common was a general interest to understand the field of public history, which we discover ourselves in, the future directions for the field and how we as individuals (and organizations) see ourselves within this progressing field. It was the variety of everyone’s background that made discussions so valuable and the expertise from such different viewpoints and job functions that helped shape a well-rounded perspective. I better understand how communications folks are operating, how curators make decisions and what educators are looking for. This also means I can better communicate with all of these folks. I understand the need for a business model – not a four letter word, by the way – I see a push for institutional sustainability and financial independence. I could keep going, or you could just look at the course’s syllabus, it is all there.
Ultimately, I understand why it is key to have an institution that wants this level of understanding for their employees. An institution that values their staff and their future enough to foster this kind of awareness for the ultimate benefit of the entire organization. Yes, it can be scary to offer a glimpse of the world outside your own doors and I am fortunate enough to work in an environment that considers it worth the risk of providing that intense glimpse with the confidence to think we (SHA alum) will put this experience to work for them. It is a bet they are ultimately winning and one your institution could place as well. So, if you are looking for your own individual professional growth OR your institution is ready to start shifting towards the “new reality” (or “new normal”) of the twenty-teens, this experience can get you there. Come join the long-standing pool of SHA grads.
“Why Should You Attend SHA?”
#11: Attending professional conferences is no substitute for the SHA experience! (Bob Hart)
#10: SHA is the optimal learning environment. (Kyle McKoy)
#9: SHA: Unbeatable professional training & powerful personal relationships (Mark Sundlov)
#8: SHA: A Fertile Environment for Real Learning, Powerful Networking & Organizational Change (Jason Crabill)
#7: SHA is a Career-Changing Experience (Becca Loofbourrow)
#6: SHA reminded me how lucky I am to do what I do (Jamie Glavic)
#5: From a Culture of SHA, I am in Hook, Line & Sinker (Sarah Milligan)