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AASLH: Yesterday and Today

AASLH: THE BEGINNING The origin of AASLH can be traced back to the extraordinary flowering of state and local history that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1904, the American Historical Association, itself a fledgling professional body, established the semi-autonomous Conference of State and Local Historical Societies to serve the leaders of those agencies. In 1939, a group of Conference members, chaired by Christopher C. Crittenden, director of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, discussed and then proposed the creation of an independent entity. Its job would be to better coordinate the activities of historical societies and stimulate the writing and teaching of state and local history in North America.

On December 27, 1940, the Conference of State and Local History met and disbanded itself. Then, the American Association for State and Local History was born. Its first charter stated that AASLH's purpose was, simply, "the promotion of effort and activity in the fields of state, provincial, and local history in the United States and Canada."

AASLH TODAY Now, almost one hundred years after the first organization was created to serve and support the burgeoning field of state and local history, AASLH is providing services and leadership to thousands of institutional and individual members. It is the only comprehensive national organization dedicated to state and local history.

From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH serves a membership, which directly reflects the kaleidoscopic demographics of the field itself. Most history organizations in the United States are small, volunteer led and, often, volunteer staffed. They have small budgets and limited staff resources. AASLH is the national organization known for serving this special audience.

But AASLH exists to serve the entire field of state and local history. AASLH also includes in its membership organizations and their agents as large as Colonial Williamsburg and the Smithsonian Institution. The Association works hard to represent the field in all of its diversity.

For this diverse membership, with its many various circumstances, needs and wants, AASLH has fashioned a roster of programs and services that are meeting members' needs and progressively advancing the goals and standards of the field.

AASLH PROGRAMS AND SERVICES The following programs and services form the core of AASLH's current offering to professionals, organizations, and volunteers in the field of state and local history.

  • Technical Resources - AASLH offers a variety of technical resources for the history professional including board orientation organizing kits, a free video lending library, technical leaflets, and reports. AASLH's celebrated series of technical leaflets are included in each quarterly issue of History News magazine, and considered a must-have resource by thousands of our nation's history organizations and professionals. Click here for a list of AASLH technical resources.
  • Annual Meeting - Each fall, AASLH holds an annual meeting to bring together around 1,000 members from around the country for 4 days of networking, professional development, problem solving, and intellectual stimulation. AASLH annual meetings feature such nationally famous speakers as Ben Bradlee, Lucie Arnaz, and Roger Mudd. Meetings also promise up to 80 sessions, special focused workshops, plenary sessions with local scholars, and evening events and daily tours of the host community. For information about the next AASLH annual meeting, click here.
  • Awards Program - Since 1945 AASLH has recognized nationally superior achievements in state and local history, particularly by small, local history organizations. AASLH awards are prestigious and competitive. To see a list of AASLH award winners, or make an award nomination, click here.
  • Books - Since 1940, AASLH has been internationally known for its publication series. An editorial committee made up of AASLH members works with the AASLH staff to ensure the series contains both nuts and bolts technical service books, as well as books that explore the various aspects of state and local history. To see a list of AASLH books, click here.
  • PastPerfect Museum Software is the #1 selling museum software in the country. The software is affordable for small institutions, and includes Virtual Exhibit, which converts collections into web pages. To learn more about PastPerfect, click here.
  • Periodicals - AASLH provides two basic types of periodicals. A monthly newsletter, Dispatch, is filled with information about the resources available to history organizations, and other useful information including positions available in the field. History News is a quarterly magazine covering issues critical to the field. If you are interested in advertising a product or a job position, click here.
  • Professional development workshops and seminars - AASLH continues its commitment to quality professional development workshops for history professionals and volunteers. Recently retooled are workshops on historic house management, interpretation, and collections care. AASLH is currently developing on-line and on-site basics in archival care training. Finally, for over 40 years the Seminar for Historical Administration is an intensive three-week seminar where participants learn from over 40 faculty members. SHA is hosted at the Indiana Historical Society and is also co-sponsored by the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Colonial Williamsburg, and the American Association of Museums. If you would like to learn more abut AASLH's professional development offerings, click here.
  • On-call Resources and Services - Every day, dozens of people call the AASLH office for help. Many callers are not members, but simply people looking for answers or colleagues with similar challenges and opportunities. AASLH acts as a clearinghouse of information. Obviously, AASLH and its staff know a lot about what's going on in the field of state and local history. AASLH assumes the role of helping people find the appropriate resource they are looking for, whether offered by AASLH or another worthy organization. Click here to send a question to AASLH. Click here for a staff directory. Click here for a listing of state, regional, and national resource organizations that might also assist you.
  • PATHWAYS - This program provides public programming materials developed at the national level so that AASLH members can implement programs at the local level without the cost of program and materials development. The Pathways kit is written for the general public and acts as an easy-to-use tutorial for ways to research family history (e.g., oral history, graveyard studies, folklore, reading photographs and buildings, etc.). Four models provide history organizations a models for implementation. The models include a summer camp for kids, a senior citizens program, a program for discovering your community and a model for working with teachers. The Pathways materials will be available for AASLH members in 2003. In the meanwhile, if you have questions, click here to send a message to the program's staff liaison, Bethany Hawkins.
  • COSHRC - AASLH is the umbrella organization for the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators. The coordinators are typically the state archivists. The program is funded through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Currently, AASLH is working on an on-line and on-site professional development workshops on basic archival training for the nonprofessional archivist. If you would like more information on COSHRC, click here. If you would like information on AASLH's basic archival training course, click here to send a message to the program's staff liaison, Bob Beatty .
  • Visitors Count! - Include your audience’s voice in how your organization operates, plans for the future, develops programs, and markets itself. Visitors Count eliminates guess work and assumptions often used to determine what visitors and school groups want and need for a meaningful and enjoyable experience. Program benchmarks allow for comparison of results with institutions of similar budget size, type, and geographic location. Through Visitors Count, museums, historic houses and other institutions can make positive changes – based on visitor wants and needs – and obtain valuable support material for fundraising, program development, marketing, and strategic planning. Choose from three survey programs: museum visitors, historic house visitors, or teachers and students who take part in an on-site program. For more information, click here.
  • Census of History Organizations in America - Since the inception of AASLH in 1940, the number and types of history institutions in America have multiplied significantly. AASLH has developed a program to first identify what types of organizations exist at the local level, then conduct a census of those organizations nationally. Fundraising for the program is still in progress. If you have questions about this program, click here for the program's staff liaison, Terry Davis.
  • Focus Initiatives - AASLH is currently providing programming for these focus audiences: 1) historic house museums, 2) tribal museums, 3) corporate museums, 4) presidential sites and libraries. Click on each program to find out more.
  • National Leadership - AASLH represents the field on a variety of national boards, committees, and task forces. Among these are National History Day and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The Association also convenes a variety of panels and task forces to investigate ways it can address issues that are critical and enduring to the field. Also, AASLH belongs to a number of organizations to support the field nationally, such as the National Coordinating Committee, National Humanities Alliance, and the Federation for State Humanities Council's Humanities on the Hill program. Click on each one to learn more about these important organizations.

1717 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37203-2991 l 615-320-3203 l Fax: 615-327-9013 l E-Mail: l ©2008 AASLH