By Tamara Hemmerlein
Local History Partners coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society
Recently I participated in a session at the American Library Association annual conference in Chicago about the role of collaboration in preserving heritage. My fellow panelists were Jackie Dooley, president of the Society of American Archivists; Tom Clareson, senior consultant for digital and preservation services at LYRASIS; and John Chrastka, founder of EveryLibrary.
The underlying theme of all of our presentations was outreach and communication. Each of our organizations is working on activities and programs that go beyond our walls, our desks, and our computers to talk to people and communities about the things and institutions that make up our cultural heritage.
One example is my work that was made possible with an IMLS Connecting to Collections grant. The Hoosier Heritage Alliance C2C project was designed to educate and raise the awareness of museums, libraries, and the public about good collections stewardship. All of the project activities were based on feedback received from the Hoosier Heritage Alliance Connecting to Collections Survey Report, 2009.
To educate museum staff and volunteers, we offered one-day collections care training site visits to individual institutions; one-day regional collections planning and fundraising workshops; and Collections Advisor, a monthly email newsletter featuring case studies, how-tos, and ideas from small, mid-size, and large institutions.
For audiences outside of the museum field, the project included a traveling exhibit, Endangered Heritage, designed to encourage public support for collections care and a collections care awareness poster that will be mailed to community stakeholders all over Indiana. The most unusual project activity is a living graphic novel entitled “Deteriora and the Agents of Destruction,” which will launch in September and will hopefully attract audiences beyond museum staff and volunteers.
John Chrastka built on the outreach idea and went even further! In his perfect world, folks from libraries would go door-to-door and sign people up for library cards, like volunteers do for voter registration drives. I’m not sure what the museum version of that would be. Maybe walking through neighborhoods and handing out free yearlong memberships. Maybe setting up pop-up exhibits to tell the neighborhood’s story using objects that residents own. Whatever form that kind of museum outreach might take, it would involve listening and communicating in ways that we haven’t always used.
Tamara Hemmerlein implemented Indiana’s Connecting to Collections project as the Hoosier Heritage Alliance coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society. She is the Indiana state team leader for the American Association for State and Local History. Tamara serves as the chair of the Small Museum Administrators Committee for the American Alliance of Museums and is an AAM Museum Assessment Program peer reviewer. Tamara contributed the chapter Good Visitor Service, or Put Down the Pencil and Put On a Smile! to the Small Museum Toolkit.