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IHS President and CEO John Herbst Honored with AMM Distinguished Career Award

Aug. 14, 2017
IHS President and CEO John Herbst Honored with AMM Distinguished Career Award

Indianapolis—The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) announces that its President and CEO, John A. Herbst, has been awarded the Association of Midwest Museum's (AMM's) 2017 Distinguished Career Award. Each year, AMM presents the Distinguished Career Award to an individual who has worked or volunteered in the museum industry for more than 10 years and made significant contributions to the field.

"For more than 40 years, John Herbst has provided significant and impactful leadership of museums in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana," said Bruce Karstadt, president and CEO of the American Swedish Institute and vice president of the AMM Board of Directors. "This award is presented to him in recognition of his deep commitment and significant contributions to our profession and to the museum community."

Recognized as an influential shaper of historical practice, Herbst has led three of Indiana's most prominent historical organizations. In 2006, he was named president and CEO of the Indiana Historical Society, an organization whose public presence has changed dramatically under his leadership.

The Indiana Experience, which opened in 2010, now brings to life IHS's two-dimensional collections and draws tens of thousands of people every year. Over the past decade, IHS has won national awards for innovation in exhibits, programs, educational outreach and publishing. In addition, IHS has become a Smithsonian Affiliate and member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

Before assuming his current position, Herbst served as president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum. Prior to that, he served as president of Conner Prairie Interactive History Park for five years, where he helped to advance Conner Prairie's ultimate separation from Earlham College, ending a 30-year dispute between the museum and its trustee over management of a bequest from philanthropist Eli Lilly.

When Herbst came to Indiana in 1997, his reputation for leadership was well established. His career in public history began in 1974, when the 22-year-old social studies teacher started a junior historian club program that earned state awards for exhibits and publications, as well as coverage by The New York Times. He took a position as curator of the Paterson Museum, in Paterson, New Jersey, and later served as director of education at the New Jersey Historical Society for four years. Herbst became founding director of the American Labor Museum in Haledon, New Jersey, which opened in 1983.

Herbst’s work in three states led efforts to document defining but vanishing regional industries such as the silk industry of Paterson, the steel industry of Pittsburgh and the rural history of Hamilton County in Central Indiana.

From 1986 through 1997, he served as executive director of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, during which he was the lead professional in developing the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. During this time, a number of large, significant corporate collections of artifacts and archives were acquired from Alcoa, H. J. Heinz, Mellon Bank and Westinghouse, and ethnic collecting initiatives documented the waves of immigrants and African Americans who settled in the Pittsburgh region.

AMM's 2017 Distinguished Career Award recognizes Herbst for his efforts to make the visitors and their experiences central to every museum visit, as well as for his aspirations to ensure historical organizations tell everyone’s story and reflect diversity in all its forms.

"I am extremely honored to be chosen to receive the AMM Distinguished Career Award," said John Herbst, IHS president and CEO. "I am deeply grateful to the wonderful museum mentors and colleagues I've had, the talented professional staffs, the many terrific board members, generous donors and supportive members with whom I have worked. I'm particularly grateful to the people at the Indiana Historical Society, who in the last decade of my career, have given me the support to do my best work."

Herbst received his award July 14, during AMM's summer conference in Des Moines, Iowa. His award was presented in honor of Helen Coutts, one of AMM's earliest leaders, in conjunction with AMM's 90th anniversary.

For more information about IHS or the AMM 2017 Distinguished Career Award, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

About the Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s Storyteller™, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; produces and hosts art exhibitions, museum theater and outside performance groups; and provides youth, adult and family programs. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.