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Seminarians in the House

Okay – so that's not strictly speaking true – they aren't in seminary. But we don't really know how to refer to the 19 people who come to the IHS for the Seminar for Historical Administration each November. They are curators and exhibit creators, directors and marketing coordinators.  This year, they hale from as far as Kona, Hawai'i and Ottawa, Canada, and as close as Crawfordsville and Muncie.  They bring with them big problems (budget cuts), great successes (powerful programs), and the chance to have conversations about what is at the core of we are trying to do on a daily basis at the IHS and history institutions everywhere.

The IHS has been hosting the Seminar since 2004, but the American Association for State and Local History created it 50 years ago. I attended in 2006, when I was director of the Putnam County Museum in Greencastle, and my eyes were opened to the powerful role that history organizations have as members of civic dialogues, places of education and crucibles for curiosity.

As one of the people who staff the Seminar now, I reap the benefits of being on the periphery of deep conversations about how the history field can and does change the world. For instance, Mary Cummings from the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society in Michigan recommended a book (Switch) about why some changes in life and organizations are easy and some are hard. Jeff Harris and I are putting together a workshop on managing change in local history organizations next spring, so now this book is on my reading pile for after Thanksgiving. It is amazing to get to know these creative, witty and thoughtful people.

So, what should we call this handful of history professionals who leave the History Center ready to change their organizations, the history field and their communities for the better? A quick lookup in the dictionary tells me that "seminary" comes from the Latin and means "seed-bed." If calling these folks seminarians implies that we – along with AALSH, the amazing faculty members from all over the country, Indianapolis's premier museums and the other SHA partner organizations – helped plant and tend the seeds of leadership and innovation for history organizations, then maybe we should call them seminarians after all.

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