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It’s a Big World!

Last week, the Grover Museum in Shelbyville hosted a workshop for Local History Services. Because we needed an Internet connection, the director, Candy Miller, kindly moved around their April temporary exhibit It's a Big World – an exhibit that provides adults with the child’s perspective of the world, in honor of the “Month of the Young Child.”  You can see Candy sitting in the huge chair that demonstrates what adult-sized furniture feels and looks like to toddlers.  (And she said that almost everyone who climbs up in the seat winds up with a smile on their faces.) 

Big Chair
Shelby County Historical Society director in the "Big Chair" in their exhibit It's a Big World!

She also set up tables and chairs, made coffee, duct taped the DSL cable to the floor so we wouldn’t trip and otherwise made me and the other workshop participants comfortable. One of the workshop attendees had trouble walking, so he used the retrofitted elevator to get to the second floor workshop/exhibit space, and Candy kindly moved his car for him. One of the early arrivals (because Hoosiers are always 15 minutes early) had a chance to marvel at the amazing Streets of Shelbyville exhibit. As she walked the red brick streets in the converted Elk’s Lodge ballroom, she saw local artifacts displayed in miniature versions of the “shops” or “offices” where they might have been used. Candy set up lunch at Panzarotti's – the local restaurant that is so popular that you have to make reservations on Friday or Saturday nights. (And for those blog readers who only care about our food recommendations, I’ll note that the antipasto salad was tasty, but that the mozzarella and pepperoni breadsticks were gooey and delicious!)

I decided to describe the Grover Museum and the helpfulness of its director, not because I was surprised by the quality of the museum (which was high) or the flexibility and problem-solving abilities of its staff (of one), but because I know that’s what you can expect from the good small history museums around our state. The staff and volunteers of these places are characterized by passion and perseverance. (Candy told us that it took 15 years to get the Streets of Shelbyville completed.)

So it does my heart good when we can bring a expert (Ron Newlin, who raised money for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Indiana State Museum Foundation) to give a workshop on fundraising planning pitched for the small organization. So much of the information out there on fundraising depends on having a large staff, funding to do research on potential donors or familiarity with complicated financial tools. (Do you know what a charitable remainder trust is?)

The information is like the big chair in the exhibit – small organizations can use it, but it can be a struggle and it never really fits right. I like to think that we are providing chairs of just the right size for the more than 900 local history organizations in the state. We try not to overwhelm people with all the information, but point them to the most relevant resources for their situation. We don’t assume that any organization has a staff person who can make finding the answer to a particular question their primary focus. The fundamentals of the information we provide is the same, but hopefully, but we make it accessible and comfortable so that it's one less struggle among the many that local history organizations face.

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