By Elizabeth P. Stewart, Renton History Museum and AASLH Small Museums Committee

The AASLH Annual Conference Early Bird deadline on July 29 is fast approaching, so the Small Museums Committee would like to highlight for you some sessions with a special relevance to staff, volunteers, and board members at the nation’s 21,000+ small history organizations. AASLH always has much to offer small-but-mighty organizations!

The theme for the Annual Conference this year, Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place, has a special resonance for small heritage organizations, because nothing has a more important influence on people’s sense of community and belonging than local history. The Conference offers many opportunities—through tours, workshops, and different kinds of sessions—to explore how history and a sense of place strengthen community.

If you’re planning to come early, Wednesday, September 14, is your chance to jump on some tours of Buffalo or take a workshop. “Effective History Communication” is a full-day workshop that may have a special resonance for small museums, as you learn the art of crafting effective messages for exhibit text, fundraising emails, or advocacy. Other shorter workshops include: “Creating Inclusive Sense of Place Narratives for Historic Sites” and “History and Web 3.0.”

On Thursday, September 15, start with “Creating Community Connections: Small Museums Using Smithsonian Starter Kits,” by exploring a pilot project that builds small museums’ capacity to develop exhibits in partnership with their communities. Register for the Small Museums Luncheon to meet other small organization staff and volunteers for our annual fun and informative lunch. A Thursday afternoon town hall, “Historical Thinking Under Fire,” will help you navigate contentious discussions happening at legislatures and school boards about topics like slavery, women’s rights, and civil rights.

On Friday, September 16, “Field Service Alliance Tips” builds on your community-based exhibition and program design knowledge to provide specific strategies for effective collaboration. “The Peril to Places” showcases three institutions recovering from devastating environmental disasters, a phenomenon many of us will be grappling with more often. And on Friday afternoon, you can drop into the Small Museums Affinity Committee meeting to learn more about what we do.

On Saturday, September 17, take advantage of more tours and workshops, or jump into a session about “Boomer Legacies: Getting Started with Planned Giving,” to help your organization guide the largest generation toward painless giving. “Promoting Civic Behavior in Your Community” is an experiential session that helps your museum be a catalyst for greater civic involvement.

Finally, if travel to Buffalo is a challenge, AASLH will offer a Virtual Conference November 1-3, full of thought-provoking sessions you can participate in from your desk. These include: general sessions on “Connecting to History through TikTok,” and “Plugging into Gen Z,” aimed at reaching new audiences in fresh ways; “Expanding the Power of Place through New Narratives,” on telling new stories that bring unheard voices to the fore; “Moving Beyond Tokenizing School Activities,” on centering Native peoples, their voices, and experiences; and “Using a Genealogist’s Toolbox at Your Institution” to discuss difficult histories and deepen your connection with your community, among many other sessions. The Small Museums Affinity Committee will also offer a Zoom lunch activity, as well as an online Happy Hour.

Want to know more? Check out the full schedules for the Annual Conference in Buffalo and the Virtual Conference. Take advantage of these opportunities to refresh your museum practice, make new connections, and try out exciting ideas.