The Connecticut Historical Society’s Path Forward

February 1, 2015 · CHS Buzz ·

The Connecticut Historical Society’s Path Forward

The values each of us hold dear, and the choices we make as free individuals, are heavily influenced by what we draw from experience. An informed appreciation of history enables each of us to appropriate the wealth of accumulated human experience beyond our own. Useful history provides context for today’s challenges by allowing us to examine and comprehend how we have come to be through examples of our past decisions and the consequences that followed. As a society faced with ever-more complicated issues and situations, we can look to the evidence found in history for caution, comfort, and inspiration.

The Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) collects, preserve, interprets, and provides access to the real, tangible evidence of our lives: our history.

  • Mission: Connecting you and the story of Connecticut
  • Vision: A society that values historical perspective and understanding as essential tools in connecting with others, shaping communities, and making informed decisions

The CHS has reorganized its staffing roles and responsibilities to enhance customer service; better and more quickly catalog and make available its collection of historical materials so that people in Connecticut have direct access to their history; and involve Connecticut residents in telling their own and our collective stories through new programs and services.

The CHS’s responsibility is to help citizens understand and use Connecticut’s history as a way of dealing with the pressing issues of today. Building upon the key historical milestones and issues that the CHS has documented through its collection, we will reach out to constituents by:

  • Engaging our state’s diverse populations and encouraging them to share their experiences
  • Operating where history can be found and used to teach its relevance to all ages
  • Building strong relationships with other complementary historical and educational organizations

Objectives

In order to build deep public appreciation for history, the CHS will become a laboratory where citizens can access the tangible evidence of the past—the collections—to test, observe, and understand the actual as well as the intended consequences of ideas and actions. The CHS will help them:

  • To acquire and refine the skills to understand whether information is reliable, accurate or biased
  • To decide for themselves which information is important
  • To think critically about and apply information in creative and productive pursuits

The CHS will seek to develop individual abilities, spur debate, and inspire solutions by being a dynamic agent of democracy that inspires an active, educated, and engaged citizenry.

Strategic Plan

The CHS’s strategic plan is the next step in the organization’s transformation. The plan intends to make the CHS a valuable resource for people by helping them find meaning in history, assisting them in telling and sharing their stories, and connecting their personal history to the story of Connecticut. Toward this end, the CHS will combine the collections, programming, education and exhibition departments in order to improve access and use of the archives, library, and object collections.

 Goal 1: Cultivate a vibrant sense of place and history in communities across Connecticut.

  • Develop cooperative relationships with local history organizations across the state in order to expand awareness of and access to historical resources
  • Form partnerships with ethnic and social organizations and assist them with documenting and sharing their history with broader audiences
  • Work with (non-history oriented) community organizations, local government agencies, and schools to highlight and make relevant state and local history resources

Goal 2: Develop compelling, relevant content that expands the public’s knowledge of Connecticut’s diverse people and history.

  • Develop an inclusive, structured process for working with target audiences to identify and evaluate relevant stories
  • Structure collecting strategies and activities around these stories
  • Build programs, exhibits, and services based on stories

Goal 3: Engage people of all ages in the historical process as a way to understand our world.

  • Focus programs and services on skill development and storytelling
  • Reach out to, engage, and develop collections-based programming and services specific to communities of interest
  • Align all school and children’s programming to academic standards
  • Expand educational initiatives to colleges and universities

Goal 4: Advocate for history education, initiatives, and organizations throughout Connecticut.

  • Increase the visibility and awareness of the CHS across the state
  • Develop a case statement for history and by extension, the CHS
  • Develop an advocacy campaign for history

Goal 5: Grow resources in a manner that is socially, environmentally, and fiscally responsible.

  • Develop staff proficiency, morale, and synergy
  • Grow revenue through diversified channels that will include:
    • Improving physical and technological infrastructure
    • Creating a sustainability policy that serves as map for improving efficiency and practicing environmental stewardship
    • Building board leadership and capacity

2015 New Initiatives

Affinity Groups:

Through a series of affinity groups, the CHS will give people even greater access to parts of the collection in which they are most interested. The CHS will launch two affinity groups this spring, one focused on fashion using the textile collections, and the other on decorative arts making use of the CHS’s furniture, metal, and ceramic collections. The fashion affinity group will kick off on Mother’s Day weekend with Haute History: A Vintage Inspired Fashion Show. The decorative arts affinity group’s launch will coincide with the Spring Antiques Show and feature an exhibition curated by members. The exhibit will highlight and contrast three Connecticut towns and the household products they were best known for crafting.

Community Outreach:

Connecticut’s history is the amalgamation of individual, family and community stories, and that history is best told and is most meaningful when it is personal and relatable. Toward this end, the CHS will seek to create collaborative partnerships with local historical societies, libraries, schools, and other community institutions across the state to enliven and highlight Connecticut’s history through programs, travelling exhibitions, and other services.

Children’s Programs:

History should not be relegated to a 50-minute timeslot that occurs twice per week in the 4th and 5th grades. History should be taught to children of all ages, in all grade levels, across the curriculum, and throughout the year. The CHS will redesign its school programs to align with the new Social Studies Frameworks and with the Common Core in order to help teachers of math, language arts, and science add depth and meaning to lessons by situating our mathematical, literary, and scientific accomplishments within the historical context in which they were conceived. During summer vacations, the CHS will launch a new camp program that will begin in 2015. The camp will feature a series of classes for elementary and middle school students that focus on the study and interpretation of the CHS collections. Youth will develop and use interdisciplinary skills in entertaining and engaging ways that develop an understanding and appreciation of history.

Digital Learning Platform:

Learning happens all the time, and the habits of mind required by the discipline of history—historical thinking—have great potential to help people in most personal and professional pursuits. History teaches us how to find, evaluate and interpret evidence. It teaches us how to form and communicate critical, evidence-based opinions. Additionally, history allows us to understand situations, people and communities through multiple perspectives, and in doing so creates in us a strong sense of empathy and tolerance. The CHS will launch a new online learning platform where members can learn skills, such as how to properly care for grandmother’s quilt; where volunteers at a local historical society can get step-by-step instruction in organizing an archive, and where teachers can retrieve lessons about how to dissect gravestones in a local cemetery in order to trace a community’s immigration and economic development.

Advocacy:

History is important. We heard this many times while meeting with individuals and groups across the state. It is time that our community has a voice. It is time to begin shaping legislative priorities. The CHS will team up with the broader historical community to launch a history advocacy campaign.

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