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Carol Kammen offers information and advice to local historical societies and ways to remain relevant to audiences and funding opportunities.

She encourages museums and historical societies to look forward into the future and retain the ability to adapt and change to an increasingly modern society for the best ways to tell their stories.

To read the full article, you can purchase this issue of History News. The following is an excerpt:

The new edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History features short essays about the doing of local history in each state in the United States, in each of the Canadian provinces, and in Guam. The authors of these essays are historical society and humanities council directors, independent scholars, and people in academe. Each was asked to provide a capsule biography showing the development and concern for local history. Space was limited, but these short capsules are tremendously important. I know of no other review of the state of state and local history like it and found in them a great many important similarities and problematic situations. Taken together they provide an interesting benchmark in time for us all to consider.

My initial observation is that we are facing the results of over-organizing. The essays document that the local history cornucopia we have so long nurtured has created something of a problem. Dare I say that perhaps there are too many history organizations competing for the same meager slices of the funding and local interest pie? There are solutions, to be sure, some positive, others sad and painful. What we most want is to avoid is tragedy, especially since founders of these organizations have created them in the interest of preservation and community. They have acted in good faith and with motives we all understand and have fostered. “Tend your local history,” we preached. And in this case, we have been heard.

According to AASLH figures, in 1936, there were 583 history organizations in the United States—in the entire country (and that was probably an undercount). Spread out equally, which they were not, that would number approximately a dozen (that is twelve!) history organizations in each state. Today, there are countless history organizations across the country, an average exceeding 300 per state (and that is also possibly an undercount). Our abundant organizing is everywhere! In New Hampshire there are now more than 200 history organizations, many founded to preserve or protect fragile architecture. To maintain each of these structures required the creation of a legal structure and as one thing led to another voila! a new history organization appeared. In Ohio there are now more than 1,000 history organizations across the state; in California there are more than 600 site-specific history organizations. Idaho has 44 county museums and more than 100 other history organizations. This is happening north of the border too. In Canada’s New Brunswick province, local history organizations have blossomed since the 1960s. Today there are more than thirty-nine history museums in the province, fourteen historic houses, fifteen museums of industry,a living history site, and a half-dozen sites devoted to ethnicity and religion.