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StEPs labs are 75- or 90-minute webinars that provide you with valuable information and training from the comfort of your office or home. With no travel expenses or extended time away, StEPs labs are a quick and convenient way to learn new skills.

The webinars are offered in conjunction with AASLH’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations, a self-study program that helps small- and mid-sized history organizations assess policies and practices, manage daily operations and plan for the future. StEPs uses a workbook, an online community with hundreds of resources, and progress certificates to help your organization identify its strengths and  its opportunities for improvement.

Participation in StEPs webinars offers in-depth information on topics central to the operation of your museum, historic house, site, or related organization. Applying what you learn in a webinar to your organization’s policies and practices not only helps your organization earn StEPs certificates, but it means you are making meaningful improvements that strengthen your museum or site and often times provide a better visitor experience.

You don’t have to be enrolled in StEPs to participate in and learn from StEPs labs. Those who are enrolled, however, will find that these webinars very helpful.


Upcoming StEPs Lab Webinars

We will soon announce StEPs lab webinars for 2018. Check back here or check the AASLH continuing education calendar.


Watch Past StEPs Labs

Recordings of past labs are available for on-demand download. For one price, you can watch them more than once and share the recording with colleagues. Cost per recording: $15 members; $30 non-members

Deaccessioning: The Devil’s in the Details:  A policy that addresses the disposal, trade, or sale of any collection item is an essential document for every museum, historic house or other collecting organization. Paid and unpaid staff plus committee and board members need to be well-informed of your organization’s deaccession policy. This StEPs lab addresses important points about deaccessioning including what a deaccessioning policy should cover and how to avoid getting into deep deaccession trouble.

Money Talks: How to Discuss Financial Information with Your BoardPeople often shy away from talking about finances beyond a cursory approval of the budget and financial reports until there is a crisis. Ongoing monitoring and conversations about finances are the foundation of a healthy organization. In this StEPs lab we discuss simple techniques you can implement to make budgets and other financial reports more understandable and accurate. We also discuss important questions board members should ask when reviewing them.

The ABCs of FICs: What to do about ‘Found in the Collection’ ItemsIn this StEPs lab, we discuss FICs, those mysterious artifacts that show up in your collection without a signed deed of gift or other paperwork. What do you do with FICs? Do you accession and number them the same as permanent collection items? Where might you look for clues about their donor or lender? What do abandoned property laws have to do with FICs? And finally, why is it important for your organization to have its collections paperwork in order?

Building Knowledge: Documentation on Historic Sites and Landscapes: In this StEPs lab webinar, we discuss the various reports and documents that organizations will want to compile and keep on the historic structures and landscapes they own or manage. Hear guest speaker Rachel Leibowitz, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, discuss how to find someone to research and write Historic Structures and other reports, existing studies you may not be aware of, and the types of information that can be gleaned from these documents.

Risk Assessment: What’s Your Kryptonite? Guest speaker Donia Conn, conservator and independent consultant for small and mid-sized cultural heritage institutions, focuses on the general risks facing cultural institutions, performing a site survey, and mitigation strategies for addressing those vulnerabilities. An institution’s internal structure, policies, and procedures is discussed. Donia also offers sample templates for performing a risk assessment, from small to complex. This lab webinar is the first in a two-part series on risk management.

Risk Assessment and Management for CollectionsBeing prepared and identifying the potential threats to one’s organization are the best ways of reducing risks to cultural collections. In Part Two of this series, guest speaker Dyani Feige, Director of Preservation Services at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, focuses on specific risks facing cultural institutions, both natural and man-made, and mitigation strategies for addressing those vulnerabilities. An institution’s location, building issues, environmental factors (temperature, relative humidity, light, and mold), pest control, fire protection, security procedures, available resources, and collections-specific hazards is also discussed.

Copyright Crash Course for Museums and Memory InstitutionsA basic understanding of copyright law is essential to protect your organization’s rights and those of other creators, further your organization’s mission, and avoid disputes that could harm its reputation. In this StEPs lab webinar, museum attorney Walter G. Lehmann provides a practical, museum-focused overview of copyright law including the important exception for fair use. Topics addresses include copyright duration, copyright orphans, fair use and the four-factor test, best practices and applying fair use, and clearing rights.

Collections Care You Can Do and What to Leave to ConservatorsMuseums hold collections in trust for the public. With that trust comes the duty of care. But with the duty of care comes the requirement that we not endanger collection items through improper care or treatment. Where, however, is the line between what we can and can’t do? In this webinar, guest speaker Scott Carrlee, Alaska State Museum, addresses specific preventive conservation practices you can perform and those you should leave for a conservator.

Take the Guesswork out of Evaluation: How to Measure What Really Matters: Evaluating what your organization offers its audiences is no longer a best practice reserved only for well-funded institutions. History organizations of all sizes, even those operating on a shoestring budget, can and should evaluate their programs. How else will you know whether you are meeting visitors’ expectations? In this StEPs lab webinar, guest speaker Conny Graft explains the three types of evaluation, common methods for each type, and the pros and cons of each method. Conny also discusses the importance of identifying outcomes for your exhibit or program. Using examples from several historic sites, she demonstrates how outcomes make planning an evaluation project easier and the data/feedback more meaningful. Finally, Conny outlines the steps for planning an evaluation project and offers tips for evaluation on a limited budget.

Steps to Environmental Sustainability: Green practices offer important pathways for strengthening your organization and improving its relevance within the community. This lab explores how it’s possible to align your mission and environmental goals for the benefit of your organization. Guest speaker Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museums begins the webinar by discussing the relationship between environmental sustainability and history museums and historic sites, and highlights the basic alignments that create positive financial and social returns. She then discusses energy audits and how to get one – hopefully for free and then moves on to identifying environmental practices that support historic interpretation and museum operations. There is no singular path to a green future; it is entirely tied to the mission and opportunities of your organization. Let Sarah’s presentation help you discover great opportunities for your site!

The How Tos of Digital Collections ManagementGuest speaker Leigh Grinstead from LYRASIS walks viewers through the process of selecting which collections to digitize, policy and strategy development, and caring for digital collections regardless of whether they are born digital or reformatted. Leigh highlights organizations that model good practices in each of these three subject areas. She also discusses lessons learned by organizations that made early mistakes but managed to “right the ship” and transition to a successful digitization program.