Funding. People. Time. Many of us wish for more of these elusive resources. Lack of money, too few paid and unpaid staff, and of course, the biggie, lack of time, can keep many of our museums, historic sites and houses in a rut for years. The work that needs to be done at our nation’s museums is endless. But our energy and resources are greatly limited.
Participation in assessment programs can help organizations pull themselves out of that rut and reap benefits for years to come. The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs) offered by the American Association for State and Local History is one of several assessment programs that make up the museum field’s Continuum of Excellence. While developed for use by small- to mid-sized organizations including all-volunteer ones, the StEPs program is open to all. More than 900 organizations across the country have enrolled in the program.
StEPs provides a structure for assessment in six areas that can be addressed in any order: Mission, Vision and Governance; Audience; Interpretation; Stewardship of Collections; Stewardship of Historic Sites and Landscapes, and Management. StEPs is designed to dovetail with daily tasks like caring for collections, working with a board of directors, and planning exhibits and programs. Organizations that enroll in the self-study program work incrementally on improvements and earn progress certificates. Most of all, StEPs can help move board members, staff, and volunteers in the same direction toward a set of common goals. And that can translate into more credibility, more support, and an organization that is a valuable asset to its community for many more years to come.
AASLH Senior Program Manager Cherie Cook will describe how the StEPs program works and how groups of organizations across the country are forming StEPs communities of practice.
At the American Association for State and Local History, Cherie Cook serves as senior program manager and coordinates the StEPs and Visitors Count! programs. Prior to joining AASLH, Cherie worked with museums in Oklahoma for more than sixteen years, first as field services coordinator and then as executive director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. While in those positions, Cherie had frequent contact with many of the state’s 300 museums, tribal cultural centers, and historic sites, assisting them with a wide variety of issues including collections management and preservation, fundraising, governance, and program development. Cherie holds an MA in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University and a BA in History from Kansas State University.
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