Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm at the American Association for State and Local History conference this week in Rochester, and will try to blog a bit about what I'm hearing and seeing. To start, I just heard the end of keynote Bernice Johnson Reagon's talk...but she was telling a story about how, during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, at one point, she wanted to present gospel music. Too loud, too intense, said people. She said, how about inside? We never do things inside? We could, she replied. I thought it was a great encapsulation of what's wrong with many institutions. There are all these obstacles we put up about why we can't do something new. And they're not really obstacles...they're excuses. Many places are trapped in the, but we have always done it that way syndrome... And, if we really care about change, about making meaningful museums and historic places, then we need to work to overcome those obstacles...and to work to not be one those people who are the excuse-makers.

A great reminder...and wow, I wish I could sing like that when I was doing a presentation. Amazing.

Above: Jubilee Singers sheet music, Library of Congress collection

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