Forum Journal (Summer 2014): How To Determine Your New Period of Significance - Presentation


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This slideshow is enhanced content for "The Period of Significance is Now" an interview with Erin Carlson Mast, Morris J. Vogel and Lisa Lopez in the Summer 2014 Forum Journal ('Stepping into the
Future at Historic Sites'). Use this presentation with the accompanying worksheet ( To learn more about Preservation Leadership Forum and how you can become a member visit:

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Forum Journal (Summer 2014): How To Determine Your New Period of Significance - Presentation

  1. 1. The Period of Significance Is Now Enhanced Content Presentation
  2. 2. PHOTO: PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S COTTAGE, WASHINGTON, DC The Tenement Museum and President Lincoln’s Cottage have recently grappled with the question of how best to identify the period of significance for historic sites. The directors of these two sites have come up with a series of questions to help staff at other sites tease out a more inclusive and relevant period of history. The following questions and accompanying worksheet will help you think about how your site connects to the broader human experience.
  3. 3. What are your site’s current periods of significance?
  4. 4. “We interpret the evolution of Lincoln's thinking and the impact of his ideas throughout time and in our world today, in a landscape that honors and respects its own history while embracing necessary change.” – Erin Carlson Mast, executive director, President Lincoln’s Cottage PHOTO: REPRODUCTION OF THE DESK THAT LINCOLN REPORTEDLY WORKED ON WHEN DEVELOPING DOCUMENTS SUCH AS THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION AT THE COTTAGE DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS OF HIS PRESIDENTCY CREDIT: DAVID PHILLIPICH, COPYRIGHT NTHP.
  5. 5. What are the current site themes?
  6. 6. Is the relevance of these themes limited to a single period of significance or do these themes reflect a broader human experience? ENTERING THE COTTAGE FROM THE VERANDA. PHOTO COURTESY PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S COTTAGE. PHOTO BY MICHAEL DEANGELIS
  7. 7. Brainstorming Exercise: List humanities themes related to your site and whether or not their significance is limited to a specific time and place, or illustrates a theme that continues to arise in contemporary society.
  8. 8. What types of audiences does your site currently attract?
  9. 9. Does your current audience reflect the diversity of the community/ies you serve? Are there important, site-specific stories that are relevant to your site that are not used because they fall outside your official period(s) of significance and/or themes? TODAY, JUST AS IN THE 1860's, VISITORS LEARN ABOUT THE IDEAS LINCOLN HELD AS WELL AS THE READING THAT INFORMED AND REFLECTED HIS IDEAS. CONTEMPORARIES RECOLLECT LINCOLN RECITING STANZA’S FROM ALEXANDER POPE’S ‘AN ESSAY ON MAN,’ AND READING ALOUD FROM SHAKESPEARE’S RICHARD III WHILE LIVING AT THE COTTAGE. PHOTO BY CAROL M. HIGHSMITH
  10. 10. Brainstorming Exercise: Itemize the stories, identifying significance to site, mission, and theme.
  11. 11. THE EXHIBIT “CAN YOU WALK AWAY?” LOOKS AT SLAVERY IN THE U.S. 150 YEARS AFTER LINCOLN’S EMANICIPATION PROCLAMATION PHOTO COURTESY OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S COTTAGE. PHOTOS: HOWARD + REVIS© “It is bad history to imply that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation or the 13th Amendment or any other legal action. Just because something is illegal doesn't mean it disappears. Rationally we know that, but it wasn't until we looked at the issue that we recognized there was so little awareness about the prevalence of slavery in our society today. We couldn't just tell people that slavery has continued, we had to provide more information and empower people to confront these issues.” – Erin Carlson Mast, executive director, President Lincoln’s Cottage
  12. 12. What are the limitations to your current interpretive program?
  13. 13. What obstacles, if any, may prevent you from modifying the site’s period of significance and interpretive themes? 97 ORCHARD STREET. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE TENEMENT MUSEUM. PHOTO BY GREG SCAFFIDI
  14. 14. Brainstorming Exercise: Itemize the potential obstacles, their impact, and support needed.
  15. 15. What additional research is needed to explore other periods of significance and themes? UNRESTORED HALLWAY AND ORIGINAL STAIRCASE AT 97 ORCHARD STREET. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE TENEMENT MUSEUM. PHOTO BY GREG SCAFFIDI
  16. 16. THIS INTERIOR AIRSHAFT AT 103 ORCHARD STREET IS A SURVIVOR OF THE BUILDING’S EARLIER INCARNATION AS THREE SEPARATE DUMBBELL TENEMENTS CONSTRUCTED IN 1888. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE TENEMENT MUSEUM “Surviving structures and spaces are gifts; they allow us, in our own time, to summon up the struggles and choices, the truths and values that past generations confronted and drew on in building lives, families and communities. It’s a tremendous opportunity—and responsibility—for the Tenement Museum to interpret this usable past, this guide to the present and the future, in its programs.” – Morris J. Vogel, president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
  17. 17. Brainstorming Exercise: What do you need to do to conduct targeted research to fill information gaps.
  18. 18. “We are embarking now on an ambitious new interpretation that will carry the immigration story into the recent past, into the period when the major sources of American immigration shifted away from Europe and to Asia, Latin America and Africa. This new exhibit will let us tell the story of present-day America in the same kind of immersive environments…that we have devoted to European immigrations.” – Morris J. Vogel, president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. TAX PHOTO, 103 ORCHARD ST., mid-1980s, NEW YORK CITY, DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE TENEMENT MUSEUM. .
  19. 19. Today, a number of historic house museums have realized that they have a role to play in addressing present-day concerns. They know that the stories they tell about “back then” are still relevant today, and that this history can form a basis for addressing and understanding social justice issues and current events. These museums are playing an innovative and unique role in helping today’s visitors understand that challenges faced by people a century or two centuries ago are still relevant in today’s world. From the Summer 2014 Forum Journal.
  20. 20.