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Hello everyone!

Our group is looking to start a History Hall of Fame for our county, and I am curious if anyone else has done such a project as well as what was good and/or bad about it. We would like to have nominations be made each year, with the presentation of inductees at our annual Chautauqua event in July. The questions that come to mind are: Do we limit the number of inductees per year? Do we let anyone nominate someone or just members? We would like to have some sort of plaque that would have the inductees picture and why they are inducted, would it be too tacky to get corporate sponsorship for these plaques? Im sure I will think of more, but I just cant right now.

There’s a PDF example at the Anderson County Museum in South Carolina, if anyone would like to see an example.


Mr. Kelly Herold

Buffalo County Historical Society, Alma, WI

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6 Responses to History Hall of Fame

  1. Deborah Morse-Kahn says:

    Who judges the nominations and is final arbiter of the lucky winner?
    Are nominations made anonymously?
    Can nominations be made by an organization promoting its own staffperson?

    The first question almost automatically begs the question of authority and standing to award such honors, and therein lies the possibility of hurt feelings and oversided egos. 🙂

    I love the idea but I think we are far more effective rewarding a program or place rather than a person: any exhibit is a group effort, any NR nomination is a group effort, any saving of a site is a community effort.


  2. Mike Worcester says:

    Personally, I would tread very carefully, if at all, on this idea.

    Several years ago, our chamber of commerce wanted to do something similar, like a Business of the Year. What we kept running in to–and the reason for its eventual scrapping–was that despite all our best efforts to make the process unbiased, both in appearance and reality, it was impossible to avoid the assertion. One business owner told me flat out that all you do is "piss off the other business owners" when you do something like this.

    The other issue that can come into play is gender. How many women were not able to make significant contributions to their communities when they were alive due to social norms. Unfair? Yes. Reality for them at that time? Yes.

    Schools that have hof’s also run into the same problems. For instance, some will only honor those who were involved in athletics, which is grossly unfair to those who might have brough recognition to their school in the arena of dramatics, forensics, or other non-sweat inducing activities.

    One possible solution would be to do something less permanent, like a series of articles by the historical society in the local paper or on your web site denoting people who made an impact on the community. It has almost the same effect, but not necessarily the permanence of a "hall of fame."

    Either way, good luck!



  3. Claudia Nicholson says:

    Oh dear, I guess I’ll wade in here.

    In a recent post on Museum-L, I called Halls of Fame "dreadful". By that, I mean that they usually tell us very little about the honorees, don’t put their work in any meaningful context, and are selected by criteria that are only understood by insiders, so it is usually impossible for the public to truly understand how people do or do not get in [Pete Rose, for example, was a fantastic baseball player, and a pretty lousy human being–so by what criteria are the Baseball writers denying him the Baseball Hall of Fame?].

    I think that "Halls of Fame" are often got up to either promote the subject, raise money for a larger project, or promote the area that houses the Hall. In the long run, if they do not expand and include a museum that tells this bigger story, they will die from lack of it. And many "Halls of Fame" have been set up as programs to honor people in a field (or locale), but do not have a venue in which to show their stuff. These homeless Halls are the saddest thing of all.

    Proceed with caution, and plan, plan, plan.



  4. Dan Wodarcyk says:

    A good idea and certaonly "fame" can be measured even in modest proprtions. The other posters have added great commentary about planning, selection, community involvement, etc. My input has to do with design approach. I would think beyond a "plaque" and think more along the lines of a "panel" at the least. A panel approach will allow you the room to tell a story about the individual rather than just an etched name and face. A changing display area or case would allow for a special exhibition each year where you can focus on that year’s inductees, while introducing a new wall panel as well. Just my few cents.


  5. June Lynne says:

    Wow, a lot of information. Our organization has done a Hall of Fame for many years now. Each year the Board of Directors selects a candidate for inclusion. This is not to promote a hall, raise money, etc. It is a sincere reflection on our organization and the volunteers within it. These are the "we can’t do it without them" types who have given a great deal of themselves to our organization. Is it an honor, yes. For the recognition, we simply have a wall with professionally done pictures of our inductees on it. Perhaps our organization is different, but there are no hard feelings. The one word used over and over again is "well deserved". This is not a competition and the candidate never has an idea they are chosen until they receive notification in the male. Our Hall of Fame is one aspect of this organization that I hope they never change!


  6. Kelly Herold says:

    The interesting part, is that by only allowing deceased people or defunct groups to be nominated, we seem to avoid most, if not all, of the problems you guys have addressed. As far as gender equity, etc., if people want to go there, I would be happy to let them with the return comment, "Then nominate that gender!" This would also give a chance to honor people that don’t otherwise get honored. How often do you go into a museum and see something honoring the founder of a city, county, etc. It’s not too often because there just isn’t the ability to find family, etc. often. This would give people a chance to at least see the person’s picture (if available) as well as something describing why they were nominated and became members of the HOF. I don’t think any small museum should be looking to make individual displays on each member of the HOF. There isn’t space for such things, but if people want to donate things, it just adds to the collections as a whole. Thank you guys for giving me things to think about!


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