Alphabet Soups

At recent meetings people have made comments both ways about the number of organizations to which local historical societies can belong. Some have said so many confuse people, but others have said the specifics of the missions of the organizations are helpful in weeding out less-relevant affiations. How do you choose from so many (AASLH, AAM, MALHM, MAM, MOMCC, etc.)? Are there too many? Or, is specialization of mission useful to you?

As a reminder, the 2002 Local History Survey found that 77 percent of Minnesota’s local historical organizations responding to the survey, belonged to at least one professional development organization. The most prefered at that time was Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums followed by the American Association for State and Local History. Since then the economy forced us all to make some tough choices in 2003-2005. Did your memberships in professional development organizations survive cuts?

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4 Responses to Alphabet Soups

  1. Mike Worcester says:

    In addition to being members of the Alliance and AASLH, we are also Institutional Members of MHS. Our by-laws specify this. We were also at one time, members of AAM, but we dropped that in favour if keeping just AASLH. Cost was definitely a factor. There are other groups I would like us to be members of, such as the Preservation Alliance and the Council on NonProfits.

    When I am asked by our board why we should join these groups, my usual response is the "learning from each other" routine, and that being members gives us access to pertinent information and to network with fellow museum/society professionals.


  2. Claudia Nicholson says:

    I definitely think there are too many organizations, but there will not be fewer until somebody figures out how to serve the needs of an incredibly diverse population of institutions with one all-purpose professional organization.

    Let’s look at the upside of the situation: many organizations means many opportunities to serve. I wouldn’t trade my board service in any organization that I’ve belonged to for all the tea in China. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get to know people and institutions across the state, region, and nation. These connections strengthen us all, because then we know who is doing something just like what we want to do. I HATE reinventing the wheel, and avoid it whenever possible. And, once you have a face to go with a name, it is much easier to pick up the phone and call somebody for help.

    We continue the same orgs that we’ve always belonged to, and haven’t been faced with hard choices – yet (that day is quickly coming, though). I have to say that our membership in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has paid for itself many times over, and is well worth the $50/year it costs. Your mileage may vary.

    The one I am frustrated with is AAM, mostly because it has given up the small- and medium-sized museum market to regional, state, and local organizations. We’re all doing the same things and the only difference is scale. I wish they’d find a way to tame that beast. In terms of fundraising, administration, education, and outreach, all museums are engaged in the same work, and we really can learn from all other museums, both large and small. Probaby the only reason we are keeping our AAM membership is because I do find the annual meeting to be an energizing occasion that I try to go to whenever I can. I’d be in Chicago this weekend myself, but for the ton of personal stuff going on with a daughter about the graduate from high school.

    So until that happy day when one organization does it all, Viva the Alphabet Soup!



  3. Mary Warner says:

    We belong to the American Association of Museums (AAM), the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums (Alliance or MALHM), and the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) as institutional members. Sorry about spelling all those out for those in the know, but I’m making the assumption that there will be some readers who don’t know what all these alphabetic soups stand for.

    The primary benefit of them all is that they keep us connected to the wider museum community. For the national groups (AAM & AASLH), we can’t afford to take part in the conferences or annual meetings, but we use their magazines and newsletters to stay informed about larger trends and federal legislation. Claudia is right about MCN; our membership has paid for itself many times over. There are so many legalities to follow and MCN makes this easier. Our memberships in MALHM and MHS give us opportunities to get together with our state museum colleagues, as well as letting us know what’s going on.


  4. Monta Lee Dakin says:

    Service organizations keep people in the loop and abreast of current issues facing our museum community. Hopefully, all of this makes our museums better. The key is finding the one that works for you and your museum.

    Mountain-Plains Museums Association – a regional organization – is hosting its annual museum confernece in Fargo, ND, on September 10-14, 2007. If you want to attend a conference that is close by to Minnesota and will include small and medium size museums and their challenges, check out the program on MPMA’s web site: MPMA always has a great program (this year’s focus is technology, leadership and preservation) and a fun one, too (first ever Museum Idol!).


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