About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Sunday March 21, 2010, St. Paul Pioneer Press carried an interview between Dan Carr of “The Collaborative” and Gov. Tim Pawlenty. In the interview, Gov. Pawlenty makes a statement that “we have a government that is kind of a 1940s industrial model in a world that is becoming an iPad. Those two things are going to be reconciled and the marketplace will decide this.”

Politics aside, the remark prompted a parallel thought, replacing “government” with “historical society” and “marketplace” with “user.”

Some kinds of cultural institutions will have less trouble adapting to changes and expectations. One can easily see how children’s museums in particular can allow individuals to be in charge of robust choices in real time. Historical organizations also will easily adapt to the expectation of less emphasis on physical location through the addition of digital content and being able to share history outside of its bricks-and-mortar location, though the storage of documentation has to happen somewhere.

However, historical organizations may have more difficulty in letting go control of the facts of history and how the story is presented. Or will it be?

In what ways have you begun to adapt to more modern expectations? Specifically how have you attempted to stay ahead of this rapidly changing set of expectations? In what ways might historical organizations stuck in a “1940s industrial model”?

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