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ALHFAM members carry countless exceptional skills into the fields, forges, houses, and workplaces where they bring history to life. The Skills Training and Preservation (“STP”) initiative documents the skills, practices, processes, systems and arts they preserve — and shares them through training resources accessible to all members.
A permanent ALHFAM Board committee and a new, online resource center support this organization-wide STP initiative. To guide the work of teaching, learning and perpetuating skills, the STP initiative embraces these goals:
The STP committee works with all Board Committees, Regional Representatives, Professional Interest Groups and members to ensure that all skill-related needs, opportunities, and documentation projects are inclusive, broad-based, and accessible to all.
STP Committee Members and Leadership
As part of its 2018-2020 Strategic Workplan, the ALHFAM Board embraced the goal of positioning ALHFAM as the leading authority in the museum field with respect to heritage skill preservation and presentation, living history interpretation, and historic agriculture. To advance this goal, the Board established a new permanent committee charged with the work of "preserving historic skills and transferring these skills to current practitioners of living history and historic agriculture in museums."
The new committee began its task by designing a 2-year project to consolidate existing and new skill resources for members and to help members establish skill management and skill-succession planning at their sites. Extension and expansion of the project is part of the Board's long-term commitment to ALHFAM members.
Skills Preservation as Collections Management
Collections Management is a skill that is widely held among museum professionals, yet one that is not uniformly applied to collections of non-material culture – the practices, processes, systems, arts and skills that are preserved and presented through "living history."
The importance of creating, managing and using living history collections to advance the fields of historical research, documentation and education is not an endeavor peculiar to ALHFAM, its partners in Association for International Agricultural Museums (AIMA) and International Association of Archaeological Open-Air Museums (EXARC), or to re-enactors of military, industrial or social history. However, collecting “skills” is rarely if ever seen in traditional museums.
The unusual concept of collecting skills is where ALHFAM shares a common goal with United Nations Education and Science Foundation (UNESCO). The work of collecting “'intangible culture”' is key to UNESCO’s goals, which include the protection of “cultural heritage”' as a fundamental requirement of sustainable global development and the quest for world peace:
"The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. (It)...does not end at monuments and collections of objects ...(but) ...includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts."
Creating the Culture of Skills Awareness
One of ALHFAM's greatest challenges is to take inventory of, document and share the countless, incredible array of skills held by, and offered through, its membership. To enable this, we must create a culture that recognizes skills that are being lost, or soon to be lost, and find ways to place them in new hands. We must learn to take the knowledge and skill we have as curators of material culture and apply it to the business of preserving the intangible culture of skills.
We also must become proficient at sharing skills with the public, enabling them to use their hands in problem solving -- allowing them try their hand at the doing, making and work that we bring to life. As museum professionals entrusted with the collection and care of those skills, we are challenged to teach them not just to our colleagues, but to all. "Intangible cultural heritage ...depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs is passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation...". ~ UNESCO Intangible Heritage
April 2020 Update:During this time of reduced public, or while you are working at home or on hiatus, the Skills, Training and Preservation Committee (STP) invites you to make a 3-5 minute SkillClip OR even a short lesson of history or living history museums.
Example Skillclips ideas can include:
If you are looking for useful things to do during this national slowdown, use this time well to help teach your colleagues. Make a Skillclip or short lesson of history.
February 2020 Update:
The Skills Training and Preservation (STP) has been going gangbusters both adding to ALHFAM’s SkillClips Library as well as receiving videos to add to the library! As of early February 2020, we have 20 videos in the library, thanks to our Digital Assets Intern as well as contributions from our members. See the library here - and remember: you must log into the ALHFAM website to see the library: https://alhfam.org/SkillClips-Library
Would you like to make your own SkillClips, that share a skill or important facet of history (farm skill, trade, or other skill) or presenting a museum skill (collections, curation, preservation, interpretation, etc)? Not only do we have basic information about making videos, but more advanced information is coming out very soon. Basic information: https://alhfam.org/How-to-Make-a-SkillClip
Our Regional conferences SEALHFAM, MAALHFAM, as well as ALHFAM 2020 will all have skill workshops on How to Make SkillClips : https://alhfam.org/Skills-workshops
December 2019 Update:
ALHFAM’s Skills Training and Preservation Initiative (STP for short) formed as a committee in 2018 and formally debuted in June 2019 at the ALHFAM Annual Meeting, held in Midland, Ontario. The goal is simple: to preserve and teach skills of the past and skills of presenting the past - that is, the skills of living history. With an ambitious plan for a library of video “SkillClips” (short videos of skills), more hands-on workshops and presentations, and valuable partnerships, ALHFAM is positioning itself as the leader in the skills of bringing history to life.
The new SkillClips Library is available to anyone with a login to ALHFAM’s website. On the website, not only can a member learn from the library, but also learn how to make SkillClip videos and to submit videos. This SkillClips program has already invigorated museum site staffs to film seasonal chores and farm events - as the news of the successful program spread, a large library is planned. All submitted video details are searchable using ALHFAM’s online database, the ALHFAM Skills and Knowledgebase (“A.S.K.”), so if one is searching for not only material on a living history subject, a “how-to” video might be available too. The A.S.K. interface and computer servers are also being upgraded, so it will be easier to search for information.
As a sideline activity, the STP even started "SkillClips Visit” program to help sites identify possible skills and situations ripe for SkillClips material, and to introduce methods and techniques for videotaping. The model for the SkillClips visit program is based on “Ag Visits” model: visit sites to teach them skills on their own turf. A test of this program in NJ has already generated excitement and enthusiasm for filming skills and for creating a video library in individual sites. The “SkillClips Visit" hopes to roll out to sample regions sometime soon.
As part of the STP, hands-on skills workshops are a valuable part of teaching skills of the past. Thanks to periodic surveys, ALHFAM has a list of what skills members are seeking to learn and upgrade. To that end, the STP’s first non-conference skills workshop debuted this September: the first 2-day STP workshop on plowing, under the assistance and hosting of Tillers International in Scott, MI. With Jim Slining’s help and experience, Tillers and the STP organized and executed two days of concentrated practical field experience, providing an opportunity for each participant to develop a platform on which to safely and accurately further develop skillful plowing into skillful historic agricultural programming at their home site. Tillers is the leader in providing small-scale farmers in developing countries to improve food security concerns in their communities, and creates classes in woodworking, metal working, and animal handling to support their educational efforts for these developing countries. ALHFAM recognizes the high value that Tillers provides, and is proud and humbled that Tillers agreed to partner with the STP for this first (and perhaps just the first of many) stand-alone non-conference workshop.
For the future, the STP has big hopes for special partnerships with other museum organizations, more “how to create your SkillClip” workshops, workshops in valuable museum skills, living history presentation skills, as well as historical trades and skills. There are even plans for online classes (recorded or live-streaming) for people who cannot travel due to financial issues, time constraints, or other reasons. We expect to upgrade our video offerings to start the plans for these online classes.
The STP invites all ALHFAM members, sites, and regions to visit the STP on the ALHFAM website, learn about the program, and to develop workshops, presentations, SkillClips, which can help our whole ALHFAMily in every region - in person and online.