The many Zoom history presentations that I’ve attended in the last 10 months make one thing very apparent. As a group, we are not doing an effective job of engaging young people in appreciating our local history and preparing them to take up the challenge of historic preservation. Societies that stand out are those that specifically target that demographic with ideas and tools that are clearly working. One such group is the Friends of Jonathan Clark House in Mequon, Wisconsin. Executive Director Nina Look, Ph.D.; Assistant Director Anne Bridges; and Board Secretary Margaret Bussone, have graciously provided me with a list of steps that they’ve taken to tackle this challenge. They are (in no particular order):
- Enlist a good photographer to take photos of young historians so that you can use them in your newsletter and exhibits.
- Engage a group of retired teachers as a volunteer education team. Be certain that they are internet and Facebook savvy. They know the state and local curriculum, they are tremendously creative, and they understand and love children.
- Develop a collaborative program with the local recreation department. Just being in their programming catalogue provides a great deal of promotion to young families. Be prepared for high demand and ways to connect with the parents of the participants.
- Always include at least one photo of a young historian in your newsletter.
- Give young historians the opportunity to contribute to your newsletter.
- Get young historians involved and recruit members to serve as mentors. Give older young historians the chance to teach younger visitors historic games, crafts, and housekeeping skills.
- Always be on the lookout for young historian recruits.
- Find ways to promote to young historians, i.e., library exhibit cases, and nature center fairs that attract young families.
- Acquire costumes in different sizes.
- Recruit young historians to help set up and break down events.
- Contact local 4-H and scout troops for volunteers
- Hold a special event where grandparents can bring their grandchildren.
Along with this list, Dr. Look provided samples of documents for children, mentors, and members to use in recruitment and engagement. If you’d like samples emailed to you, just let me know.
What is your historical society doing to attract young people to your cause, and what do you do to keep them engaged once they join? Write to me and I’ll post those responses in future blogs.