Statement from the American Association for State and Local History

Nashville, TN—Recent events, from Ferguson to Cleveland and New York, have created a momentum of civic debate that has gained international attention.  Movements toward greater cultural understanding and broadening avenues of communication need to be supported by our country’s cultural and educational institutions. As integral members of American society, history organizations have a responsibility to collect, interpret, and engage in our country’s history, including both the harmonious and the controversial histories.

Difficult histories include the recollections of controversy. By commemorating and teaching difficult histories, organizations and museums can make a powerful statement to the collective narrative effectively demonstrating that difficult histories matter in the present. Museums and history organizations must take risks to represent difficult histories, even when they are uncomfortable and even painful to recall. Historical representations of difficult histories have the power to awaken a passion in citizens by asking them to look at history from multiple viewpoints, viewpoints that can reveal the struggles for a more just and compassionate moral order.

AASLH continues to lead and advocate for inclusive interpretation that reflects all voices with mutual respect. As our nation grapples with the events surrounding Ferguson, Cleveland and New York, AASLH encourages all its members to look to their history collections and their position within their communities, and to participate in community healing by providing access to history exhibits, programs, and educational materials. AASLH offers these resources to learn more about interpreting controversial history and the role history organizations can play in their community

“AASLH is committed to the cause of interpreting difficult history and using that power to make a difference in the present and the future,” said Bob Beatty, AASLH Interim President and CEO. “We encourage our members and stakeholders to read the statements and blog posts from the field.”

Statement from the Association of African American Museums
Statement from the New England Museum Association

Participating Bloggers and Colleagues
Gretchen Jennings, Museum Commons
Aletheia Wittman and Rose Paquet Kinsley, The Incluseum
Aleia Brown,
Steven Lubar, On Public Humanities
Mike Murawski, Art Museum Teaching
Linda Norris, The Uncataloged Museum
Paul Orselli,  ExhibiTricks: A Museum/Exhibit/Design Blog
Ed Rodley, Thinking About Museums
Adrianne Russell, Cabinet of Curiosities
Nina Simon, Museum 2.0
Rainey Tisdale, CityStories
Jeanne Vergeront, A Museum Notes

About AASLH: Since 1940, AASLH provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all Americans. Our membership includes over 6,000 individuals and institutions from rural communities, urban sites, small historical societies, and large history centers across the United States. For this diverse membership, AASLH offers programs and services designed to advance the goals and standards of the field of state and local history. For more information, visit