For the past four years, History Relevance has been creating united voice in the history field. Our ultimate goal is that people will value history for its relevance to modern life and use historical thinking skills to actively engage with and address contemporary issues. I am one of the volunteers from many organizations that help run the History Relevance effort, and I serve on its Executive Committee and Steering Committee.

The message below is an annual update about History Relevance activities.

-John Dichtl
AASLH President & CEO

New Year Update from the History Relevance Campaign

The value of history – both understanding historical events and the process by which we analyze them – has been demonstrated many times in 2016. The skill at the very core of the research process, critical thinking, cannot be overemphasized in today’s society. Evidenced-based inquiry and discussion is more important than ever.

The History Relevance Campaign was busy in 2016.

We held an evening event during AAM’s Museum Advocacy Day and introduced more organizations to our efforts.

We gave several presentations at state, regional, and national conferences.

In May we convened a gathering at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and heard from Richard Kurin, Acting Provost of the Smithsonian.


The History Relevance Steering Committee meeting at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, February 2016.

The History Relevance Steering Committee meeting at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, February 2016.

And in October we convened a meeting at the National Archives and heard from Archivist of the US David Ferriero who said he is a fan of HRC’s work.

Both meetings gathered representatives from organizations with national scope, including American Alliance of Museums, National Park Service, National Archives, Library of Congress, Smithsonian, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Coalition for History, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Civil War Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute for Museum and Library Services, Center for History and New Media, National History Day, and others.

A direct result of the May meeting was a renewed emphasis on development of a template to measure impact of history organizations, and this effort became the primary focus of the October meeting.


The October 2016 History Relevance meeting.

The October 2016 History Relevance meeting.

We are exploring options for a grant to create this set of common metrics for measuring the impact of history organizations, and have been drafting proposals and speaking with national and local partners.

This month HRC will debut a new website that will serve as a clearinghouse for tools and news to share the work of HRC.

We continue to build a relationship with the National Governors Association.

We’ve begun a collaboration with LINK Strategic Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm, to create a communications plan to help the field be more strategic about how we talk about history. We’re grateful for LINK’s shared vision and generosity in donating their skills and time.

The HRC steering committee is comprised of sixteen members who represent a variety of history organizations that span the breadth of the country.  Several new members were added this past year.


John Dichtl and other members of the Historic Relevance Campaign Steering Committee meet in DC in October 2016

AASLH’s John Dichtl and other members of the History Relevance Campaign Steering Committee meet in DC in October 2016

The number keeps growing.

Over 150 organizations and counting have endorsed the HRC Value of History statement, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, the National Humanities Alliance, and Conner Prairie. Check the full list at and please invite organizations to sign on.

We encourage you to challenge your colleagues in history to use the language in the Value statement. Please also share any successful ways that you have employed the Value statement.

Here are two elegant videos by state historical societies that incorporate the Value statement:

Made by History

History Is Essential

Happy 2017!

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