Award Winning Public History Project Final Report

 The Final Report from the award winning and yearlong Delaware County Public History Feasibility Study and Implementation project has been posted to the Delaware County Planning Department web site.  Heritage Consulting Inc. was the lead consultant for the client, the Delaware County Planning Department. The report is also posted at the bottom of this blog piece. The project was a Grand Jury Award winner from the 2011 Preservation Achievement Award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

 Project goals The goal of the Delaware County Public History Feasibility Study and Implementation Plan was to determine how to best remedy the underutilized nature of historical organizations throughout the County and determine how these entities can better cooperate and coordinate efforts to present a more inclusive interpretation of our history that reflects all periods, peoples and geographic portions of the county.  An additional goal is to preserve the County’s irreplaceable public historic resources, make history available to the public as an educational tool with better efficiency and success and help foster revitalization.

 In order to achieve this goal the study identified six outcomes:

Project components The project included an on line survey (80% response rate) and personal interviews with 40 of the 80 history organizations to determine current conditions.  The data compiled is a rich source of information that can be used to apply for grants in the future or to guide individual organizations in their organizational planning.  After the survey, we hosted seven focus groups to gain insights as part of a larger SWOT analysis.  The outcome of the surveys and focus groups gave insights about how these historical organizations could best cooperate and collaborate now and in the future.  The consultants interviewed school leaders to discuss specific challenges associated with increasing the use of historic sites by local schools.  A chapter in the Final Report includes specific recommendations to improve the integration of local historical resources into school curricula.  Additional research was conducted about the specific links and relationships between public history and community and neighborhood revitalization, especially heritage tourism.

Recommendations The Study’s Recommendations are divided into early action (activities occurring during the study period), short-term (1-2 years), mid-term (3-5 years), and long-term (5-10 year) projects. All of these projects are designed to improve the effectiveness and impact of public history and its associated activities within the county. The recommendations identify new opportunities for public history interpretation and specific ways that organizations can engage new audiences, highlighting recent trends and changes in audience preferences.

 Implementation One of the opportunities identified during the SWOT analysis is the potential to mitigate weaknesses and threats through an aggressive effort to provide training and technical assistance to the 80 historical organizations.  We suggested that a series of public meetings be held during the yearlong project, which would include sessions during the Study.  We identified needs for technical assistance and offered two training sessions on volunteer recruitment and fund raising for small organizations.  Building on the list that Heritage Consulting compiled of needed technical assistance topics, the Delaware County Heritage Commission will devote its annual Seminar to Collections Management in April 2011/

 Communication tools One of the major issues discussed throughout the Study process was the need for more communication among the organizations.  This led to the formation of a listserve, the Delaware County Historic and Preservation Network, which was organized in December 2009.  The DCHPN  organization is open to all and hosts a web site, list serve, and is serving as a robust communication tool.  One recommendation of the Public History Study was to evolve the listserv into a consortium of organizations comprised of representatives from the various historical organizations.

 Implementation Activities Since the completion of the Study in the summer of 2010, DCHPN has met twice to begin discussing the project and deciding on how to continue the momentum that the Study began.  The recommendations encouraged historical organizations in Delaware County to create more formal collaborative efforts, including meetings between similar organizations.  At the first meeting of DCHPN, the Historic Architectural Review Board representatives felt it would be very beneficial to organize a countywide HARB meeting, and DCPD is organizing that meeting for spring 2011.  A workshop for the DCHPN is planned for spring with the Delaware County Intermediate Unit representatives to help sites learn more about the needs of teachers when they visit historic sites.  Delaware County Planning Department believes the continued implementation of this Study will lead to improved preservation and promotion of the county’s history and historic resources.  DCPD staff will continue to facilitate and coordinate additional collaborative activities during 2011.  The County Planning Department is excited about the progress made to date, and anticipate other innovative projects will result.

 Final Report Available The Final Report for this project is available on the  web site of the Delaware County Planing Department http://www.co.delaware.pa.us/planning/historicpreservation/publichistory.htm . The report contains more than 20 pages of recommendations. The Delaware County Historic and Preservation Network (www.dchpn.org) is coordinating implementation activities.