Making Connections to the World of Higher Ed

By Andrea Brookover

Dennis Shay, Fairfield Heritage Association intern, cleans a historic firearm. collection
Dennis Shay, Fairfield Heritage Association intern, cleans items from a historic firearm collection.

Many small historical organizations spend lots of time and energy developing relationships with K-12 schools in their regions, which is certainly a valiant cause. But why not direct some of that energy into forging relationships with local universities and colleges? For some, it may seem a bit intimidating to approach academia, especially if you are a volunteer-run organization without professional museum staff. Don’t let that prevent you from the wonderful opportunities that collaborations with these institutions can provide. From internships to programming, the prospects are seemingly endless – here are just a few ideas:

  1. Reach out – Contact professors in a variety of departments, not just history, to advertise internship opportunities at your institutions. We all can utilize students who are knowledgeable in graphic design (think: exhibit panels), communications (think: press releases) and even finance (think: grant budgets). Students are being encouraged by their advisors to get practical experience as they decide what to do “when they grow up.” You can provide unique opportunities to show students what their options are in the private sector.
  2. Contribute to curriculum – Offer to open your archives to students for classes requiring primary research. Offer to give tours of your facility to history classes. Offer to give class presentations on jobs in the museum field or topics on local history. Don’t wait for the invitation – you make the first contact, in turn making a great impression.
  3. Recruit speakers – Professors can be great public speakers, so develop a lecture series that features speakers from your local university. Focus on any variety of topics, from local history to women’s studies to cultural diversity. Bring new learning experiences to your community by partnering with different academic departments for out-of-the-box lecture opportunities.

What partnerships has your organization forged with higher education institutions? Share your experiences and insights in the comments section below.

Andrea Brookover is a Region 6 representative of the Ohio Local History Alliance and Executive Director of the Fairfield Heritage Association in Lancaster, Ohio.

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