ALHFAM 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference Fellowships

The application for fellowships to attend the 2018 ALHFAM Annual Meeting & Conference in Tahlequah, OK, June 1-5, 2018, is now available.

Fellowships are awarded to individual members who have not previously received a fellowship, and those who have not attended an ALHFAM annual conference are especially encouraged to apply.

Fellowships included full conference registration ($400) plus $300 towards travel or lodging expenses.

Applications are due on or before March 15, 2018, and recipients will be notified by April 1, 2018.

A link to the fellowship application can be found here:

If you have any questions, please contact Alisa Crawford, chair of the Fellowship Committee. Her contact information is on the application form.

We look forward to seeing you in June!

Martha Katz-Hyman
ALHFAM Communications Manager

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Walking the Talk

by James Macklen

Living history museums are great places to visit to see different lifestyles. We need to show our support as we are able. One of the best ways to show support is to incorporate some of the newly-discovered practices in our homes. That’s what I do on my farm, and antique equipment is my choice for getting work done.


I use a 1939 John Deere B with a flat belt attached to a buzz rig to process limb wood. It’s easier on my back to move along because I can stand up. While others are going to a gym to exercise, jumping from machine to machine and staring at a wall, I’m outdoors enjoying the scenery and sun. At the end of the day, it’s plain who’s had the greater overall benefit, especially when you consider that sometimes neighbors stop by to visit and lend a hand. Even kids can enjoy stacking wood when it’s a group effort. Suddenly, buzzing wood turns therapeutic for everyone. And even if no one comes, the simple joy of “thought” beats a cell phone conversation any day.

For haying, I match tractors to certain implements for maximum performance. For example, a John Deere 2630 is used to mow, a 1946 John Deere A to rake, and a 1964 John Deere 3020 to bale hay. I put up over 3,000 bales, and while there are others who put up way more, it’s still enough for me to keep my eye on the weather because I want a good product and so do my customers. When figuring out if the weather will hold to make hay, I listen to the weatherman and watch the signs and rhythms of nature. There’s a lot that happens right there in front of our eyes if we take the time to experience what nature tries to teach us.

Be prepared if you are successful with any new practice; it makes you hungry for another and another, and on it goes! Now is a good time to get started while antique equipment is being sold for a fraction of what it’s worth. We need to keep these valuable practices alive. Often, they don’t take any more time than the “labor saving devices” that are thrown in our faces every day.

James Macklen is a 2010 graduate of SUNY Cobleskill having majored in Diesel Mechanics.  He works full time as a diesel mechanic for Porter-Dale Farms and is the owner of a 100 acre farm, North 40 Clover  

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Cherokee National Treasures to Teach ALHFAM Conference Workshops

The 2018 Program Committee has been busy lining up some special workshops for the conference in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Three workshops will be taught by Cherokee National Treasures. National Treasures are Cherokee Nation citizens who have been recognized for their exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art forms and cultural practices.

Workshops will include:

Cherokee Basketry

A historical overview of round reed or “root runner” basketry will accompany the class on basket making.  After the Cherokee Removal, round reed baskets made from honeysuckle and buckbrush plants gained popularity. Students will make a typical Cherokee double-walled basket of commercial reed.


The art of twining bags with color designs is an old style of Cherokee textile weaving.  A short historical overview will be given.  Students will make a small bag and strap using the twining technique.


A brief history of Cherokee arrowhead making and use of aboriginal and modern tools will be taught.  Participants will keep modern tools.


Participants will make Cherokee moccasins, also known as pucker toe moccasins. A short historical overview, shoe measurements, and construction will be taught. Each participant will make a make a pair of deerskin moccasins.

Each of these workshops will have a limited enrollment so be sure to sign-up early.

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Accommodations for the 2018 Conference

Cobb Hall

Lodging accommodations for the 2018 conference will be in Cobb Hall on the campus of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Like me I know many of you left your college dorm days in the distant past, but Cobb Hall is nothing like my dorm experience. The dorm first opened for students in 2016. Each room has its own vanity area and two rooms share a separate shower and toilet area. Each room has a small refrigerator and microwave, but we promise to feed you enough so that the microwave is not really needed.

new hall room layout

Cobb Hall is named for Isabel Cobb (1858-1947), the first woman physician in Indian Territory. Cobb attended the Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah graduating in 1879. After continuing her education at Glendale Female College in Glendale, Ohio, Cobb returned to teach at the seminary from 1882 until it burned in 1887. She entered Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1888 receiving her medical degree in 1892. Cobb returned to the Cherokee Nation in 1893 to practice medicine. Working from a farmhouse on the family homestead, “Dr. Belle” primarily cared for women and children.

Find out more about Dr. Cobb at

A hotel option will be offered but nothing can be more convenient than Cobb Hall. It is a short walk (really I promise) from the dorm to the University Center where sessions, meals, the auction, and the presidential banquet will be held—all in the same building.

If you are a vendor make plans to set-up a booth in the vendor area. We have a lockable room so no there will be no need to pack up your wares at the end of the day.

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What was Indian Territory?

Hope you are making plans to attend the ALHFAM 2018 conference in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, June 1-5. Tahlequah was established in Indian Territory as the Cherokee capital by the Cherokee people in 1839. So what was Indian Territory and where was it?

In the late eighteenth century white settlers began migrating from the original thirteen colonies over the Appalachian Mountains and into the “West.” Around the turn of the nineteenth century they slowly began to move into the eastern parts of the Northwest Territory (the land owned by the United States west of Pennsylvania, east of the Mississippi and northwest of the Ohio River), and into parts of the Old Southwest, or Alabama, Mississippi, and western Kentucky and Tennessee. They viewed the Native peoples who resided there as an obstacle to be conquered or pushed further westward.

In 1803 the United States negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, which included all of the future state of Oklahoma except the panhandle. Although the boundaries remained undefined until the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty, the Mississippi River no longer served as the United States’ western boundary. President Thomas Jefferson envisioned an “Indian colonization zone,” in a north-south tier on the west bank of the Mississippi. Many people believed that removal of Indians to that area would permanently resolve the conflict between the original Native inhabitants and the Euro-Americans who were clamoring to “civilize” the continent. Whites would live east of the river, Indians west of it. The concept of an Indian zone solidified during the administration of President John Quincy Adams and later developed fully under the direction of President Andrew Jackson. A region conceived as “the Indian country” was specified in 1825 as all the land lying west of the Mississippi. Eventually, the Indian country or the Indian Territory would encompass the present states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and part of Iowa.

The Indian Removal process had begun by treaties soon after 1800. In addition, many tribes simply fled westward as the line of white settlement advanced. Some of the Cherokee moved west in the 1810s, with large migrations into west-central Arkansas in 1817. In 1820 the Choctaw agreed to accept land between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers and the Red River, in present-day Oklahoma. In 1828 the federal government engineered another treaty with the Western Cherokees in which they agreed to move further west

During the 1820s and 1830s dozens of tribes in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast were removed by treaty and under the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to force tribes to cede their lands east of the Mississippi for land west of the 95th Meridian . An 1834 Trade Act further defined “the Indian country” as all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri, Louisiana, or Arkansas Territory, or any other organized territory. Whites were excluded from the region, for most purposes, and trade with Indians was regulated. For judicial purposes, the northern region (mostly present Kansas) was attached to Missouri and the southern part (mostly present Oklahoma) to Arkansas Territory (after 1836, Arkansas state). In 1835 Isaac McCoy apparently used the words “the Indian Territory” for the first time in print.

The Creek, Seminole, and Chickasaw also succumbed to forced migration. All of these southeastern tribes thereafter inhabited the southern part of “the Indian Territory.” Similarly, numerous tribes of the Northeast and the Northwest Territory, including the Kickapoo, Miami, Delaware, and Shawnee, were removed into the northern part of present-day Kansas. Thus by 1840, Indian Territory had been populated by Native groups but was not a formal or organized territory. This land once again proved desirable to whites and with the 1854 Kansas and Nebraska Act, Congress formally organized those parts of northern Indian Territory into official territories that afterward became states (Kansas entered the Union in 1861 and Nebraska in 1867). After the Civil War ended, more Indian Nations were moved further south into the part of the Indian Territory that is present-day Oklahoma. Plains tribes, including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache, were concentrated on reservations in the western half of the territory. By 1889 more than three dozen tribes resided in “Indian Territory.”

The geographical area commonly called “Indian Territory” was never actually a territory. Congress never passed an organic act establishing Indian Territory. A few measures were proposed, and one bill was written for that purpose, but no action was taken so it remained unorganized. In the late nineteenth century the federal government began to assume more control over events transpiring in Indian Country. In March 1889 a law established a federal court system based at Muskogee, assuming judicial authority and jurisdiction that had been exercised by the Western District of Arkansas since the 1834 Trade Act. The 1889 measure for the first time specified enclosed boundaries for the Indian Territory, now officially reduced to an area bounded by Texas on the south, Arkansas and Missouri on the east, Kansas on the north, and New Mexico Territory on the west.

Removal map 72 no bgrnd (2)

Soon this area was reduced again. In May 1890, the Oklahoma Territory Organic Act reduced Indian Territory to slightly more than the eastern half of the present state of Oklahoma. Now a bona fide territory of the United States, Oklahoma Territory would be eligible for statehood if its population grew large enough and if its leaders followed the process prescribed by federal law. In the 1905 Sequoyah Convention, Indian leaders sought to bypass the territorial process and bring about separate statehood for Indian Territory. However, with the 1907 union of the Indian nations and Oklahoma Territory as the state of Oklahoma, a separate, Indian-dominated territory or state was no longer viable. During the twentieth century the generic term “Indian Territory” came to be used by historians, genealogists, and the public to represent the entire Oklahoma region during the pre-statehood period.


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The words you can’t say in a museum

There was no question that the 2017 annual meeting committee wanted to provide an energetic and provocative keynote address. We were delighted when Dustin Growick of Museum Hack accepted our invitation. Dustin mentioned that he had never attended a museum conference where he felt so welcome as he did with ALHFAM. That doesn’t surprise me. ALHFAM has always embraced an approach to history that engages the public. We are a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, actions-speak-louder-than-words organization.


When Dustin began his remarks, the slide behind him caught a few folks by surprise: “Museums are F****ing Awesome.” I couldn’t help but think of George Carlin’s skit, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television.” For some people, that was a little uncomfortable. I have tried inserting a lot of other words in the “F****ing” space and nothing quite fits. Do I believe Museums are F****ing Awesome?” Yes. Can I say it? Hmm. Not sure. Would I wear a T-shirt: probably not. But maybe the issue is whether I can get past the word and listen to the message. And although some of us might have been uneasy with the F word, I don’t think anyone walked out of the keynote address.

It had been my intention to have a follow-up session, where we could bat around some of the ideas that Dustin threw at us. That never came to fruition, and I regret that. I think the discussion would have been lively, provocative and productive. I would have enjoyed getting feedback from my ALHFAM colleagues.

A few months ago, I attended another presentation by Museum Hack at the annual meeting of the Museum Association of New York. That discussion revolved around some techniques they were attempting to introduce at the Corning Museum of Glass. I asked if they were offering “Bad Ass Bitches” tours, like they have offered at other museums. At Corning, these tours look at the women artists that are working in glass.

Having opened an exhibit about women’s history and suffrage at the LeRoy Historical Society, I wondered if I could offer a “Bad Ass Bitches” tour. The exhibit was titled “Remember the Ladies” (with reference to Abigail Adams’ comment to her husband as he went off to the Constitutional Convention. And we know what didn’t happen at the Convention.) How did I get from “Remember the Ladies” to “Bad Ass Bitches?”

Being in a small upstate New York town, advertising a “Bad Ass Bitches” tour might bring on my early retirement or being run out of town on a rail. The words are meant to be provocative and bring attention to the tour, but they might keep people away.*

I remember preparing my past president’s speech for the ALHFAM meeting in Ottawa in 2008. I had chosen to share my passion for museum work. Would it be possible to talk about passion, much less confess that I believe that passion drives most of us? I was buoyed by Sherene Suchy’s book, Leading with Passion: Change Management in the 21st Century Museum (Alta Mira Press, 2004.) This scholarly work shares Suchy’s research into successful museum directors around the world. The publisher originally rejected her choice of a title, believing that “passion” was not an appropriate word—not professional.

What is it about our choice of words that prevents us from becoming engaged? I remember a civil rights exhibit: I can’t remember the location, but I remember arriving at two doors. Above one was the sign “Whites only.” Above the other a sign read “Blacks only.” I could not go any further.   I did not see the rest of the exhibit. The words stood in the way.

How museums deal with the words that shouldn’t be spoken is a challenge. Consider the word “fun.” Is it OK for museums to be fun? Aren’t we supposed to be educational? For some of us, education is fun. It’s fun to explore and do research and share history, but to sell our programs to schools, God forbid that we even mention that the kids might have fun. That’s left to amusement parks and Disneyland. Do we want it known that museums are fun? It’s as if education and fun are diabolically opposed. In my mind, that needs to be changed.

So where does this conversation bring us? I am sorry that we missed the opportunity to sit around a table and talk about what Museum Hack says about museums. I believe that ALHFAM is an organization that shows its passion and is not afraid to do so. I believe museums are fun – or at least can be fun. I think that museums that buy into the ALHFAM mission have the best option to make learning and history fun. I believe that museums are f****ing awesome, and it didn’t take Museum Hack to convince me of that. It just took Museum Hack to put it in those words.  I also believe in the hanging curve ball – high fiber – good scotch . . . oops – sorry that was Crash Davis’ speech in Bull Durham.

*There is a post script to this: I have given a “Bad Ass Bitches” tour of “Remember the Ladies.” It was so popular that I have been asked to give two more.

Written by Lynne Belluscio, LeRoy Historical Society


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Museums are […..] Awesome! An ALHFAM 2017 Keynote Takeaway

I had great expectations for the keynote address at the ALHFAM conference in this year, and Dustin Growick, Audience Development Outreach Manager at Museum Hack did not disappoint. For those of you who could not be there or for those who might be in need of a reminder after returning to a desk piled with work, here are some of my takeaways from the keynote.

Kay Cynova.Museum Hack photoFirst, just reading the title of the session every morning is a great reminder.  I think I will make “Museums are F****ing Awesome!” my new screen saver.  Sometimes we get bogged down in all the day-to-day problems and forget this.  As a mentor once told me, “It’s not the lions and tigers that keep you from doing your job; it’s the barking of 10,000 Chihuahuas.”

Our goal should be to get people to come into our museum or historic site and love it as much as we do.  You can’t do that if you don’t stop and remind yourself once in a while why you went to work in the history field in the first place. The person I know who expressed this best was Lynne Belluscio in her past president’s address titled “Passion” in 2008. You can look-up excerpts through A.S.K. on the ALHFAM website. It is well worth your time to read, though it fails to capture Lynne’s wonderful delivery and sense of humor. According to Lynne, “Lost passion is tragic.” It is important to remember and share what first attracted us to history and what excited us about visiting a museum.

We need passion—there is that word again—based storytelling.  But a shortened story; please don’t try to tell the visitor everything you know.  As someone from Colonial Williamsburg said in a session in 2001, “Interpretation is not a data dump!” That was my first ALHFAM conference, and that stuck with me.  I have borrowed the line many times since.

We need activities giving visitors agency to participate in the meaning of their experience.  Our sites are uniquely prepared to offer this, but we need to make sure activities are presented in ways that encourage participation. Sometimes visitors simply do not know how to engage. The experience is often of being on the outside looking in. They don’t want to look stupid, especially if they are out of their element.  Remember you want them to become as passionate about your site as you are.  This can only happen if they feel welcomed, accepted, and safe. This also means allowing them to guide you to what most interests them. Dustin invites Museum Hack tour participants to photograph an item in a gallery they would most like to bring to a party. Once they gather he can then talk about the objects that speak to them.

Make the visitors feel like they are getting a VIP experience.  This means keeping groups small which can be a challenge during peak school tour season. According to Dustin, millennials love experiences over things.  While I don’t argue with that statement, I don’t think it is limited to millennials.  As a baby boomer, I don’t need more things.  I look for fun and meaningful experiences for myself and my family. This is also true for my 82 year old father who is spending his summer fishing in Alaska. The only presents I can give him at this point are experiences. Hum, maybe we should market Father’s Day or Mother’s Day experiences or birthday and Christmas experiences for the hard to buy for? He started plowing behind a team of mules when he was five so maybe he would like to try his hand at that again?

The interpreter is the cruise director for the museum experience.  Those of you who have been on a cruise or who are old enough to remember Love Boat, know what this means.  It is the cruise director’s job to make sure total strangers are enjoying themselves. The challenge is that people enjoy themselves in different ways, but the cruise director is always full of enthusiasm and attentive to everyone.

Our tours need to have a mic drop moment.  I don’t think anyone can tell you what this is.  It will be unique to you and your site.

Finally, visitors should leave with a tangible takeaway.  In his tours at the American Museum of Natural History, Dustin gives every participant a small plastic dinosaur with the mission to go find their dinosaur, take a selfie with it, and learn one thing about it to come back and share with the group. Perhaps we could do that with an animal or a piece of equipment? With cheap wireless printers that connect to the phones, everyone leaves Dustin’s tour with a photo.  And all those selfies they took get shared all over social media with positive comments about their experience.

Museum Hack tours are fun and irreverent. This works for them, but irreverent and fun doesn’t work everywhere. Some museums and sites deal with tragic events which require a more reverent approach.  Near my home, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, for instance, is not a place for frivolity. The emotionally draining nature of the museum makes it a place you don’t return to often.  I take out-of-town visitors there, but I drop them off and return to pick them up. The museum has found ways to deal with this through innovative programming that teaches students to design buildings to withstand natural and man-made disasters, as well as programs on how to investigate a crime scene. Most of us do not have this type of challenge, and we need to give our visitors permission to have fun and not take themselves, or us, too seriously.

It is a sobering statistic that half of the population does not believe museums are for them.  We have to change that, and the only way is to rekindle our passion and spark it in others.

For those of you who were there, what did you take away from the keynote?

–Kathy Dickson

Kathy Dickson is a recent ALHFAM board member and director of Museums and Historic Sites for the Oklahoma Historical Society. She stumbled into the museum field over 30 years ago and never left.








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