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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Have You Ever Had a “White Hot?”

Photos courtesy of Genesee Country Village & Museum

You can mark experiencing a “white hot” off your bucket list if you join us at the opening reception for the 2017 ALHFAM conference. But wait! Don’t dig in until you’ve taken the official tutorial on building a “garbage plate” or a “beef on weck” sandwich.

ALHFAM has gathered in many places for the annual conference, but never in western New York State at Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M), the nation’s third largest living history museum. The Museum is named after the Genesee Country, the region west of Seneca Lake along the mighty Genesee River. Christened “Beautiful Valley” by native tribes, the Genesee Valley sits on the cusp of the Finger Lakes region just minutes from Rochester, NY, and is home to green fields and farms surrounding both urban and suburban communities.  In addition to the rich agricultural industries – apples, dairy, grapes, cabbage and corn – this area has cultivated a rich heritage of social and economic change.

The conference theme, “Breaking Through Barriers: Living History in Modern Times,” addresses the challenges faced by living history sites and interpreters working to convey the complexities of the past while navigating the hurdles presented by our modern world. For the last several years GCV&M has been breaking through its own barriers as it inspires excitement and curiosity about our past amid a growing audience. The 2017 ALHFAM conference will motivate attendees to overcome obstacles that may inhibit accessibility, communication, creativity, growth, or sustainability at their institutions and in their programming.

This year’s program features not to be missed opportunities including keynote speaker Dustin Growick, Audience Development Outreach Manager at Museum Hack. Growick will address tactics for supplementing lecture-based, dialogue-focused programming with a fearless, infectiously passionate voice that audiences can’t help but be attracted to. Since its inception in 2013 Museum Hack’s renegade band of museum-lovers has been at the forefront of rethinking traditional visitor experiences. Working with the mindset that visitors should savor works that resonate, rather than see it all, Museum Hack incorporates inquiry, storytelling, movement, challenges, and a little sass to put an alternative spin on museums. The folks behind the pioneering company are unapologetically head-over-heels in love with history, as are most museum professionals. The difference is relaxing traditional programming models to bring out the juicy bits that appeal to a wider audience.

In this same vein, the seminars being offered embrace challenging topics such as interpreting the sick and disabled, making younger (children) and older (seniors) generations part of the conversation, and reconciling reproduction items with curatorial collections. Of particular interest are those sessions focused on ground-breaking experiences at peer institutions; i.e., the implementation of engaging and educational theatrical presentations at Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site & Archives, and Fort Nisqually Living History Museum’s manipulation and inclusion of cultural fads. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce discusses the development of provocative sites in ghost tourism, while GCV&M will spotlight its own out-of-the-box summer camp programming.

The presidential banquet will be hosted at one of Rochester’s trendiest hot spots – Village Gate Square – a renovated factory turned pseudo-urban mall, home to high-end eateries and indie mom-and-pop shops alike, all in the heart of the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA). Performances by Scottish pipe bands and Irish step dancers will highlight the city’s ancestry prior to the annual Presidential Banquet and the honoring of the 2017 recipient of the Schlebecker Award. These performers have been chosen in honor of the region’s earliest settlers, who made immeasurable contributions toward its development, and whose descendants have continued to maintain a strong community presence with nearly 16% of the Genesee Valley claiming Irish ancestry to this day.

Long before the Scots and Irish settled here, the Seneca, or “Great Hill People,” lived and prospered.  A member of the Haudenosaunee, an alliance of native nations united for hundreds of years by traditions and cultural values, their democratic ideals inspired the U.S. Constitution and women’s suffrage, as well as contributing to American cuisine and medicine. The Ganondagan State Historic Site and Seneca Art & Culture Center, just east of the City of Rochester, spotlights Seneca culture via living exhibits and demonstrations.  Featured among these are the Alleghany River Indian Dancers led by Bill Crouse, Hawk Clan, faith keeper of Coldspring Longhouse and Coordinator of the Seneca Language Department on the Allegany territory. This internationally distinguished troupe showcases traditional Haudenosaunee songs and dances in traditional regalia, and will perform as part of Tuesday night’s dinner at GCV&M.

Rochester was the gateway to the West when the Erie Canal opened in 1825, becoming one of America’s first boomtowns. In 1848, local citizens were at the forefront of the Women’s Rights Movement in Seneca Falls. Rochester was home to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, as well as countless other visionaries. These people chose to break through barriers, working together to overcome the most insurmountable of obstacles and changing America in the process.

Did we mention we have J-E-L-L-O! The Genesee Country boasts many accomplishments, among them the invention and production of “America’s Most Famous Dessert” – J-E-L-L-O. The Jell-O Gallery, under the auspices of the LeRoy Historical Society, opened in 1997 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of this jiggly creation, first introduced in 1897 by LeRoy resident, Pearle Bixby Wait. During Tuesday morning’s site visit explore a collection of original Jell-O advertising art, collections of recipe books, original molds and packaging, and the results of an EEG test that proves that Jell-O has brain waves!

The host site, GCV&M, is the brainchild of former Genesee Brewing Co. CEO and Chairman, John L. “Jack” Wehle. An avid outdoorsman, conservationist, historian and art collector, Wehle sought to preserve the artistry and context of regional carpenters, master builders and house wrights, and thereby the Genesee Country’s heritage. Bringing together noted architects, landscape engineers and historians, Wehle and the museum’s visionary and first executive director, Stuart B. Bolger, created a living, working historic village depicting life throughout the 19th century. Bolger spent 45 years trolling surrounding backroads for historic structures, moving and/or reassembling each on-site, to tell the story of the Genesee Country. From the initial 22 buildings open to the public, Bolger’s work brought the Museum 65 historic structures, the third-largest collection in North America.

Still a relatively young museum having only opened to the public in 1976, GCV&M is the largest and most comprehensive museum in NYS. In addition to the historic village, the 600-acre complex boasts a nature center and exhibit gallery, servicing nearly 90,000 visitors annually. Highlights include four active historic kitchens, more than ten demonstrated trades & domestic manufacturers, operational historic brewery, confectionery, heirloom gardens, recreated 19th-century baseball park, and the early homes of prominent area figures such as Col. Nathaniel Rochester and George Eastman.

Established by the museum’s founder, the John L. Wehle Gallery’s art collection unites his passion for art with his interests in hunting, sports, wildlife, and conservation. Spanning the 17th to the 20th centuries, the paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures document the changing taste and styles of sporting and wildlife art. The art collection has been hailed by Wildlife Magazine as “one of the finest in the world.”

 The Gallery also house the Susan Green Collection, nearly 3,500 rare 19th-century garments and accessories purchased from the eponymous American costume authority in 2010. Although there is some formal attire, the focus is on items once worn in everyday situations; clothing that rarely survives. Unusual, too, is the large representation of men’s, children’s and adolescent wear, found far less often then women’s clothing. All of it is in good condition with excellent provenance, and staff has the privilege of showing off a selection of pieces on a permanent rotating display of custom mannequins, pull-outs and built-ins. Antiques Roadshow’s Karen Augusta dubbed it, “a gem that stands alone as one of the finest collections of its kind in North America.”

In keeping with the Democrat & Chronicle’s christening him as, “one of the most dedicated conservationist in the state,” Wehle created a wildlife research center and preserve focused on environmental stewardship and the ecological history of New York State and the mid-Atlantic region. The Nature Center features more than ten miles of hiking trails and 175 acres of rich wildlife habitat traversing farmlands, woodlands, grasslands, meadows and wetlands. During the summer, this serves as the hub of the Museum’s summer camps. Energetic and engaging staff design memorable hands-on adventures in the museum’s Earth Camp that nurture children’s connection to the natural world. Potential explorations include building a fire with flint and steel, navigating the woods, reeling in the catch of the day and discovering what lives hidden at the bottom of the pond. Likewise, Summer Sampler, using the historic village as its unique setting, immerses children in 19th-century youth experiences. Walking on stilts, participating in a Civil War military drill, playing stool ball, and practicing sling shot skills are all included.

Stuart Bolger wrote in the museum’s first commemorative book in 1982: “Almost all who had come to make their way in the Genesee Country expected change.” The conference planning committee hopes that you, too, will be pleasantly surprised at all there is to see, do and learn in our region.  See you in June!

Written and researched by Melanie Diaz, Brian Nagel, and Rebecca Ward, GCV&M and Lynne Belluscio, LeRoy Historical Society.



 The Genesee Country Village & Museum Archives.  Genesee Country Village & Museum.  Mumford, NY.

LeRoy Historical Society. Barn Quilts of LeRoy NY. New York. Genesee County Chamber of Commerce

Art Museum Teaching Blog.

Rochesterian Blog, The.

Jim Mossgraber, “America’s Game,” The Eagle (2002): 10-13

The Jell-O Gallery Museum. “History.” Accessed April 2017.

Ganondagon State Historic Site. “Home.” Accessed April 2017.

Bolger, Stuart. Genesee Country Village. New York: Flower City Printing, 1985

LeRoy Historical Society. “Exhibits.” Accessed April 2017.

Genesee Country Village & Museum. “Historic Village.” Accessed April 2017.

Genesee Country Magazine Western NY Travel Guide. “The Genesee Valley/Letchworth Region.” Accessed April 2017.

New York Geographic Alliance. “The Genesee Region.” Accessed April 2017.

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A tick-ing problem in living history…

Bruises, bumps, scrapes, sore muscles, sunburn, windburn, chapped skin, blisters, an occasional dislocation, joint twist, strain or sprain…. Those body issues probably sound familiar when doing manual labor of living history interpretation or historical farming.

ticksHowever in the last few years, a new adventure has arisen: bacteria. In the last few years, bacteria and viruses carried by ticks and other insects have required the need for additional attention, using modern-day eyes to fight illnesses that would have put our historical fore-parents down, stopping their traditional work and harming their homesteads.

Sarah Cooper of Columbia, MD knows these bacteria well. Unknowingly she was bitten by a tick while working at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean VA, while working as one of the 18th-century farmers. Her bad experience can guide to protecting your health and safety.

One November day, Sarah found a dessert-plate sized target shaped rash on her back. Although she always wore long 18th century petticoats, layers of clothes, and high socks as all the literature on preventing tick-borne disease had warned, Sarah knew that rashes were a a bad sign, so she went to an urgent care facility. She had no health insurance and she hoped that the urgent care doctors could diagnose her symptoms. The Lyme disease tests were negative; however Sarah came down with weeks of flu-like symptoms that laid her very low.

Little did Sarah know that new tick bites do not produce enough antibodies to show up as a “positive” for the Lyme tests.

Still ill longer than she expected for a typical illness, Sarah visited a different urgent care facility; this new facility doctor told Sarah that she never tested for Lyme when there is a rash and patients describe working or playing in woods-like or farm settings. She immediately put Sarah on 2 weeks of antibiotics. Sarah felt better soon, but within six months, the symptoms returned.

It’s been several years now; Sarah is still plagued with fatigue, exhaustion and other issues that developed during the initial Lyme illness. To this day she is still going to rounds of doctors seeking solutions. Said again: years later, Sarah – like many people affected by Lyme disease – is still affected by the after-effects of tick-borne bacteria that she received years ago. Although Sarah has switched to working at a different historical agricultural park, insect-related health issues happen: She was bitten by a spider within the last couple of weeks.

TickLifeCycleLyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, (RMSP) and ehrlichiosis, are all carried by ticks, but different ticks. All of these diseases need at least several hours for an attached tick to release its bacteria; one source says that that bacteria that cause Lyme disease can be transmitted if a tick is attached for at least 24 hours. Lyme is common while RMSF is rare; yet Lyme Disease symptoms mimic a simple illness, yet possibly affect the brain, nervous system, eyes, joints, and heart. Often there are shooting pains, insomnia, and – as some report – an inability to read. Lyme Disease is most prevalent in the New England, Mid- and South-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest. (Canadian Lyme information is here.)

A good overview of tick-borne diseases – and how ticks plan their attack – is here.

Because we are all a family of living history specialists working most often at outdoor sites, Sarah recommends several easy precautions to counter the threat of Lyme disease. These precautions are:

  1. Check yourself with a mirror, or have a buddy help check your entire body each day after exiting tall grasses, fields, or woods areas in spring, summer, and fall. Do not leave the site unless you check your entire skin and scalp as well as the skin crevices that they prefer. If you forget to check yourself, that may be the day that a tick attaches itself to you. Ticks crawl, so they may enter at your sock but also find their way inside your stays, corset, or drawers.
  2. Cut a short walking path through long grasses such as rye, wheat, or weeds. Ticks crawl from grasses onto their prey, but they don’t jump. Make sure that you can walk through your fields and areas without touching the grasses. You can even make this one of your farm duties by cutting paths during a farm day with a scythe.
  3. Try to limit your time in tall grasses as much as possible, if possible – and be ready to inspect yourself and your buddy after your grass adventures.
  4. Wear caps as much as possible. Ticks crawl but they don’t jump, so there is a reduced possibility for ticks to attach themselves to your scalp unless you bend your covered head into the grasses.
  5. If you do get a tick from your site and see a doctor, immediately report it to your site in order to file for Worker’s Compenstation. Many sites have no- or low-health insurance, yet the doctors bills can add up – especially if the disease becomes into a chronic illness. Check with your states’laws on the statutes, such as this information on Lyme disease, ticks, and Worker’s Compensation.
  6. Insist on a test for lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever when you see the doctor, even if you don’t have typical symtoms for either disease. If you work outdoors, especially in grasses, you have high risk factors for tick-borne bacterial diseases.
  7. Insist that your site provide a DEET insecticide spray for its staff. It’s better to provide for all staff members by making DEET part of site provisions. However if your site won’t provide DEET, make sure that you buy your own DEET and apply it every day that you are outdoors in tall grasses, fields, or woods. If you are allergic to DEET, consult your health care provider for effective alternatives.
  8. Removing the tick: If you do find an attached tick, use a tweezer, or one of the new technology of tick-removal devices: Tick-Twister, Tick Key or  Tick Card (available in the UK, Europe and Australia) to remove the tick fully and completely.
  9. Do your homework on what ticks, biting insects, and arachnids are in your area. Check with your state Cooperative Extension Service or use the following links:


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The Dreaded Performance Review


Is your institution still stuck in the cycle of the dreaded, annual performance review? I am afraid mine still is, and frankly it’s awful. (I am sure some of my coworkers reading this will rat me out. It’s okay the Boss knows how I feel.) I agree with a Washington Post business writer who called it a “rite of corporate kabuki that restricts creativity, generates mountains of paperwork, and serves no real purpose.“

It is time to leave these reviews in the last century where they belong. This focus on past behavior does little to improve performance, groom talent, or prepare for the future. Who feels good after a performance review? The answer is usually no one—not the reviewer or the employee. I have never really felt happy about a performance review even when the employee received an outstanding one. How do you compress what they accomplished in a whole year into a form with all the right boxes filled in? Certainly, if there is a problem with performance there must be ongoing discussions about the problem and how to correct it. So why wait a year to handout praise?

Need a review? Google “performance reviews,” and you will find “100 Useful Phrases for Performance Reviews.” Certainly makes completing that HR paperwork much easier, but serves no other purpose. There is also the problem of inconsistent evaluation throughout the institution. We all know the managers that give everyone the top performance ranking even to obviously under performing employees, and then there are the managers that take a harder line. A study reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2000 documented this problem. 4,492 managers were rated on performance by two bosses, two peers, and two subordinates. Individual rater peculiarities of perception accounted for 62% of the variance in the rating. Actual performance accounted for only 21%. It seems that ratings reveal more about the rater than the ratee.

A system that gives more immediate, less judgmental feedback improves both the manager and the employee. The art of conversation goes a long way. Have more casual conversations about progress, problems, and individual goals. As a manager I feel much better about these conversations–the “great job” ones and the “need to work on this” ones. I think the employee does too. Talent is in short supply and recruiting and training is expensive. We need to invest in developing people rather than just seeking to hold them accountable.

What do you think? Does your institution have a really good system?

–Kathy Dickson

ALHFAM board member Kathy Dickson is the 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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