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Strengthened by the Local History Trust Fund

Guest blogger Leah Craig is executive director of the Historic Paris Bourbon County/Hopewell Museum. She shares what earning a Local History Trust Fund grant in both 2016 and 2017 has meant to her organization.

A few weeks ago, I was helping three volunteers in the museum’s basement working their weekly shift for a full collection inventory project. They lovingly call it “Tuesday in the Tombs.”

One of the volunteers showed me a postcard of a beautiful building, now mostly demolished, that used to be a hospital. She said, “I was born there!” and another said, “I remember getting my tonsils out there!” So I snapped a picture and posted it to our Facebook page.

It was one of our highest engaging posts. This is just one small example of the many times I see people engaging with history through our museum. Historic Paris Bourbon County/Hopewell Museum was founded 40 years ago this year. Our mission is to foster a knowledge of and an appreciation for history, art, architecture and culture in Bourbon County and the surrounding region. The grant we received last year from Kentucky’s Local History Trust Fund allowed us to enroll in a self assessment program for history organizations called StEPS. This has prepared us for the strategic planning we will do this year (funded in part by a new Local History Trust Fund grant), creating a vision for our future guided by what we are learning in StEPS. StEPS is a program through the American Association for State and Local History in which we evaluate ourselves based on professional standards and best practices. You work at your own pace through different sections, earning bronze, silver and gold status. So we formed a committee of volunteers/board members. They were pleased to find that there is a lot we are doing well. They were also surprised, and sometimes not so surprised, to learn that there were several standards we were not meeting at all or could improve upon. For instance, when we came to the part about vision for the future, I checked off in the StEPS workbook that we have a vision statement. One of the committee members said, “We have a vision statement?!” Not one of them knew that we did. Due to StEPS – thanks to this grant – the committee realized we had more work to do before achieving bronze-level status. This led us to apply for the American Alliance of Museums assessment program that provides a peer reviewer, and we are looking forward to her visit in February. Our 40th anniversary calls for celebration of our organization’s strong history of advocating for historic preservation and sharing the history of our community. It is also a time to reflect on the present, and we are doing this thanks to the StEPS program, made possible by Kentucky’s Local History Trust Fund, including the grant we received this year for strategic planning. HPBC/Hopewell Museum is ready to imagine our potential for the next 40 years. I want to express my appreciation to the Kentucky Historical Society for administering the grant, the Kentucky state legislators for supporting the program and to all those who “made their mark for history” on their tax return, giving small organizations with limited resources, like us, the opportunity to strengthen ourselves. That strength empowers museums and history organizations across Kentucky to share our history, even through things as simple as a postcard. 

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