History as a Potential for Growth
As mentioned before, most of the world’s renowned historical societies were formed back in the 19th and 20th centuries. The founders were mostly historians who were amateur at their work but their interest in growth was apparent. The business potential of the present community and its significance on the society was far too great. These were the rudimentary factors which linked these young historians’ interest to the field.
The elite of the society and those who were under the privilege of having renowned ancestors were the founders of these societies. These young historians looked up their forefathers to learn their ways of conducting business and make tough decisions with ease. The leaders in business, economy and even the politics was an interesting subject for them. Their mission was simple: continue the legacy their forefathers left behind, celebrate the heroes of the past and protect the architecture.
The urbanization in the Unites States that took over the nation like a wave in the 20th century led to a rising interest in the preservation of history. Currently, the number of historical societies in the US are unknown. The number of museums and historical sites are roughly over 10,000! Giving proof to reason that history shapes the present and the future.
Situations of Historical Societies
The lack of funding for these societies raise a concern over what the future holds. Mostly, such societies are understaffed, underfunded and small. Take the example of Utah. There are many historical museums there but more than 50% of them have a budget of less than $25,000 per annum. Most of these societies are staffed by people who choose to volunteer because of their interest in the field. Since volunteering cannot be full-time, they work half a day which leave these sites vacant for the rest of the day. This also means that most of the staff has little to no formal training in history.
The global financial crisis has taken its toll on historical societies as well. These societies usually rely on grants which are awarded by the local governments. Recently, there have been many budget cuts which have severely impacted the workings of historians. There are no resources to update and preserve the exhibits.
Declining Interest in History
One reason why these societies are unable to receive a bigger cut from the yearly budget is the declining number of attendees to museums. The main attendees of museums are older white people which causes a concern since the demographics of the country are changing rapidly. These changes are both ethnic and radical when it comes to demographics. In the light of the ever changing dynamics of countries with immigrants coming in, historical societies face further challenges. The local economy too is changing with the influx of immigrants leaving an impact on museums. It is natural that these new audiences will not feel a connection to founders and history of the country. The relevant stories are, therefore, not interesting anymore.
Keeping such situations in mind, a conference held in 2007 discussed the need to maintain historical societies. A sustainability plan was formed which focused on transforming historical sites into community centres. This plan indirectly impacted societies in a positive way. The sites that hold history would be transformed into vibrant and colourful areas. Such efforts bore fruits when the new audiences from a different history were allowed participation in community works.