dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-07 04:50 pm

Are historical societies becoming irrelevant?

I realize I may ruffle some feathers with this entry, but I cannot imagine I am the only one who asks this question, even if not aloud.

Admittedly, I probably do not have as much experience with historical/genealogical societies and associations as others may.

In the past three years, I've had contact with eleven such organizations - one as a member for one year. That one was a very local group who gathered once monthly for a two hour meeting at various restaurants in a small town one county away from me.

To talk. The talk was about doing things.

And for the nine months I attended, they continued to talk. As far as I can tell, they had been talking for two years before I joined.

One of the ideas for "doing things" that was presented was creating a bound book of 19th century census records for that county.

I asked why they would spend precious volunteer time creating something in print that can be so easily found in digital form.

To raise money. To one day do things.

When they changed the meeting time from evening to mid-day because autumn was approaching and some of the older members did not like driving after dark, I made my regrets and quit.

I do not have time in the middle of my workday to spend two hours once per month listening to people talk about doing stuff.

My other contacts with historical/genealogical societies and associations has been in the form of finding their website, seeing that they have a publication I need, and trying to access the publication.

Six of those organizations have been in my own state, and the others out of state.

In each case, the website has listed the publications it has for sale, included a form for ordering them that has to be printed and mailed in, and in three cases (two in Arkansas) no prices on the form, so I had to call and "catch" a volunteer to find out how much the publication cost.

None of them had the capability to take and process an order over the phone.

All of them had a hierarchy from which they *could not* deviate. The shortest amount of time from which my check was cashed to delivery of the publication was six weeks.

In each case where I inquired, I was informed that things had to be done per the hierarchy - meaning the lady with the PO box key (because you never send a check to a street address, even if the organization has a physical location) had to go to the Post Office to retrieve the check. Then she had to give the check to the treasurer, who in turn had to contact the volunteer who was responsible for actually addressing an envelope and putting the publication into it for mailing.

So if a couple of those people go on vacation or become otherwise engaged, well...

You just wait.

One of the in-state organizations is run by a (many times removed) cousin of mine. I talked to her about bringing the association into the 21st century. I offered to digitize their cemetery transcription books for them, so they could be placed on their website in a "members only" section. In order to access them, you would have to pay dues and become a member.

They are not interested in that, but would love for me to join the association and drive an hour and a half once a month to have lunch with them and listen to a guest speaker - for a fee. Then drive an hour and a half back home.

We finally worked out a better arrangement. Since it takes no less than two months for me to purchase and actually get my hands on their publications using the surface mail method - they have quite a few - when I want one, I drive down there during hours when the museum is open, and buy them there.

But I call first to make sure the volunteer will be opening the museum that day.

I know there are more cutting edge historical societies out there. I read about them on other people's blogs every day. I yearn for the day when I have need of what they offer.

In the meantime, what can I do to at least persuade the ones close to me that one of the reasons they are having a hard time raising money is because they make it hard for people to access their services and products, and that technology is not a bad thing?
dee_burris: (Default)
2010-11-28 08:54 am

Musing on historical associations...

About this time last year, I had a pleasant exchange of family information with another Chapin researcher on a Chapin surname internet message board.

I woke one December morning to an email announcing a reply to the thread. When I looked at it, it was from someone from the Chapin Family Association, telling me to give her the info I had on "this line," and giving me her email address. She's updating the Chapin books.

The Chapin books, just like the books on any other surname, are produced by the various "family associations" for sale. The various "family associations" are membership associations, with monetary dues required for membership

The family associations haunt threads on surname message boards to find family members to hand over - for free - information the family associations then sell to other members of the family.

I have a problem with that.

I didn't email the Chapin Family Association chick. I did respond to her though - to tell her she could probably find my info on "this line" by searching Rootsweb.

Where I publish my info for anyone to search for free. But I expect them to do their own searches.

One of my Callaway cousins has a very wry sense of humor. And his own perspective on historical associations.

On the trip to Memphis last weekend, we had some time to talk. He knows one of our other cousins has been pestering me to join the County Historical Association, of which she is an officer. I have a couple of problems with that, not the least of which is that the monthly meetings are on a weekday for a luncheon about 70 miles from me.

You're not going to join that hysterical society, are you?

You mean "historical" society, don't you?

Well no...I really mean hysterical society. You can call it anything you want.