Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ohio Historical Society Reinvents Itself For Future Growth

Press release received:

Ohio Historical Center To Change Focus

(Columbus, Ohio) - The Ohio Historical Society is accelerating a plan to reinvent itself as a state history organization, according to executive director and CEO Bill Laidlaw. State support was slashed from $13.5 million two years ago to $7.9 million for the 2010 fiscal year-a 42-percent cut -following years of underinvestment by the state.

As a result, the Society will make significant changes to the state history museum, the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus , as well as continue its efforts to find local groups to manage 10 of its historic sites and museums around the state. In addition, the organization will implement a number of operational changes as it continues to focus efforts on preservation of and access to collections and sites, and expanding its services statewide.

Earlier this year, a number of cost-saving measures were taken, such as a weeklong furlough, a reduction in force and seeking local groups to manage larger OHS sites in response to a 10-percent reduction for fiscal year 2009. However, further actions are needed, including eliminating more jobs across the organization, reorganizing or eliminating programs and additional furloughs.

"While we foresaw tough times ahead, we were stunned to receive this magnitude of a cut in state funding," Laidlaw said. "Once again, we were forced to make difficult decisions, but with challenges come opportunities. Our Board of Trustees has approved a bold plan that will position the organization for future growth by providing the strongest return on investment for limited state dollars as well as the greatest public value for Ohioans."

Ohio Historical Center to Emphasize Collections Learning
In direct response to what the public has said they want the Ohio Historical Society to offer, the Society will be transforming the state history museum at the Ohio Historical Center to focus on collections learning. In studies that have taken place over the past three years, the public has said they want more direct access to the collections, more opportunities for hands-on experiences and ways to explore stories of interest to them using current technology and the resources of both the museum and library.

Plans call for public labs and workspaces in which activities that are usually carried out behind the scenes will be front and center. In addition, collections that are normally stored off-site will be brought to the facility for easy viewing. A distance learning studio, spaces for new exhibitions and technology enhancements are also among the innovations under development. Staff also will be cross-trained allowing fewer employees needed for support, therefore saving on operational costs.

The collections learning center will be created in phases, beginning with the removal of current exhibits, many of which are more than 20 years old. Development and implementation of the $2-million first phase will use existing capital funds and is scheduled to begin starting January 2010.

"With almost 2 million objects in our museum and library collections, the collections-learning-center concept will help make Ohio 's story personally relevant and engaging to today's audiences," said Laidlaw. "We will be creating more exhibitions and programs for traveling to OHS sites, libraries, historical societies, community centers and other museums across the state. In this way, we are redefining the concept of 'state museum.' We will be a museum with a presence all over the state—not just in Columbus ."

Historic Sites and Museums Remain Open
According to Laidlaw, with the 2010 budget decided, there will be sufficient funds for current and future management groups to operate sites. Additionally, the 10 historic sites and museums operated by OHS employees will remain open through their established 2009 seasons while management agreements are finalized. (See below list of management status of OHS sites.)

In the Ohio Historical Society network of 58 historic sites and museums-the largest of any state historical organization in the nation-37 sites are currently operated by local management groups and the remainder are directly administered by the Ohio Historical Society. Managed sites continue to be a vital part of the OHS network of historic sites and museums. "We are more and more dependant on communities to volunteer and raise funds to help us maintain and grow access to our sites," said Laidlaw.

Society To Restructure, Reduce Staffing
As a result of the changing priorities and to make the best use of reduced state funding, the Society will take these measures:

Accommodate the development of the Collection Learning Center , by limiting hours for both the Ohio Historical Center ’s museum and the OHS Archives/Library starting Jan. 1, 2010 through March 1, 2011. The museum only will be open to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, school and other groups will continue to be accommodated on weekdays during this time.

The OHS Archives-Library only will be open Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. *
Enhance its Web presence with an Ohio history online portal to increase access to information and OHS services as well as to generate revenue.
Cease publication of TIMELINE, the quarterly history magazine published by the Ohio Historical Society, at the end of it 25th-anniversary year unless private funding can be secured for future publication. Special events will not be scheduled at the Ohio Historical Center and Ohio Village from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2010.

Mandate 10 furlough days for all employees before the end of the fiscal year.
As a part of the restructuring, 31 full and part-time positions have been eliminated. Of this total, 19 vacant positions will not be filled. In addition, 16 employees were notified of a decrease in their hours. Separately, 53 positions will be eliminated by the end of the year as OHS sites transition to the management of local groups.

Over the last decade, the Ohio Historical Society has had to retrench its operations as state funding declined from a staffing level of more than 400 full-time-equivalent staff members in the 2001 fiscal year to 184 after reductions.

Employees notified today of job losses will receive a severance package and full pay of eligible leave balances. They also are welcome to apply for the Society’s position vacancies. All employment categories were affected among the total number of positions eliminated.

Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio ’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture. It provides services in nearly every community in the state. Individuals wanting to help the Society can:

Visit an OHS historic site and museum. To learn more, visit Become a member of OHS. Go online at to join. Make a contribution. Go online at to donate. Business hours for the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Preservation Office, both located at the Ohio Historical Center , will remain the same: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. –5 p.m.

Note: See below listing of OHS site network.

Ohio Historical Society Sites (58)

Ohio Historical Society-Operated Sites (21) * Denotes sites under negotiation to be managed by local managers

Society-Staffed Sites (13)
*Campus Martius
*Fort Meigs
*Harding Home and Tomb
National Afro American Museum
Ohio Historical Center
Ohio River Museum
Ohio Village
*Piqua Historical Area
*Youngstown Historical Ctr. of History & Labor
*Zoar Village

Self-Guided, Society-Operated Sites (8)
Buffington Island
Leo Petroglyph
Lockington Locks
Logan Elm
Seip Mound
Shrum Mound (Campbell Park)
Story Mound

Local-Management Sites (37)
Big Bottom
Buckeye Furnace
Cedar Bog
Cooke House
Custer Monument
Davis Memorial
Fallen Timbers
Flint Ridge
Fort Amanda
Fort Ancient
Fort Hill
Fort Jefferson
Fort Laurens
Fort Recovery
Glacial Grooves
Grant Birthplace
Grant Boyhood Home
Grant Schoolhouse
Hanby House
Harrison Tomb
Hayes Presidential Center
Indian Mill
Inscription Rock
McCook House
Miamisburg Mound
Museum of Ceramics
National Road/Zane Grey Museum
Newark Earthworks
Our House
Quaker Meeting House
Rankin House
Schoenbrunn Village
Serpent Mound
Shaker Historical Museum
Stowe House
Tallmadge Church