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ALHFAM members carry countless exceptional skills into the fields, forges, houses, and workplaces where they bring history to life. The Skills Training and Preservation (“STP”) initiative documents the skills, practices, processes, systems and arts they preserve — and shares them through training resources accessible to all members.
A permanent ALHFAM Board committee and a new, online resource center support this organization-wide STP initiative. To guide the work of teaching, learning and perpetuating skills, the STP initiative embraces these goals:
The STP committee works with all Board Committees, Regional Representatives, Professional Interest Groups and members to ensure that all skill-related needs, opportunities, and documentation projects are inclusive, broad-based, and accessible to all.
The 2019 - 2020 STP Committee:
As part of its 2018-2020 Strategic Workplan, the ALHFAM Board embraced the goal of positioning ALHFAM as the leading authority in the museum field with respect to heritage skill preservation and presentation, living history interpretation, and historic agriculture. To advance this goal, the Board established a new permanent committee charged with the work of "preserving historic skills and transferring these skills to current practitioners of living history and historic agriculture in museums."
The new committee began its task by designing a 2-year project to consolidate existing and new skill resources for members and to help members establish skill management and skill-succession planning at their sites. Extension and expansion of the project is part of the Board's long-term commitment to ALHFAM members.
Skills Preservation as Collections Management
Collections Management is a skill that is widely held among museum professionals, yet one that is not uniformly applied to collections of non-material culture – the practices, processes, systems, arts and skills that are preserved and presented through "living history."
The importance of creating, managing and using living history collections to advance the fields of historical research, documentation and education is not an endeavor peculiar to ALHFAM, its partners in Association for International Agricultural Museums (AIMA) and International Association of Archaeological Open-Air Museums (EXARC), or to re-enactors of military, industrial or social history. However, collecting “skills” is rarely if ever seen in traditional museums.
The unusual concept of collecting skills is where ALHFAM shares a common goal with United Nations Education and Science Foundation (UNESCO). The work of collecting “'intangible culture”' is key to UNESCO’s goals, which include the protection of “cultural heritage”' as a fundamental requirement of sustainable global development and the quest for world peace:
"The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. (It)...does not end at monuments and collections of objects ...(but) ...includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts."
Creating the Culture of Skills Awareness
One of ALHFAM's greatest challenges is to take inventory of, document and share the countless, incredible array of skills held by, and offered through, its membership. To enable this, we must create a culture that recognizes skills that are being lost, or soon to be lost, and find ways to place them in new hands. We must learn to take the knowledge and skill we have as curators of material culture and apply it to the business of preserving the intangible culture of skills.
We also must become proficient at sharing skills with the public, enabling them to use their hands in problem solving -- allowing them try their hand at the doing, making and work that we bring to life. As museum professionals entrusted with the collection and care of those skills, we are challenged to teach them not just to our colleagues, but to all. "Intangible cultural heritage ...depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs is passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation...". ~ UNESCO Intangible Heritage