Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Animating Spirit

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Animating Spirit

Article excerpt

My job as director takes me to many history organizations like ours every year. It is always fascinating to compare notes with my colleagues and take their institutional temperature, so to speak. One thing that never ceases to impress me is how volunteers energize and animate not-forprofit organizations throughout our country. The Virginia Historical Society is especially blessed by this particular American virtue. At the annual meeting of state historical society directors last year in Washington State, I was very pleased at the compliments of colleagues who had heard of the achievements made possible by the generosity of our members, our trustees, and other special volunteers.

In December I spoke at a conference in Istanbul, where I met the heads of history museums and associations from other countries. The contrast was instructive. In the United Kingdom, institutions like ours are beginning to tag the volunteer spirit, but they still rely much more than their American cousins on funding from the state. In other countries, that dependence is even more pronounced. That an institution like the VHS relies so much on volunteers and private contributions, indeed thrives on that reliance, is simply unheard of at history organizations in Europe and elsewhere around the world. …

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