Article Date: May 1st, 2010
Heritage 4Culture strongly recommends that King County historical organizations take a critical look at StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations), and consider using this new self-assessment tool now available from the American Association for State and Local History. Developed over five years with help from more than 130 representatives in the heritage field, StEPs is a program for small and mid-sized historical organization that encourages awareness and achievement of national standards.
The self-study program employs an easy-to-use workbook that allows organizations to apply assessment questions and indicators to rate their performance in six standards sections: 1) mission, vision, and governance; 2) audience; 3) interpretation; 4) stewardship of collections; 5) stewardship of historic structures and landscapes; and 6) management. Proceeding in any order and at their own pace, participating organizations can clearly identify their strengths and areas needing improvement, and begin taking steps to plan for positive change.
By investing the one-time enrollment fee of $150 for AASLH members or $250 for non-members, organizations will reap benefits far surpassing the program’s startup cost. Some of those benefits include: increased credibility with funders; education and awareness of standards for staff and volunteers; an opportunity to make the case to stakeholders for staffing, training, and equipment improvements; improved policies and practices based on national standards; and a clear direction for future improvement and long-range planning. For as long as they need to complete the program, participating organizations have unlimited active enrollment status, which includes access to the password-protected StEPs website for news, additional resources, and discussion forums.
StEPs can provide the credibility and verification that staff and volunteers need to convince boards and governing authorities to institute needed changes. As organizations successfully pass each of the six sections, they are awarded a certificate and national recognition on the AASLH website acknowledging their accomplishment. Notification of a local organization’s enrollment in the program will be provided to 4Culture and AKCHO to allow those entities to customize programs and technical assistance for participants. And finally, participating organizations can publicly demonstrate their commitment to achieving professional standards by proudly displaying the StEPs window decal.