StEPs-CT encourages all of us who participate to strive for higher standards in our organizations’ operations and to increase services to our audiences.
StEPs-CT program participant
Connecticut Humanities helps local museums and historical societies build professionalism and ensure their programs and collections remain vibrant community resources through StEPs-CT–a two-year program created with the Connecticut League of History Organizations, and run in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society, that guides them towards excellence in six areas of organizational practice.
StEPs-CT is based on the “Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations” (StEPs), a national model curriculum developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). We’ve added a series of hands-on workshops, expert mentors who are on call to help with the rough spots and a competitive granting fund to support projects related to the program. The StEPs-CT program is the first in the nation to implement the StEPs curriculum on a statewide level.
To be accepted into the program, StEPs-CT organizations need to make a compelling case for how they would benefit from participation and demonstrate commitment to completing the entire program. In return, CTH provides all resources at minimal cost.
Twenty-three organizations are currently working with Connecticut Humanities and the Connecticut League of History Organizations as part of the second StEPs-CT class, running from January 2015 through February 2017:
Avery-Copp House (Groton), Cheshire Historical Society, Colchester Historical Society, Connecticut Valley Tobacco Historical Society (Windsor), Cornwall Historical Society, Danbury Railway Museum, Deep River Historical Society, Denison Society (Mystic), Dudley Foundation (Guilford), Essex Historical Society, Groton Public Library, Guilford Keeping Society, Naugatuck Historical Society, New Britain Industrial Museum, Newtown Historical Society, Salisbury Association, Smith-Harris House (Niantic), Stonington Historical Society, Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust, Weston Historical Society, Westport Historical Society, Wilton Historical Society, Wood Memorial Library (South Windsor)
Twenty-four organizations completed the inaugural StEPs-CT class from 2012-2014:
American Clock & Watch Museum, Avery Memorial Association, Blue Slope Country Museum, Institute for American Indian Studies, Society of the Founders of Norwich, Windham Textile & History Museum, and the historical societies of Canton, Chester, Farmington, Haddam, Harwinton, Kent, Lebanon, Madison, Norwalk, Old Saybrook, Old Woodbury, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Torrington, Totoket, Warren and Wintonbury.
StEPs-CT is a 26-month integrated program of professional development, facilitated conversation, mentorship, and competitive grant funding for smaller cultural organizations. StEPs-CT is a program of Connecticut Humanities (CTH) and the Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society based upon a curriculum of best practices developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) called StEPs.
StEPs is an acronym for “Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.” Since its debut in 2009, StEPs has helped over 800 institutions nationwide, including 51 in Connecticut, begin taking “steps” to plan for positive change.
StEPs-CT aligns with the national curriculum created by AASLH. The six standards sections covered over the course of two years are:
- Mission, Vision and Governance
- Stewardship of Collections
- Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes
StEPs-CT applications are not being accepted at this time.
To sign up for e-mail communications about upcoming StEPs-CT workshops and programs, and to receive information about applications for the next StEPs-CT program class (tentatively scheduled to begin in fall/winter 2017), please email hrc @ cthumanities.org. (Remove spaces from before and after the “@” symbol when sending your email.)
StEPs-CT is designed for smaller Connecticut museums, historical societies and other cultural organizations that are interested, willing and committed to strengthening their organizations.
23 organizations are currently participating in the StEPs-CT program for 2015-17. Program participants were chosen through a competitive application process. The application is designed to be easy to access and complete. Click here to view a copy of the 2015-17 StEPs-CT application form. Check out our list of StEPs-CT Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the program, benefits of participation, and program requirements for the 2015-17 StEPs-CT class.
Connecticut Humanities Fund (CTHF) StEPs-CT Grants allow StEPs-CT organizations to pursue projects that will help them implement the skills and lessons learned during their training. In 2016, Connecticut Humanities awarded StEPs-CT grants to the following 14 organizations:
Cheshire Historical Society
$1,500 for Wayfinding Signage for Cheshire Historical Society
The Cheshire Historical Society is located in the center of town, on the Church Green. However, in a fall survey of town residents 60% did not know where the institution was located and many people thought that their building was a law office. While the organization does have a sign it is quite small, angled incorrectly, and does not help visitors in identifying that their building is a historical society. To remedy this situation, the organization will install a new, larger building sign as well as external lighting to illuminate the house and new sign at night.
Colchester Historical Society
$1,500 for Wayfinding New Signage
The Colchester Historical Society has a problem with visibility, which is exacerbated by their shared parking lot with the town library at the rear of their property; there is no sign at the back of the building, making it difficult to leverage the library’s visitation into potential visitors to the Historical Society. The organization will hire a sign maker to design, build, and install new institutional signage at both the front and rear of their campus.
Deep River Historical Society
$1,500 for Technology Improvements for the Deep River Historical Society
The Deep River Historical Society (DRHS) is located in a very thick-walled, stone house. They currently have a phone line, but no internet or computer on site with internet access. Because of this, it is difficult for them to host meetings or rent out their facilities and all web work and collections database work needs to take place offsite. This funding request will design and train staff on how to maintain a new institutional website and provide funding for DRHS to purchase a computer and software that will enable DRHS to complete more museum work onsite.
Avery-Copp House (Groton)
$1,500 for Museum Signage and Lighting
The Avery-Copp House, located in Groton, needs improved directional signage and enhanced outdoor lighting. Despite being located on a high traffic street, many visitors who travel by are unaware that the building is a museum that they can visit. Additionally, there is no directional signage at the entrance driveway and the building is currently not illuminated at night. This project will install new site signage to aid visitors in navigating the property as well as new outdoor lighting of the front porch of the museum.
Dudley Foundation (Guilford)
$1,500 for StEPs-CT Strategic Plan
The Dudley Foundation wishes to make their decision-making more strategic and methodical. This request is for consultant time and travel to create the institution’s first ever strategic plan. Completion of a strategic plan will guide the institution towards increased productivity and assure that their immediate and longer-term goals reflect their new mission and vision statements and are integrated with organizational activities.
Guilford Keeping Society
$1,495 for Guilford Keeping Society Strategic Plan
Guilford Keeping Society will work with a strategic planning consultant to develop a vision statement and strategic plan to guide them for the next three to five years.
Denison Society (Mystic)
$1,500 for New Logo & Signage for Denison Homestead
The Denison Society is working to cement their identity and advertise themselves to new potential visitors. This project will fund a graphic designer to create a logo for use on all future organizational materials including signs, cards, and advertising materials. A new road sign that features the new logo will be designed and installed.
New Britain Industrial Museum
$1,500 for Capacity Building Through Strategic Planning
The New Britain Institute’s New Britain Industrial Museum will create a strategic plan to help the board develop the habit of thinking more strategically, prioritize institutional needs, and better integrate the organization’s budget and day to day operations with long term goals.
Friends of Wood Memorial Library & Museum (South Windsor)
$1,500 for The Wood Library & Museum Sign Project
The Wood Library and Museum is currently undergoing a re-branding process. They now need new signage to reflect the new brand and name. Further, their current organizational sign is in disrepair and needs to be replaced. This project will design, build, and install a new institutional sign for the front of their museum.
Stonington Historical Society
$1,500 for Stonington Strategic Plan Initiative
Stonington Historical Society lacks a strategic plan and wants to strengthen their organization with this important guiding framework. They plan to bring in an outside consultant to help their board work through the most difficult questions facing the institution and help them strengthen internal and external relationships with the community.
Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust
$1,500 for WHPT Strategic Planning
Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust was created 25 years ago, but has never had a strategic plan to guide its activities. 2016 marks a critical juncture in the life of the organization as it begins its second quarter century of operation. WHPT will work with an outside consultant to help them create a road map to reaching institutional goals and better meeting the needs of their audience.
Westport Historical Society
$1,500 for Board Development Training Retreat
Westport Historical Society will conduct a full-day, offsite board development training retreat. Facilitated by an outside consultant, the session will focus on board governance fundamentals. The institution plans on using this as a first step toward creating a new strategic plan in the months to follow.
Wilton Historical Society
$1,500 for Creating a Better Website
The Wilton Historical Society’s current website no longer meets the organization’s needs and cannot be easily updated by staff. This project will hire a consultant to create a new website that will better meet the institution’s needs, train staff to update it on their own, and provide a reference manual for future use.
Connecticut Valley Tobacco Historical Society (Windsor)
$850 for Wayfinding Signage Surrounding the CVTM
The Connecticut Valley Tobacco Historical Society has operated under a number of different names since its founding in 1987 and the museum is working on unifying its branding and name consolidation. This project will create and install three small signs to be located on the larger, town directory signs for the park in which the museum is located.
Liz Shapiro and Scott Wands introduce each StEPs-CT curriculum unit, discuss the section’s standards and components, lead participants through all workshop sessions, and close out each unit with a half-day feedback session.
Liz Shapiro is the Executive Director of the Connecticut League of History Organizations. In this role she is the primary liaison between CLHO and its members, listening, strategizing and problem solving to help strengthen Connecticut’s heritage organizations. She is co-creator and manager of StEPs-CT. A graduate of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies, Liz has over twenty-five years of experience working with small- to mid-sized museums to build capacity and ensure sustainability. She retired in 2014 from her position as director of the Sharon Historical Society after twenty-one years. Liz is currently on the advisory boards for COSTEP-CT and the Connecticut Digital Archives (CTDA) and she serves as a Peer Advisor for the state’s Peer Advisor Network (PAN).
Scott Wands serves as Program Officer for Humanities Resources at Connecticut Humanities were he has worked for the past six years. He manages CTH’s non-grant-funded services to Connecticut’s cultural community and oversees the Quick Grant program. He is co-creator and manager of StEPs-CT. A graduate of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture from the University of Delaware, Scott currently serves as a board member on the national Field Service Alliance. He is also a former board member of the Connecticut League of History Organizations and is active in numerous American Association for State and Local History committees, including serving as the Region 2 Chair for Awards for CT, RI, NY, and NJ from 2008-11.
Program mentors coach five organizations through the StEPs-CT program, providing both in-person and remote consultation time for each curriculum unit.
Kathleen Craughwell-Varda is a museum curator/consultant with more than twenty-five years experience in the field. She has worked with numerous institutions in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey conducting collection surveys, exhibition research, and creating interpretive materials. She was the Assistant Director and Field Services Director of the Textile Conservation Workshop in South Salem, New York. She has been the Project Director for Conservation ConneCTion, Connecticut’s response to the IMLS “Connecting to Collections” initiative since the program was launched in 2008. She is also a founding member of COSTEP-CT (Connecticut Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness) and has been an assessor for Heritage Preservation’s Collection Assessment Program (CAP) since 1994.
Elizabeth Fox has assisted institutions with exhibition planning and implementation, institutional assessments and planning and collection assessment. Prior to forming her consulting company in 1997, she worked at the Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut Landmarks, Wadsworth Atheneum and the Connecticut Historical Society. She serves on the board of the Connecticut League of History Organizations, is an advisor for the Peer Advisor Network at the Connecticut Office of Culture and Tourism and chairs the Cheshire Historic District Commission.
Sarah Griswold has worked in the field of historical societies and small museums since 1991. She was the curator at the Gunn Memorial Museum in Washington, CT, and executive director at the Glebe House Museum & Gertrude Jekyll Garden in Woodbury, CT. She is currently an independent museum consultant, assisting libraries and museums in collections care, exhibit development and strategic planning, as well as research projects and programs. She works as an advisor for the Peer Advisor Network at the Connecticut Office of Culture and Tourism and serves as a Museum Assessment Program peer reviewer. Sarah is also a former member of the board of the Connecticut League of History Organizations.
Jacquetta Haley completed her doctorate in American History and decided that her future lay in history museums rather than academia. She worked on the five historic properties owned by Historic Hudson Valley for twelve years before becoming an independent consultant. Her work as a consultant has covered basic research, furnishings plans for a diverse group of houses throughout the tri-state area, the development of interpretive strategies for homes with multiple story lines, and exhibitions. As a board member and president of the board of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network she has been instrumental in refocusing the organization’s strategic priorities, including serving as the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.
Melissa Josefiak works as an independent museum professional as she raises her young daughter full time. She contributes to collections blogs, provides exhibition support and serves as the exhibitions review editor for “Connecticut History,” the scholarly journal produced by the Association for the Study of Connecticut History. She served as the assistant director of Wethersfield Historical Society for several years and served on the board of the Connecticut League of History Organizations, co-chairing its “Professional Basics” series for five years.