I keep telling myself we are all volunteers, we are all volunteers, we are all volunteers....
I have often wondered why there are not more folks actively engaged in historical preservation and interpretation. Yesterday saw the fourth meeting of the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation, and while it was a productive meeting, and a group of folks that definitely shows passion for Cynthiana's Civil War past, I drove home wanting more. I pondered why I felt a need for more. Perhaps it is my own never ending stream of ideas of how to improve? How to create greater awareness and involvement? My own lack of focus at times?
There are times when we miss the boat when it comes to the management of grass roots organizations. Those of us who all involved with such groups all have life experiences and ideas that we bring to the table, but we seem to, at times, have blinders on to the larger picture of how a grass roots organization can and should grow. I am probably just as guilty as others when I fall back to what "I know" but with my managerial experience and process improvement abilities, at times I do become frustrated when the vision or focus is so narrow, or how folks are hesitant to try to methods to promote and grow. Sorry, in case folks are actually reading this, my last comments are not meant about the CBF, but I am worried that we will not see the larger picture of preservation and interpretation that we will need in the next few years after we have laid the groundwork of the foundation. I hope I can help drive this larger vision after we have established ourselves as we have the chance to create an awareness nearly from scratch as few know about Cynthiana's involvement in the Civil War. While I currently serve as membership chair, I hope that I will be able to assist the organization towards a national prominence and help to preserve land that will be open for public visitation in the future.
Again, my comments about missing the boat are not directed to the CBF as we are far too new in our existence for those concerns. I am just using the CBF as a possible example of what direction a local organization might head if they do not look beyond their normal reach.
Another example could be the Friends of Perryville. I have already written about this group a few times, so I will not belabor the point, but the inability to have folks with an interest be able to join online, the lack of a consistent newsletter, and the unwillingness to accept folks outside the local area has kept them from growing. Perryville is an amazing place, a true preservation success story, and that story could not have been written about the passionate people in the Friends group. But they could have SO much more support if they would do a few simple things or be willing to allow others with abilities do some of these things for them. But, they seem to be happy doing what they are doing and that is that!
In my role as activities chair for the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, I come across the issue of "comfort zone" from more than one direction. I have been trying for the last couple of years to work with the group that supports the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati to do some sort of annual joint event. The president of that group was communicating decently during the initial discussions, but try to get a response from him now...forget about it! Luckily I have been able to work around him with another person in that group and I think we will be able to move forward on this annual event idea. Just another example of a local group not seeing a larger picture of being effective communicators to build relationships with groups that could aide with increasing awareness and financial support.
Conversely, getting our Round Table members to get involved on tours and attend events is also a point of frustration. If we are supposed to be students of the war, then to me it would be a natural tie to go to those places where the history took place. Having decent attendance for these types of extracurricular events has been something I have not had great success with.
As some of you may be aware, I also have a deep interest in the Indian Wars of the 1790s that took place in the Old Northwest Territory, really I have an interest in most military history in the Territory (and areas west of the Appalachian Mountains) from the French & Indian period through the War of 1812. Some have called this period the Sixty Years War and it encompasses a vast amount of history. I look at the sites that one can visit and think "why isn't there some sort of group for this?" One could have an annual weekend that would rotate around the region that would have speakers, tours, etc. Sites like Fort Necessity, George Rogers Clark National Memorial, the new Fallen Timbers battlefield national park unit, Fort Michilimackinac, and several others, would be ideal locations for such an annual event. Too large in scope? Perhaps, but one would pull potential members/attendees from across several specific areas of interest.
For the 225th anniversary of the Battle of the Wabash (also called St. Clair's Defeat/Massacre) the folks at the Fort Recovery State Museum are holding a one day symposium which I am attending. I think this is a grand idea and really think it could (and should) be an annual event, much like the Braddock Road symposium that is held every year. The Wabash event is just a single day, with a walking tour and speakers. With the numerous Miami Campaign sites in Ohio and Indiana it would be easy to mimic what the Braddock Road folks do by having a bus tour one day and speakers the next.
What is the point to this post? Not certain, other than to get my thoughts out and into written form. Perhaps it is a way for me to look at my widely varied interests and see if I personally can achieve more. Maybe it is time to start an Ohio Indian Wars group....