Guide to managing historical societies
Royal Historical Society of Victoria
The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) is the peak body for local history in the state and has a long tradition of supporting historical societies. Indeed from the moment of its foundation 1909 with the purpose of collecting the history of Victoria, the RHSV encouraged the formation of regional societies to do the same. In 2010 more than 300 societies are affiliated with the RHSV.
The RHSV is a community organisation and is independant of any government agency. It is governed by a council from within the history community of Victoria with the purpose to providing services, programs and networks to historical societies and individuals. The RHSV is managed and run by volunteers and administered by paid staff. It is also a city based historical society making its collections, publications and programs accessible to the public. Although it is a member organisation its activities are open to all.
The RHSV provides well established networks and support for volunteers responsible for looking after collections as well as groups coming together with a shared interest in history and its promotion to the collection but which do not have collections. For more than one hundred years the RHSV has delivered grass roots services for historical societies.
Guide to managing historical societies
A Guide to the establishment and operation of historical societies was originally published by the RHSV in the 1980s and revised in the 1990s. In 2006 the Royal Historical Society of Victoria received a local history grant from the Public Record Office of Victoria to develop the Guide for managing historical Societies
Since the last edition of the Guide several factors have energised the local history world:
- the vast uptake of computers with the exciting opportunities for organising collections, digitisation and publication
- the enormous amount of online primary and secondary material
- excellent online guides and manuals
- the implementation of national standards for museums including the Museums Accreditation Program (MAP) operated by Museums Australia Victoria
- increased communication and networking opportunities
- Government agenda at all levels providing support for community collections, interpretation of Victorian history and the recognition of the role that historical societies can play in community identity.
However two things remain the same:
- volunteers in historical societies bring with them a hinterland of experience that can be applied to the managing of historical societies
- historical societies are generally underfunded.
The information in this Guide has been collated by members of the History Victoria Support Group - a committee of the RHSV who are themselves members of historical societies. The content, references and examples have been selected by members of this group because of its relevance to historical societies. The Guide works at two levels:
- laying down the principles with reference to additional information
- provision of examples including sample forms, policies and procedures.
Historical societies are as diverse as the history they interpret. Some societies have no collection, some societies have a museum, some societies have a resource centre and a museum, some societies own a building, some societies have well established policies and procedures.This publication has not been designed as a definitive chapter and verse account of how to run a historical society. This publication is a Guide providing general information then leading the user to other references, ideas and networks. It is up to the volunteers in historical societies to adapt and adopt the ideas as required. But above all this Guide is provided to help historical societies reach out to their communities, make their research, collections and programs accessible to their communities and to contribute to their community's interest and excitement in the history of our state.