Brainstorm History Month event ideas

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal and that is what the RHSV is doing – we are re-imagining our future and, in October, we’ll lay the groundwork for how we intend to continue in the future. 

The RHSV has a full program of webinars, online book events, on-line clinics and talks in October but we want to see every one rise to the challenge. We are old dogs but we can learn new tricks. We are uploading events over the next week or two. 

When you have an event upload it to www.historymonth.org.au . If you have any queries contact Jess on info@historymonth.org.au

Events don’t have to be ambitious or fancy- we just want history lovers to connect all over Victoria and share their enthusiasm. Some of these ideas are for a post-COVID world but think of ways you can adapt them digitally. Once you have History Month nailed, then start planning your program of events to take you into 2021 and beyond. 

  • A digital afternoon tea where everyone shares a recipe from their grandparents and tells a one story about their grandparents. 
  • A history talk followed by Q&A (see ways in which RHSV can help)
  • I Was There When … (this idea & the next) from Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society). Three speakers presented their memories of the local area anchored around the statement ‘I was there when …’.
  • “I Wish I’d Been There …” A handful of your members describe the moment in the history of your local area they wish they had not missed, some are funny, some quirky and some are inspiring.
  • A show and tell where half a dozen people talk about an one object each from their historical collection
  • Galvanise your members to photograph the headstones in the local graveyards for their families and get them to upload to Facebook the photos and stories of those people – you can encourage this to go county-wide. (Thank you Gippsland)
  • Create a tour of your main street using QR codes which are linked to your website, so someone scanning a QR code in, say, the window of the local newsagent can read the history of that building and look at photos of what it used to look like. (Thank you Morwell)
  • An online class – the Chinese Museum have some great interactive online sessions for schools where they have a class in making Chinese lanterns or a Kung Fu class. Maybe your historical society can have a session on how to make a rawhide whip, how to skin a rabbit, how to darn socks, make a rag rug etc
  • An online bookclub – choose your favourite history book (fiction is OK!) and gather everyone online to discuss it. Ask the author to Zoom in too. 
  • Maybe you want to organise your monthly meeting of members or your AGM by Zoom
  • A talk by a local who grew up in your town – what are their stories, how do they remember their youth? These can be conversational events with someone to interview the person. They don’t have to be excessive- 45mins with Q+A. An hour is more than enough time for an event. Get a few people of similar vintage together to spark off each other. 
  • The local library could do an event explaining what local history resources they have – and how to use them. 
  • Do a joint event with the local genealogy society – how can you help each other’s members? How do you turn a series of dates into a cogent and engaging history? What drives the need for family history. What resources/strategies can people use to start/help break through roadblocks. Why family history needs ‘flesh to its bones’ and how to expand your family story
  • Oral history – what is oral history? Why is it important? Session on techniques and resources. Record oral histories and upload them to your website
  • History Brew – have a relaxed evening talk whilst participants indulge in their favourite brew.
  • Recordings of performers that can then be streamed from your website or YouTube
  • Videos of exhibitions, streamed from your website or YouTube
  • Webinar discussions with historians in a sister city anywhere else in the world
  • St Kilda Historical Society organised a short story writing competition. Entries could have been on any theme, in any genre and in any time period, providing that the story was inspired by or set in St Kilda.  There were two categories – open and junior. 
  • Create a DIY walking tour and upload it to your website. Or involve the local high school IT students and ask them to develop an app
  • Arrange a torchlight tour – of your local cemetery of historic house.
  • Team up with your local vintage store for an historical fashion parade.
  • Historical ‘Letters to the editor’ – find some interesting, poignant, funny, topical letters to the editor from the local paper and invite people to a Zoom reading.
  • Invite an Aboriginal Elder to share something about the cultural significance of your place.
  • Whose stories are missing from your displays? Do you tell the story of the farmer, but not his wife, the settlers but not the Aboriginal people? The master and mistress of the house, but not the servants? Arrange a special tour to share another perspective on your museum.
  • Think about your recent history – what has changed in the last 10-20 years? Hold a pop-up museum and invite people to share their stories of the recent past.
  • Hold a quiz night, including history rounds.
  • Film night – invite people to share some of their home movies and relive the past.You can do this on Zoom with people each contributing a handful of slides. 
  • Out of the vaults – do you have collections in storage that are rarely seen, or kept in areas that are not on public display?
  • Favourite things – invite local identities to select their favourite objects from your collection and write their own labels for them.
  • Take people on a tour of backstreets and laneways.
  • Find a local storyteller and put on a Bar Yarns event at the local pub.
  • Put together a panel of researchers to discuss their findings.
  • Run a research poster competition with the local school.
  • Ask current and former students to run school history tours.
  • Invite teens to try their hand at curating a history exhibition.
  • Launch a history book, website or exhibition.
  • Tour the local shops and look at how they’ve changed over time.
  • Find some local recipes – talk about their significance to the community.
  • Investigate a local myth/legend/story from different perspectives and build a tour or event around it.
  • Walking tour of an industrial area.
  • Put on a scavenger hunt and invite people to become historians and analyse the evidence.
  • Bring together different cultures in the area to discuss history with food/dance/art/craft/talks.
  • Have a hands-on workshop to learn a new skill from the past and talk about history as you go.
  • Invite retired workers from a particular industry to talk about their careers and skills (perhaps at the regular watering hole).
  • Invite residents of different ages to talk about the community and how it has changed over time
  • Put on a food making demonstration or workshop and talk about historical significance (cheese making/baking/winemaking).
  • Take a historical boat trip with talks about how it works and how it was used.
  • Screen a historical film and serve popcorn.
  • Hold a debate around a controversial issue in your area of history.
  • Get young visitors to recreate your town using found and recycled materials.
  • Hold a scanfest at your local research centre and invite people to bring their personal photos and documents to add to the collection.
  • ‘Greetings from…’: take us on a tour of your place. What makes it like it is? Who are the local characters? What do different areas of the place mean to different people? Peel back the layers.
  • Have a ‘night at the museum’.
  • Invite children to display their current favourite toys alongside ones from their grandparents’ era.
  • Following on from point 3 – ‘what happened next’ present letters to editor about controversial issues and then look the community response/outcomes of the issue.
  • Run competition to caption historical photos (aiming for funny/clever responses).
  • Set up a temporary display in a vacant shop window.
  • Invite visitors to rewrite or draw labels in ‘horrible histories’ style.
  • Walking tour about what is going on under people’s feet (way to talk history of gas pipes and water supply, land reclamation, environmental issues with industrial land…).
  • Have a bake-off/cook-off using local ingredients or traditional methods.
  • Have a day/evening to collect some oral histories for your site/building/area.
  • Hold a pet friendly event/tour.
  • Take the history to those that can’t get out – put up a display at a local hospital, visit a nursing home dressed up or sing songs from post-war/pre-war eras.
  • Get hands on with music – show children how to play historical instruments or learn how to make their own (playing spoons, whistle with gum leaves, etc.).
  • Organise etiquette lessons or have fun looking at lessons to be learned from 1950s housewives.
  • Organise a historical themed/dress up pub crawl.
  • Arrange a family-friendly themed bicycle tour around your local area.
  • Encourage people to bring in and display their ‘collections’ or have a swap meet.
  • For those savvy with social media, organise a historical themed Instameet.
  • Hold a photography competition.
  • Is there a famous/infamous animal in the history of your community? (think Bob the Railway Dog). Tell his/her story as an exhibition/presentation. Invite people to share other animal stories.
  • Partner with two or three other museums/historic buildings and have a progressive dinner, with starters, mains, desserts, tea and coffee along with maybe a short talk, game or display at each different venue.
  • Organise a community archaeological dig  – invite visitors to watch or take part.
  • Bring various age groups together to share and swap skills of their era: eg traditional string games (cat’s cradle), French knitting, ball room dancing versus skateboarding, video games, Rubik’s cube etc.
  • Create a memory box of items (ones that can be handled) and photographs on a particular theme like childhood, holidays, cooking, sport etc and share with residents from an aged care facility to inspire reminiscence and conversation.
  • Based in an historic building? Have after dark, candlelit (or replicate gaslit) tours or get performers representing characters that once lived/worked there tell their stories.
  • Organise a musical evening or theatrical performance in your historic building/grounds and encourage a new audience to visit you.
  • Have an Open Garden afternoon; with talks/presentations on traditional gardening/cooking methods eg making compost, keeping chickens, making preserves, creating sculpture from recycled materials.
  • Research the names on your local war memorial and tell their stories.
  • Invite a local community that has only recently migrated to the area to tell their stories in your museum/library etc.
  • Organise an Auslan interpreted tour of your museum/exhibition.
  • Recreate a typical event of the past from your community eg a strawberry fete; ‘a continental’;  a euchre party; or a beetle drive.  Make it a fun fundraiser: get people to dress up in appropriate period costume, and perhaps collaborate with a classic car club so participants can arrive in style.

(Many thanks to History South Australia who brainstormed many of these ideas)

HELP FROM THE RHSV

  • Need a guest speaker? We have some fabulous historians on our Council who are happy to do Zoom events wherever you are in Victoria. But get in fast.
  • If you don’t have a digital platform the RHSV can host your event on our Zoom subscription
  • Never organised a digital event? We are here to help you. It is surprisingly easy. 
  • The RHSV has some video equipment which we can lend to other historical societies for recording events (camera / lights / tripod etc).
  • We will be promoting these events  so sign up early 
  • You can always speak to Jess about how you go about an event if you are unsure.