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New Report Outlines National Planning for “America 250”

Post Date:01/28/2020

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New Report Outlines National Planning for “America 250”

By John Marks, Senior Manager, Strategic Initiatives, AASLH
via the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) web site

Earlier this month, the United States Semiquincentennial Commission published its report to the President laying out their vision, framework, and recommendations for the United States’ 250th anniversary commemoration. The report on “America 250,” as the national commemoration effort will come to be known, offers new insights into ongoing preparation for the 250th by the Commission and many federal agencies. It also contains some important information for state and local history organizations beginning to consider how they might acknowledge the anniversary.

Urgency and Schedule

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the report is the urgency of advancing commemoration plans. Although the full commemoration period extends from 2020 until 2027, the report makes clear that July 4, 2026, in many ways marks the end, not the beginning, of the commemoration. The schedule in the report indicates that the Commission’s planning phase will end in mid-2021, about eighteen months from now. While state and local history organizations will have longer than that to plan programs, exhibits, and other new initiatives, the time is now to begin in earnest any planning for the 250th.

Themes, Guidelines, and Frameworks

The report outlines three major themes for America 250: to Educate, Engage, and Unite. They also define the commemoration as including all of American history and expansive geographic scope. These align well with AASLH’s collaboratively-developed goals and ongoing emphasis that the 250th represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to present history that is inclusive and relevant, to use collections and educational programs to engage the public in new ways, and to build the capacity of history institutions. AASLH working groups dedicated to these goals had many of their ideas included in the report, such as the “History Is Still Happening” initiative proposed by our collections group (p. 88), or the “Sites of Revolution” idea conceived by our relevance group (p. 58).

More specifically, the report presents several “participatory frameworks” to guide and align the thousands of programs and other commemoration efforts that will be part of America 250, which the Commission envisions will be a “largely decentralized” effort (see Section V). AASLH members should look in particular at the “State and Local Programs Framework,” outlined on pages 41–44. We encourage all history organizations to consider how your programming might fit with these frameworks, goals, and themes, and to work with colleagues in your community, state, and region to begin identifying shared goals and coordinating plans.

Read the entire article on the AASLH web site.

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