Early in the new year we are planning to make a dramatic change. The San Diego Historical Society will begin operating as the San Diego History Center. The idea of changing our name has been under discussion for many years, but without resolution. In the meantime, a whole family of overlapping names has mushroomed up somewhat organically around us – and it can be pretty confusing.
We are the San Diego Historical Society. But our signage and printed materials refer to us just as often as the Museum of San Diego History or the San Diego Historical Society Museum. Our library is the additional beneficiary of a plethora of titles including (take your pick): Research Library, Research Archives; Photo Services; or Booth Historical Photo Archives. In addition, there is the not so little problem that when most people see our acronym – SDHS – the first thing they usually say is, “That stands for San Diego High School!”
Recently we organized a new Advisory Committee made up of distinguished San Diegans: Malin Burnham, Timothy M. Considine, Kim Fletcher, Fran Golden, Yvonne Larsen, David Malcolm, Jack Monger, and Stephen B. Williams. They have been asked to provide the Board and staff with fresh perspectives as to how our organization can better serve the community. One of the Advisory Committee’s first recommendations was that we change our name to something that sounds more inviting and inclusive than “historical society,” which sounds exclusive. They underscored that we need a name that is more in keeping with our goal of becoming a more dynamic and popular organization. The Board and I agree wholeheartedly.
Not surprisingly, similar reasoning has inspired distinguished historical organizations all over the county to update their names over the past twenty years. Among the many communities now served by “history centers” rather than “historical societies” are: Atlanta (GA); Knoxville (TN); Cedar Rapids (IA); Frankfurt (KY); St. Paul (MN), Orlando (FL); Pittsburgh (PA); and Tampa Bay (FL).
Operating under a more visitor-friendly name such as the San Diego History Center will enable us to do a much more effective job of marketing and promotion. Making sure that we use the new name consistently will also help clear up some of the current confusion over whether, say, the San Diego Historical Society and the Museum of San Diego History are in fact one and the same.
The change of name will not be cosmetic alone. New and more exciting exhibitions, programs, and publications will follow in the years ahead and culminate in the complete modernization of all our visitor experiences in time for the 2015 centennial of the Panama-California Exposition.
We look forward to serving you, and counting on your support, as we become the San Diego History Center!