The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society was founded in 1885. In 1954 the Society dropped “State Archaeological and” from its name. Sixty years later, the organization is going for an even more radical change.
Yesterday the Ohio Historical Society announced that it is going to change its name to Ohio History Connection. The name change is part of an effort to update and re-brand the organization. Executive Director Burt Logan has been working over the last five years to turn around the agency, which was in financial troubles and losing members. He conducted a two-year study that showed Ohioans perceived the group as “exclusive and not having an image across the state that people find welcoming. . .”
Historical and genealogical organizations across the country are in similar situation. We live in a new era, and many people perceive our groups as stodgy and stuffy, as well as very closed and not open to new people and new ideas. In fighting these perceptions, groups are trying many new ideas.
In a report in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday, Logan sayd that “We want to move the organization out from behind the glass. We’re not dumbing down history; we’re making it more accessible.” He goes on to say that “The name change is not a panacea, but it sends a signal to a broad audience that we have entered a new day.”
I hate to contradict the gentleman, but to me the new name sounds exactly the opposite. It comes across as if the organization hired consultants to research the problem and they came up with a jargon solution.
Yes, names like XYZ Historical Society can elicit images of old-school paneled libraries with cigar-smoking gentlemen in suits. But there are plenty of groups that have rebranded without resorting to current trends in marketing verbiage.
What is more fascinating to me is that the name change comes during a period when in-person visits to historic sites are up 95%, and society membership is up 22%. While I applaud the desire to be more attractive, why the need for something quite so drastic at this point? And investing in a total name change is not inexpensive. Signage, brochures, stationery, etc. all need to be recreated.
The organization already has a website branded Ohio History (www.ohiohistory.org). Why not take the same route that groups like the Colorado Historical Society, which became History Colorado? This is a modern, fresh name that doesn’t run the risk of being trendy.
It has been 60 years since the last time the organization last changed its name. Somehow, the name Ohio History Connection just does not sound like a name that will stand the test of time.