The Utah Historical Society's newly appointed program manager sees herself as a "professional booster" with the goal of making history exciting for her fellow Utahns.
Patricia Mansfield-Smith has been in her new position for just three month and is already making plans that will affect Utah history buffs for the next 10 to 15 years."I think developing a long-range plan for the Historical Society programs is the most important challenge facing us right now," Smith said. "Programs, exhibits and activities are not easy to develop. Having a plan helps provide the time needed to provide those resources."
But there are short-term goals as well. At the top of the list is a desire to "let the public know who we (the society) are and where we are." She admits the society's location in the old Rio Grande Railroad depot on 400 West presents some problems. Because it is away from the central business district and heavily traveled streets, visibility is a problem. That problem will be somewhat compounded during the winter, when the exhibition area in the center of the building will be closed to renovate the ceiling.
"I hate to see us close our exhibition area but it needs to be done," Smith conceded.
But that will give her an opportunity to put together a new program for the reopening next spring, a challenge she relishes. Just what that might be is still in the brainstorming stage, however.
Smith said her current focus is on outreach programs that take the historical society to the public on their own turf. This includes using "suitcase" exhibits in the schools, promoting lectures about and tours to various historical sites in the state, and getting educators more involved with society programs.
"We have many things to offer students and teachers, and I would like to see us increase the kits we have available to the schools," Smith said. "I also hope that we can develop some mobile exhibitions that can travel to schools and cities."
Smith also wants to see the Historical Society take the lead in pulling together all the museums and history groups in the state. She said efforts are under way to develop a brochure listing the various museums around the state.
"We have a lot of good museums around the state, and we need to make people more aware of what they have to offer," Smith said.
Major items that will be occupying Smith's time are the 50th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack, and the statehood centennial observance.
"There's only two years left to plan the World War II exhibits, and the centennial is just six years away," Smith noted.
For most people, that seems like a lot of time. For historians and history buffs, two years is like a dime in the candy shop; it's gone before the taste buds get a chance to warm up.