Strategic Planning Committee members attend a Zoom meeting in July, 2020.

Wonky, but important. As we enter our second hundred years, it’s imperative to be clear about our direction – both for ourselves and for the community. In February, the Society’s Board adopted a new strategic plan for 2021-24, aptly titled “Stepping Into the Next Century Together.” The plan represents months of hard work by our wonderful Strategic Planning Committee (member list below) and involves input from over 250 members, Windsor residents, and community leaders.

Three key strategy statements form the plan’s main idea. Like the north-seeking compass arrow, they point our way forward as we aspire to:

  • Be first in our region to center our history and culture on the lives of racially and ethnically diverse members of our community.

To achieve this, we will ensure that:

  • Our work is rooted in the history, stories, and voices of all community members.
  • We will build our core competence in diversity, equity, and inclusion, aligning processes, systems, and structures with this vision.

This new plan also includes the Inclusion Action Plan goals adopted in January. Our dedicated Inclusion Team (member list below) examined a number of difficult questions about the Society, its history, diversity, and inclusion, and crafted a plan to address these issues across the entire organization. Inclusion Action Plan goals address the areas of leadership, organizational culture, recruitment, communications, and policies. The two plans are now one and unify our effort to make WHS a more inclusive organization.

The new strategic plan includes a number of specific goals, such as forming an ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force; developing a more diverse board and staff; and ensuring that our programs and events “walk the talk” by focusing on the needs and interests of Windsor’s diverse community, to cite some key examples. A summary of the plan is available on the About Us page of this website – check it out – you’ll be seeing more about these plans in the months ahead!

Inclusion Team Zoom

Members of the Inclusion Team listen during a meeting with consultant Jamal Jimerson (upper right), October 2020.

So, where is this all heading?

You may be wondering – with a new strategic plan, a powerfully worded inclusion action plan, and a new focus – where is this all heading? What does this all mean for Windsor Historical Society? I’m so glad you asked!

First, what it does not mean: This does not mean that WHS will stop serving as the region’s premier center for Windsor history, research, and genealogy.

What it does mean: We owe an enormous debt to our forward-thinking founders who sought to preserve elements of Windsor’s past for future generations and set aside financial resources to ensure that this legacy endured. Our new direction would not be possible without the hard work, support, and love of Windsor’s history that each of them, and you, have shown over past years. Our new edifice will be built upon the strong foundation established by our founders, donors, members, board leaders, and visionary executive directors Bob Silliman and Christine Ermenc.

Our mission has not changed. By aspiring to “be first in our region to center our history and culture on the lives of racially and ethnically diverse members of our community,” we are acknowledging that we have much work to do to truly fulfill our mission of “inviting people to connect with Windsor’s evolving history.” We understand that not everyone in Windsor felt that they were invited or included in this history. We understand that the parade of white faces, photos, historic homes, and objects, did not reflect our town’s whole history, and that many felt excluded and written out of the narrative. We will now re-double our efforts to be the premier historical organization for all of Windsor’s residents.

How will we do this?

You may have noticed that we have already begun. Some examples include our new webpage featuring Windsor’s Black History, our new gift shop offerings featuring books on the history of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people, and new programs encouraging people to consider ways to “do history” more inclusively. This is just the beginning. We realize there is still a long way to go.

In the coming months, as we celebrate our own centennial, we aspire to make this a celebration of the entire Windsor community. Beginning with our June annual meeting and program, you will be invited to experience a slightly different interpretation of the Hezekiah Chaffee House with old spaces being used in new ways. As our September 1 anniversary date approaches, you will be invited to a new exhibit in our changing gallery that will showcase the Society’s first 100 years and point the way to our next century. During the month of September, we plan to bring the celebration to the community place in different locations throughout Windsor. There will be much more as well – and I hope you will want to be part of it all!

Thank you, as always, for your continued support and involvement with the Society history! The Society exists for you – as your connection with Windsor’s history, and with your own history. Society members like you – past and present – have shaped an amazing first century, and I hope you are ready to step into our next century together!

By Doug Shipman, executive director, March 2021