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Meet Matthew Schiff of San Diego History Center in Balboa Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Schiff.

Matthew, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started with the History Center as a volunteer, working in Marketing. Having been laid off twice during the Recession, I decided to move from the agency side of the marketing/pr world to the client side. Additionally, I had majored in history in college and it was the area of true interest to me so I said, “working at a history museum would be an good “gig.”

So I started, as I mentioned, as a volunteer. As luck would have it, there was a transition in the organization and suddenly I was asked to step in. I’m now the Marketing Director and daily use my trained skills in the field that I find most interesting. It’s a dream gig!

Has it been a smooth road?
The world of non-profit is always a struggle. There is intense competition for grant money and we are very susceptible to market forces. When times are tough, supporters may tighten their belts and reduce their charitable giving. So that is always a struggle.

Another struggle is the competition for visitor attention. For example, San Diego is a global tourist destination, with many great attractions to offer and Balboa Park routinely ranks as #1. That being said, there is the San Diego Zoo and 18 other cultural attractions, food options, and more. It’s a struggle to make sure that we are part of that visit among, admittedly, some really world-class options for folks. I understand!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with San Diego History Center – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
San Diego History Center is the respository of the region’s shared past. It is one of a few institutions that tell the history of one of the United States’ top-10 largest metropolitan regions–one that is intertwined the cities all along the US/Mexico border. Each day we work to incorporate as many perspectives and viewpoints with which to look at our past, the good and the bad. We, through our exhibitions and public programs, bring specialists from the diverse San Diego community to share their stories, their experiences, and what is their reality with as many people as we can.

We serve tens of thousands of school children each year, a great majority of whom come from under-served and low-income communities that might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit our museums.

In 2018 we celebrate our 90th year in operation and will work to become a more vital link to the future. When we look at our past, we see a trajectory to the future. We will strive to be that link to the possibilities of what’s to come based on what has happened in our past and we look to involve as many voices in that discussion.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like San Diego’s diversity. We are the largest city along the US/Mexico border and that our border crossings represent some of the busiest in the world. We have a large military presence which brings people from a diverse demographic through San Diego, with many returning to make homes and–in the process–enrich the mosaic of who is a San Diegan. We have one of the largest Chaldean populations in the world outside of Baghdad, Iraq. The oldest established Jewish population in California, a deep-rooted Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese population are just a few more that round this out.

Due to the region’s desirable climate, strategic location, and stunning natural beauty, San Diego is a very popular place to live. Land values and home prices rise, seemingly exponentially, and therefore its hard for people to make it. Consequently, we have a high-homeless situation which, sadly, is being squeezed out of its traditional territories and are making matters tough for them. We lack the infrastructure and housing availability to provide places for people to go and get access to resources that would help them. I wish there were more solutions to that problem. There are a lot of people who are just needing a little help and they can end the cycle of homelessness but there aren’t a lot of options.

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