Fans of the Gamble House, the Arts-and-Crafts masterpiece created by Greene and Greene in 1908, will either be thrilled or horrified this Halloween season. The Machine Project has transformed the House during the Pasadena Art Council’s two-week AxS Curiosity Festival to reveal the history and visual ideas behind the historic site in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Called the “Field Guide to The Gamble House,” it includes experimental tours and dances, group naps, operatic bird beaks, seances, videos, architectural lawn furniture and a secret Swiss-Japanese fusion restaurant. Complementing those live events, they’ve installed contemporary paintings and sculptures throughout the house to juxtapose today’s artistic ideas with 1908′s architectural style. On-site, hands-on workshops offer lessons in topics ranging from soap-making (a tribute to the family’s business) to solar robotics, from Craftsman-style cat houses to basic electronics, bringing the Arts and Crafts movement in parallel with today’s Maker groups.
I have to admit that I’m the strange visitor at historic sites. I not only take photos of the architecture and landscape, but reception desks, walkway paving, light fixtures, wheelchair ramps, and signs. These are the things that make a visitor experience good, bad, or ugly, but they’re often overlooked and it’s hard to find good examples.
Gamble House Tour Menu Sign
Here’s one from the Gamble House in Pasadena, California. It’s a sandwich board placed on the driveway leading from the sidewalk to the garage, which now serves as the bookstore and admission desk. The sign isn’t big, but the bright color and location makes it easy to spot from the sidewalk. Visitors can comfortably learn about the options and then go inside the bookstore to buy their tickets. Notice it’s called a “tour menu,” using familiar terms so that visitors quickly grasp the purpose of the sign. The sign is placed outside in shady spot in front of the bookstore (those are the doors behind the sign). The store is small and often busy so encouraging people to make their selection outside is much more comfortable, especially because these types of decisions are typically Continue reading →
Los Angeles is hosting a four-day international conference on the care and interpretation of collections in historic house museums on November 6-9, 2012 called, The Artifact, its Context, and their Narrative: Multidisciplinary Conservation in Historic House Museums. A half dozen organizations are sponsoring and hosting the conference, including ICOM-DEMHIST (the international committee for historic house museums), three ICOM conservation working groups, the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute, the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture/Heritage Conservation Program, and the Gamble House. Historic sites encounter some of the most challenging preservation issues in the museum field because it is often impossible to maintain environmental conditions that are ideal for the collections, building, and visitors. Indeed, some leaders in the field have wondered whether historic sites should be even considered museums because it establishes such an impossible standard.
The four-day conference consists of two days of site visits (such as the Gamble House, Huntington Library, Eames House, and Will Rogers Ranch) and two days of presentations and lectures. Sarah Staniforth (National Trust UK) and Linda Young (Deakin University) will be providing broad overview presentations on the challenges and opportunities facing collections in historic sites, but most of the presentations are Continue reading →
Arroyo Seco Parkway National Scenic Byway Interpretive Plan produced by Engaging Places for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in May 2012.
If you’re interpreting a group of sites or a heritage area, you might be interested in reviewing an interpretive plan I completed earlier this year for the Arroyo Seco Parkway National Scenic Byway. When the Parkway was completed in 1940, it connected Los Angeles and Pasadena and began southern California’s Freeway Age. It’s also a region that has a dense concentration of museums, historic sites, parks, historic Main Streets, architectural landmarks, and unique businesses, including the Gamble House, Huntington Library, Lummis Home, Heritage Square, and Olvera Street. To bring attention to these cultural riches, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority commissioned me to develop this plan and work with a local stakeholders, build on an inventory of assets developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and integrate audience research conducted by the Community Land Use and Economic Group and Decision Support Partners.
The planning process followed a traditional approach by collecting content to develop topics and themes; conducting visitor research to identify target audiences; and finally Continue reading →