Tag Archives: Homestead Museum

Are We Confusing Problems with Solutions?

AASLH workshop on historic house museums at the Homestead Museum in June 2018.

On June 11-12, George McDaniel and I led the AASLH workshop, “Historic House Museum Issues and Operations” at the Homestead Museum in California.  This was our 18th workshop and we open every one by asking the participants to share the biggest challenge facing their museum, which we revisit at the end to ensure we adequately addressed their issue.

In the latest workshop, a dozen participants provided this list:

  1. Irresponsible stewardship by the city despite local community support.
  2. Lost connection to the local community and parent organization.
  3. Relationship with the parent organization. Aging volunteer base.
  4. Shifting priorities, finding overarching vision with changing leadership and multiple stakeholders.
  5. Managing growth and change; coordinating mission and vision of the site. Relevance to people 20-35 years.
  6. Prioritizing a lot of maintenance and repair issues. Should the site become a house museum?
  7. Prioritizing issues and engaging volunteers to help (one person trying to do it all).
  8. Connecting to interests and needs of the local communities; being a service to the community.
  9. Increase recognition of the site’s significance and value to the community and open site to the public as a museum; ensure the preservation of site if sold to a developer (e.g., easements).
  10. How to grow volunteer program (older volunteers moving out; younger volunteers have different interests and needs; engaging new or different cultures in the local community)
  11. How to drive traffic into the museum.
  12. Outreach to new audiences (currently “oldtimers”; want to add underprivileged communities who don’t know the history of the area; make relevant to all residents, have ownership).
  13. Overcoming preconceptions of historic house museum and negative perceptions of history.
  14. Connecting to the needs and interests to the community through the collection (e.g., hot issues); get people excited about history and empowering them to care for their own collections (tangible pieces of history).

I’ve anonymized and reorganized the list so the participants aren’t identified and on further reflection, I’ve come to a few conclusions: Continue reading

Workshops for History Museums and Historic Sites

The American Association for State and Local History unveiled an assortment of workshops for spring (there’s one in every time zone!):

Project Management for History Professionals
Dates: March 7 – 8
Location: History Colorado, Denver, CO
Instructor: Dr. Steven Hoskins, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
Cost: $475 members / $550 nonmembers
$40 discount if payment is received by January 31 (coming up next week!)

This unique two-day workshop improves how history museums operate and serve their community by teaching the fundamentals of project management to history professionals. Everyday work—exhibitions, programming, fundraising, special events, outreach, and collections care—benefit from the knowledge gained. Registration for the onsite workshop also includes access to an online course with related material.

From Children to Adults: Public Programming at History Organizations
Dates: March 14 – 15
Location: Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
Instructors: Tim Grove, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Alexandra Continue reading

Put Your Organization to the Rorschach Test

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you’re finding that your organization is in a rut and you no longer feel as inspired about its work, it might be useful to look at it in a new way by creating a “word cloud” of key documents, such as a strategic plan, mission and vision statements, interpretive themes, or visitor evaluation.  A word cloud is a visual presentation of the most frequently used words, sized by frequency.  For example, if you use the word “history” ten times more than “preservation” in your strategic plan, “history” shows up much larger than “preservation” in the word cloud.  The word cloud allows you to look at your organization from a different perspective: words jump out at you and prompt questions about what’s being emphasized (and what’s not).

As examples, in the slide show above I’ve assembled word clouds from the first few paragraphs of the About section of the websites (which often includes the mission or vision statements) of the following historic sites:

I’ve used word clouds in strategic planning sessions to Continue reading

Field Trip: Homestead Museum in California

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last week I had a chance to visit with my colleagues at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California.  I was the assistant director there a decade ago and it continues to be a special place to me (if you haven’t visited, it has great architecture and a great story).  After a generous lunch with the staff, director Karen Graham Wade and some of her staff took me to see the Workman House, the earliest house on the site.  It’s undergoing extensive interior rehabilitation to make it more suitable and attractive as an exhibit gallery.  It’s part of a major effort to respond to the changing interests of their visitors by increasing the self-guided experiences.  They are also reducing the number of days per week the Homestead Museum will be open for walk-in public tours and  increasing the number of days they’ll be open for tours by appointment and for other activities.  At La Casa Nueva, the second house on site, they are Continue reading