Community

History in the Making; Your Museum in a Pandemic

Stay at home, flatten the curve, social distancing . . . We are experiencing a world unlike which our society has ever seen. Through history, there has been an ongoing battle with virus’s and bacterium, but not since the influenza pandemic starting in 1918, has the world been so greatly affected by a quickly spreading pandemic, and the reactions from all levels of government, and personal beliefs that comes with uncertain times. Through confusion, fright, and loneliness, people are struggling to do their part, stay at home, and watching news feeds and social media anxiously to follow the impact on the world we have temporarily left behind in an attempt to do our part to protect our at risk populations. Through much contemplation and a concern for our staff and visitors, MCARLM made the tough decision to shut the museum doors, and cancel programming through the crisis.

PROGRAMMING CANCELLATIONS AND MCARLM RESPONSES

Over the years, MCARLM has focused our core mission on educational programming. From our school tours, Intern program, and adult lectures, the museum has provided educational opportunities to thousands of community and visitors annually. With a downgrading in social studies lessons in the classroom, MCARLM has used our school tours and 4th Grade History Jamboree to fill a bit of that void. Typically in a 3 month period, the museum hosts over 1500 students to a hands-on-history experience. With the school’s shutting down, the school tour season has been cancelled for this year.

In response to the student shelter in place, with so many children distance learning from seclusion at home, and so many parents struggling to figure out how to make this happen, MCARLM is trying to do our part to help. Utilizing

Hands-on History Activity Pack for a boy

the educational resources that we have at the museum, we created an At Home Hands-on History Activity Pack. This pack contains a 32 page history activities booklet, 3 individual crafts, a traditional Ohlone Native American game for the family, and all of the supplies needed to be creative and utilize the pack, with an sweet treat of a candy stick. The packs have been provided, free of any charge, to area children, since March 23. Over the past month, (as of publication of this newsletter), MCARLM has provided this pack to 520 area youth, through doorstep delivery by MCARLM staff. An additional 45 youth have been provided the activity book by mail to areas all over the state, including Sacramento, and as far as the Winterhaven, in the southern part of the state. This project has been a ongoing labor of love, with the MCARLM staff working daily, at home, to continue creating and compiling these packets, in an attempt to remain relevant and to continue our mission of providing educational experiences, even if it is from afar.

Starting in 2012, with our Lost Towns lecture, MCARLM has provided an annual adult education lecture series. This years lecture was planned for April 2, on the topic of the artist, Jo Mora, locally know for creating the beautiful sculptures that are a part of the historic Robert Stanton Theater, presented by Peter Hiller, the curator of the Jo Mora Trust Collection. Due to the shelter in place and social distancing mandates, the presentation had to be postponed until further notice. In response to the loss of this educational entertainment MCARLM staff worked with Peter Hiller, and a local video editor to create a YouTube channel and a video presentation on Jo Mora for people to enjoy at home. With over 650 views to date, this informative video presentation provides almost an hour of entertainment to distract you for a short period of time during your shelter in place. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, and favorite snack and check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJwB4e0fqV0. We are currently working on more virtual tours to bring the museum to your living room., so follow our channel and let us know what you would like to see.

With the ending of the school year, and the closing of the museum, the staff has also lost their abilities to work over the past many weeks. In trying to help the staff, the MCARLM board voted to continue to provide pay for the scheduled shifts as long as possible within budget viability. The ability to do that is greatly in part to the foundations that generously supported the museum in the winter grant cycle.

MOVING FORWARD

The future remains uncertain for everyone. When will we be able to go back to business as usual, and really, what will business as usual look like? With the rising need from lost business there is now and will be a growing need in all sectors of personal and business life. Traditionally, non-profits struggle in times of uncertainty, and have the most difficult recovery time, relying on donations from businesses, supporters, and grantors that need healthy portfolios to determine the amount of generosity they can provide.  Like so many, we are looking forward to a time when we can get back providing a variety of programming, outreach, and having our doors open to the public so that we can continue teaching the community, youth, and visitors about the rich heritage of the Salinas Valley. We hope that when your life is back in full swing, you will join your museum in our mission and future goals. In the meanwhile, continue to wash up and stay safe.

Categories: Children Programming, Community, Events, History, MCARLM, Museum, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MCARLM COVID-19 Response

The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum cares deeply for our staff, docents, members, visitors, and area youth. If we have learned anything from the years of cultivating the rich heritage of the Salinas Valley, it is that together we are resilient and will persevere. During this time we have, as many have, made the hard decision to close our museum doors until we come through this crisis, and do our part to flatten the curve. This does not mean that we have stopped serving the community to the best of our ability. We have just had to re-imagine what the means, and what we can do. Here are a few options we are providing at this time:

At Home Hands-on History Packs: With the schools closing and thousands of children being confined to their homes for the next couple of months, we have responded to create and supply, free of charge, an activity package for children 7-12 that includes 3 crafts (and all needed supplies), 1 Native American family game, and a 32 page activity booklet, (created to provide a small amount of the educational experience a child would receive with a visit to the museum), and an old fashioned stick candy. While getting supplies at this time have proven difficult, we intend to continue to provide this pack as long as the need continues and the supplies last.

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Hands-on History Activity Pack for a boy

-Virtual Lecture: Originally planned as a part of MCARLM’s annual history lecture series, the program on Jo Mora by Peter Hiller had to be cancelled and re-imagined due to the shelter in place ordered due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Thank you to Peter Hiller for suggesting and putting together the content of this presentation, and thank you to Nick Potts for creating and editing this video. This virtual presentation can now be enjoyed in the comfort of your home, at your leisure. https://youtu.be/hJwB4e0fqV0

Unfortunately, we have had to cancel our school tours (for the Spring Season), 4th Grade History Jamboree, Lecture, and Kids Day at the Museum. As the situation progresses, the MCARLM board will continue to analyse our responses and the community need. Please reach out to us with any thoughts, ideas, needs or suggestions. We greatly appreciate the years of support from our community, and look forward to many more years of making history with you!

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Museum’s Connect in California: A Program Comes to an End

In April, the United States team visited Copan Honduras and spent some unique one on one timeDSC_1203 with our partner
s in the Common Ground, Connecting Communities through Gardening  program. The last week of May, the MCARLM team had the great pleasure of experiencing the Salinas Valley through another’s first time perspective when the team from Honduras flew out to spend a week in California. Living here all, or most of our lives, we tend to forget what an amazing area that Monterey County is. The visit turned out to be as much of a treat for all of us as it was for our guests.

The Honduras team, consisting of Liz Nutter-Valladares, Project Manager, Asociacion Copan, Paola Carias, Executive Director of the Copan Ruinas Chamber of Commerce, Jesus Guerra, Agricultural Consultant for the project, Donaldo Martinez, Educational Facilitator, and Karla Morales, Director of the Casa K’inich Children’s Museum, arrived in the early hours of the morning, but were up and raring to go for our packed first day.  Day one included a trip to Mission San Antonio de Padua and a personal tour by Dr. Robert Hoover. Dr. Hoover is recognized for his research in prehistory and historical archaeology and is considered one of the leading archaeologists in the state. His current passion includes the excavation and restoration and research at the Mission San Antonio. Dr. Hoover was gracious enough to provide the group with an in depth tour through the history and evolution of the mission from its early days to current times. From the mission ,the group traveled back to King City for a cattle dog demonstration orchestrated by local businessman and cattle rancher, Rich Casey.  Jesus, who is also a cattle rancher in Honduras, was able to see a side of cattle ranching that he had not experienced before and took every opportunity to ask questions and 20150525_210155learn from every experience the group had during the entire trip, but really felt a connection to this demonstration.

From Cattle ranching to south county hospitality at its best, the team was treated to a home BBQ’d meal over looking the Pine Canyon and King City area as we were warmly welcomed into the Casey home for dinner, drinks, and an impromptu birthday celebration for Jesus with a little musical entertainment, thanks to Rich and his mandolin.DSC_1240

With so much to see, on day two the teams were up and headed out to learn about farming in the Salinas Valley. Spending the morning with Will Taylor Farms, King City Nursery and Gill Onions learning about small farms and larger corporate farms. Lunch at Hahn Estate Winery provided a birds eye view of the Salinas Valley farm-scape. Heading back down the valley, the20150526_151859 visiting partners finally met the youth participants from the US for the first time at the Greenfield Science Workshop during a science demonstration.

The third day, the half-way mark of the whirlwind visit showed the group a lighter side of Monterey County with a tour of Matsui Orchid’s, a little light shopping and DSC_1272a chance to put their feet in the Pacific Ocean at Carmel’s beautiful white sanded beach.

Day four was spent with an in-depth touring of MCARLM’s 7 museum buildings and the Capstone BBQ, sharing of the community suitcase with the youth participants and presenting the teams and the program to the community.DSC_1308

After a week that was filled with so many sites, thoughts, comradery and friendship building, the Honduras team packed up and we headed back to Monterey. The last tour for the trip was a guided tour through the world class Monterey Bay Aquarium before saying an emotional goodbye at the Monterey airport. With the 20150529_162002visit, the capstone BBQ and one final garden work-day, the year long program came to and end. The next step for
MCARLM is to build an outdoor educational classroom, currently underway, and to make plans to re-focus and continue the educational program that was created through the opportunities provided by the Museums Connect grant. The goal of the educational garden will continue to be to teach community participants and area children about gardening, agriculture, science, nutrition and environmental stewardship.  For more information about programs and opportunities for involvement, contact the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum.DSC_0001

 

Categories: Children Programming, Common Ground Educational Garden, Community, MCARLM, Museums Connect | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

MCARLM to Collaborate with Honduras Museum

The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum (MCARLM), based in San Lorenzo County Park, announced today that it is the recipient of a 2014 Museums Connect grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the American Alliance of Museums to establish a children’s garden program in collaboration with the Casa K’inich Children’s Museum (CKCM) in Honduras.

Now in its seventh year, Museums Connect links U.S. communities with communities around the world through innovative, museum-based exchanges that foster mutual understanding while focusing on important topics like climate change, women’s empowerment, disability awareness, and civic engagement, among others.

Here in the Salinas Valley, MCARLM will partner with the Greenfield Community Science Workshop (GCSW), a program of the City of Greenfield, and Monterey County’s Cooperative Extension to establish the Common Ground: Connecting Communities through Gardens program. Program activities will be centered at the GCSW and the garden will be built at San Lorenzo Park. The garden will give local elementary school students an opportunity to be actively engaged in environmental stewardship. During the garden project, students will establish relationships with children in Honduras who will be engaged in a similar project at the CKCM. The young participants will connect via the internet, through video exchange and as pen pals. Through their local gardening projects, students from both countries, will see first-hand how the pieces of the world’s ecological puzzle interconnect.

The $65,000 grant is awarded by the American Alliance of Museums’ Museums Connect program. The program is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State and administered by the American Alliance of Museums. Grants are awarded for innovative, museum-based exchanges that strengthen connections between museums and communities.
“I applaud MCARLM’s commitment to reach beyond their local community to connect with an international audience while exploring ways in which the communities can engage with, and benefit from, the museums in your respective countries,” said Ford W. Bell, President of the American Alliance of Museums. “This is a fine example of the kind of project that the Museums Connect program hopes will engender lasting ties between communities in the United States and their counterparts all over the world.”

About the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum
For over 30 years, the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum has served Salinas Valley communities by offering programs and services that celebrate Monterey County’s agricultural legacy. Located in San Lorenzo Park in King City, the museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting artifacts that tell the story of the Salinas Valley. Our collections are showcased in exhibits throughout the park and in our seven museum buildings. Researchers and our Junior Historians are welcome to use the museum’s archive of historic photographs and documents. We engage community members in fun, hands-on family programs and events and offer standards-based school programs for elementary school students and teachers. For more information, contact Jessica Potts, Executive Director, jessica@mcarlm.org, 831-385-8020 or visit http://www.mcarlm.org.

About AAM
The American Alliance of Museums is the largest museum service organization in the world, serving all types of museums, including art, history, science, botanic gardens, zoos and aquariums. AAM helps museums serve their communities by developing standards and best practices, offering professional training and resources and serving as the national voice of museums for the public, media, and elected officials. Working on behalf of 35,144 museums, 400,000 museum employees, thousands of volunteers and the visitors who come to museums 850 million times each year, AAM is dedicated to bolstering museums in promoting lifelong learning, celebrating cultural heritage, and inspiring the creative skills to compete in a global economy. For more information, visit http://www.aam-us.org.

About the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) promotes international mutual understanding through a wide range of academic, cultural, private-sector, professional and sports exchange programs. The Bureau’s exchanges engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes and emerging leaders in many fields in the United States and in more than 160 countries. Alumni of ECA exchanges comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 50 Nobel Laureates and more than 320 current or former heads of state and government. For more information, visit http://exchanges.state.gov/.

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Halloween fun at the Museum

MCARLM Toxic Cemetery in the San Lorenzo Haunted Forest

MCARLM Toxic Cemetery in the San Lorenzo Haunted Forest

When the weather turns cold and days get short, what better way to enjoy a nice Halloween season evening than by gathering around a blazing bon-fire and sharing spine tingling camp fire stories.  Add to the thrill and ambiance of the evening by turning the surrounding area into your favorite haunted scene to make the entire experience that much more frightening.  The annual MCARLM Ghost Stories and Local Lore evening provides this experience to attendees.  With a minimal budget, staff has to find ways to make this event spooky and fun through creative steps, outside of spending much needed funds.

Entrance down to the Youth Camp Area

Entrance down to the Youth Camp Area

So to create this amazing event, it certainly helps to start with a spectacularly perfect location.  The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum is lucky enough to be set in beautiful San Lorenzo County Park.  This 200+ acre park includes acres of lawn to play on, 2 playgrounds, hiking trails, RV campground and a youth camp area that is located down in a bowl surrounded in trees and bushes that are ideal for creating a dark, haunted scene.  So using this perfect canvas was definitely a great starting point.

Besides the bon-fire pit and wooded area, another great aspect of this location is the secluded alcoves that it has, providing opportunity for individual scenes.  Right after coming down the steps, such an alcove was perfect for creating an old ‘abandoned’ toxic cemetery.  We were lucky that one of our board members has the makings for a cemetery, complete with life size coffin that we were able to borrow.  This look was created with some basic wooden planks, similar to the kind used for building fences.  Toxic BarrelWeathered wood looks best, but any wood plank will work.  Simply screw 3 wooden planks to 2 smaller cross planks to make a rickety looking headstone.  We used rebar stakes to keep them upright and secure.  To give the scene a sense of danger, we added a toxic spill using old barrels that we had in the park.  The toxic ooze was added to the barrels using an amazing product called Great Stuff, a spray insulation foam.  This super cool product truly is great stuff and is so easy to use and dries quickly.

Using an old barrel, trash can or other large container, spray the foam along the top and then carefully work your way down the side, making sure that the foam is adhering to the sides as you go.  Let it dry and add to it as necessary to create the effect you are looking for, then create a trail along the bottom of the container to demonstrate a flow of sludge into the now ‘affected’ area.  Once the foam dried, we used fluorescent green paint and topped it with glow in the dark paint to give it an eerie glow in black light and after dark.  If using a plastic barrel, like the one we used in the background, add some large glow sticks or a light to give the scene an eerie glowing effect.  Now your cemetery is ready to produce hoards of the un-dead!

I liked working with the Great Stuff so much, I set out to experiment to see what other gruesome creations I could make with it.  This next decoration that we made turned out better than I had imagined it and happens to be my new personal favorite!

Great Stuff trunk before paint

Great Stuff trunk after adding red paint

Great Stuff trunk after adding red paint

Using a pair of pants we got at the local thrift store, crumpled up paper to stuff the legs, two feet we found at the local dollar store, red spray paint and a can of Great Stuff (I know, this is starting to sound like an advertisement for this product, but this is really GREAT STUFF!), we made a gruesome bloody disembodied trunk to complement our saw murder scene.  Fill the top of the stuffed pants with the foam and then run it over the waist band to look like the guts are spilling out.  The foam expands so don’t worry when it starts off looking like you don’t have enough.  Let the foam dry to a solid and paint with red spray paint.  Use the remainder of the foam in the can to make extra guts to accent the scene.

Complete severed trunk scene

Complete severed trunk scene

Roaring bon-fire, spooky decorations, ooey gooey s’mores and now everything is ready for some scary stories.  Tell some that you remember scaring you as a kid (Bloody Mary anyone?), or go on-line to find an endless supply of frightening tales of horror and despair.  Remember, it’s all in the telling.  Take your time, and lower your voice for effect, causing the listeners to lean in prepping them for the big scare!  Happy Halloween!

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MCARLM Receives Grants

                 MCARLM is happy to announce that they have recently been awarded two grants.  The first grant that MCARLM received was a matching grant for $5,000 to help fund the Tour Guide and Docent Program which enables the museum to provide tours to visitors on weekends as well as school tours to over 1,400 3rd and 4th graders annually.  The Harden Foundation was established in 1963 by Ercia and Gene Harden. Their hard work and good fortune in agriculture in the Salinas Valley produced the legacy that has, through their foresight and generosity, become today’s Harden Foundation. The Harden Foundation is committed to build and expand upon the visions of Mr. and Mrs. Harden.

                 MCARLM also is excited to receive an opportunity grant from the Community Foundation of Monterey County to rebuild our currently non-functional web site.  Having a functioning web site is vital to promoting the museum, its programs as well as engaging the community and outside areas.  The Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC) is one of the oldest, largest grant making foundations on California’s Central Coast. Together with their philanthropic partners, they have awarded $9 million in grants to nearly 400 local nonprofit organizations in 2012 in the areas of community and social services, arts and culture, health, education, the environment, animal welfare, historic preservation and more.  MCARLM’s web URL is http://www.mcarlm.org. Keep an eye out for the wonderful changes that are coming thanks to the CFMC.

                As a non-profit, MCARLM relies on donations, memberships, fundraisers and grants to operate and provide programs such as the Junior Historian Program, upcoming Common Grounds Educational Garden, School Tour program as well as protecting the heritage of the Agriculture and Rural Life in the Salinas Valley.  The support of both the Harden Foundation and the Community Foundation of Monterey County is so greatly appreciated for without them, we couldn’t continue as a jewel of Monterey County.

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Reaching out to the Local Community

Programming for a small museum in a small community has its challenges. The Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum is located in a county park in King City, California. King City has a population of 13,100 people. For almost 200 years agriculture has been the economic backbone of Monterey County and our museum focuses on this heritage through exhibitions, a successful school fieldtrip program, and special events. As much as we publicize these events, we have found that the museum is just not necessarily on the community’s radar. Our continuing challenge has been how to get people in the door, engaged and then hooked on our programs.

Our museum recently participated in a Community Engagement/Public Dimension assessment as part of the American Alliance of Museum’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) which we found to be tremendously beneficial. Through this program we not only had a peer reviewer evaluate what we are doing and offer great suggestions, but we also benefited from the self-study process that brought the board, staff, and community members together. By putting our heads together we were able to really focus on our community’s needs. The majority of residents in King City are farm workers and their families. Most are low income; many do not speak English and this language barrier makes literacy a major issue. Through interviews we found that many local people visit the park every weekend but few felt comfortable visiting the museum. Our challenge was two-fold: 1) Getting people past the threshold and 2) Helping with the local literacy issue.

A program suggestion that we received from our MAP evaluation was to investigate the possibility of offering a weekend reading program. As the Program Director, this struck me as a wonderful way to engage the community. Like most small museums we have a very limited staff—but what we don’t have in numbers we make up with enthusiasm and commitment. We have one young woman on staff, Angelica Martinez, who works as a part-time tour guide. Recently she graduated from college with a minor in Child Development and will eventually pursue graduate school. She has always been very quiet and unassuming, however, due to her background, we gave her the opportunity to develop and implement this program.

The museum held our first Storytelling and Crafts program on the first weekend of September. It was a rousing  success! We anticipated attendance would be low and expected eight children at most. Were we pleasantly surprised when twenty children, four toddlers, and eleven parents showed up! We first read a farm story then transitioned into a craft activity. Finally the children visited the museum where we have plenty of hands-on activities for children. Because the story featured chickens, the children were able to hold a baby chick—a first for many of them! The outcome far exceeded our expectations, showing us that the community will respond to this type of program and it’s worth pursuing.

Another benefit was the personal growth of our tour guide (and now storytelling program coordinator). Given the opportunity, Angelica took our suggestions and ran with them. She personally blanketed the community with flyers and talked it up with King City residents. She showed an amazing amount of resourcefulness and enthusiasm and made the program her own. It was exciting to see her grow and exciting to see the community response.

While the museum has many more programming plans for the future, it is gratifying to provide an activity for local children and perhaps instill an interest in reading as well as an interest in the museum. This is but a great start. Participating in the MAP program helped to reenergize our focus and opened our eyes to future possibilities. We look forward to where this and other programs will go to help our community and our museum strengthen their bonds.

Here are some tips that might help you develop your own programs:

  • Look      at your untapped resources. Often staff members or volunteers have talents      or interests that aren’t being utilized for various reasons. Sometimes all      it takes is opening a door for someone to allow them the opportunity to      find or use their passions to aid in an idea.
  • Research      what your area needs. Do a survey or simply ask your community about how      you can fill a need. Whether it’s providing a program targeting a problem      area like literacy or providing a service that isn’t being offered in your      area, thinking outside the box about how you can endear yourself to the      community will help you become invaluable.

Participate in a program like AASLH‘s StEPs or AAM’s MAP. Doing self surveys should be routine in most organizations. Taking a look at what is being done and how to improve is a way to keep your focus moving in the right direction and having someone review and provide a fresh perspective about your organization can open your eyes to areas that you might not have noticed before.

By Jessica Potts, Published in American Association for State and local History’s Big Ideas for Small Museums

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