Museum

Hundred Year Old Tree Wreaks Havoc

Scan_20160718 (3)On May 15, during a gusty evening, the earth, and barn shook as a 130 foot Eucalyptus tree lost its footing and fell hard and strong onto the MCARLM Main Exhi20160515_183725bit Barn. This tree, estimated to be well over 100 years old and over 100 feet tall, was located on the north side of the museum in what used to be the Sugar Beet Harvesting outdoor exhibit. The tree blew over, roots and all, mangling irreplaceable pieces of equipment, including a Farmall M, Marbeet Jr. and a Single Row Marbeet Harvester, destroying the wood awning that protected the antique wood farming equipment and  causing a large amount of damage to the roof of the Main Exhibit Barn.20160517_133347

The clearing of the debris has been quite an undertaking. The biggest job was the removal of the tree from on top of the barn, revealing to us what the real extent of the damage is to the equipment and building. While we realize that the damage could have been way worse and more devastating, we mourn the loss of equipment pieces that we will never be able to replace. The destruction to the barn and the loss of the awning are both fixable with some work. We are currently working with engineers and the county insurance  to create a plan for repairs and rebuilding of the damage and structures that were lost in what really 20160517_175422comes down to a gust of wind. This random act of mother nature showed us here at the museum just how valuable our artifacts are, and how quickly these irreplaceable items can be lost and gone forever.

 

Advertisements
Categories: History, MCARLM, Museum | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Finding Common Ground in Washington D.C.

By: Meg Clovis

What do Morocco, Cambodia, Mongolia, Romania, Honduras, Jamaica, India, Brazil and the US have in common? Museums from all these countries were this year’s Museums Connect grant recipients. The Museums Connect program is made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Alliance of Museums. The program strengthens connections and cultural understanding between people in the United States and abroad through innovative projects facilitated by museums and executed by their communities.

Museum Connect Washington DC 2014 Sep (23) (3)

Meg Clovis in the Lobby of the State Department, Washington D.C.

At the end of September I had the honor of representing MCARLM at the Museums Connect Colloquium which convened in Washington D.C. for three days. This was an opportunity for each Museum to meet their partner museum for the first time, to meet other grant recipients from the US and around the world and to learn about the finer points of administering our projects, which will run through summer, 2015.

The Colloquium started with a full day at the State Department where each museum presented their project and then wrapped up with a Congressional Briefing and Reception on Capitol Hill. Meetings on day two and three were spent at the American Alliance of Museums headquarters where topics covered included Program Promotion, Project Sustainability, Reporting Requirements and much more.

Liz Nutter-Valladares represented MCARLM’s partner museum, the Casa K’inich Children’s Museum (CKCM) in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Liz and I had an opportunity to put our heads together and fine tune our project plans. The CKCM has a beautiful garden site at Macaw Mountain, a bird reserve in Copan. Our organizations are using the University of California Extension’s TWIGS gardening curriculum which our student participants will follow concurrently.

Museum Connect Washington DC 2014 Sep (39) (2)

Museums Connect Grant Recipients

MCARLM is privileged to be included in this important opportunity to build global communities through cross-cultural exchange. Check back in to follow our Common Ground Project and watch our garden grow!

Categories: Children Programming, Common Ground Educational Garden, MCARLM, Museum, Museums Connect, Projects | 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/.

Categories: Children Programming, Community, MCARLM, Museum, Projects | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mesa del Rey Training Facility

During WWII, a large portion of the pilot training was provided under government contract by civilian flying schools. The schools provided cadets with the same training and discipline as they experienced at military facilities, but because they were owned and operated by private entities, they were not designated as Army Air Fields and were not listed in any directories. Mesa del Rey, also known as Palo Alto Airport Inc. was one of these flying schools.

MDR Train Facility 1The original airport was first leased from the Spreckles Sugar Company in 1940 by the city who subleased it to Palo Alto Airport Inc. The airport began construction with the intention of training pilots for the Army Air Corps. The property was purchased by the city in 1941.

In 1941 the first group of Army Air Corps cadets arrived via train to be the first class to be trained at the Mesa del Rey flying school. It contained five barracks, a hospital, administration building, mess hall and 3 hangers on the property that is now the King City airport and Rava Farms complex (formerly the Basic Vegetables facility). The civilian operated facility accommodated 280 cadets and had 110 mechanics, 400 civilian workers, an administrative staff of 45 and a military staff of 35. This provided much needed work for local residents. At its peak, cadets logged 700 hours a day flying Stearmans and Ryans. By the time that the operation closed in October 1944 around 10 thousand cadets had passed through and graduated from the school.

MDR Train Facility 2As written in “Army Pilots in the Making”, a pictorial story created by pilots in attendance of Mesa del Rey to document a cadet’s experience at school:

“With the advent of the airplane to its position of such extreme importance, as proven since the start of the present conflict, a system to train hundreds of thousands of pilots had to be developed. The answer lay in the Army Air Forces; decision to contract the primary phase – to establish the now famous Army Air Forces Contract Flying Schools. To those . . . flocked the man who in the pre-war years had built up thousands of hours of experience in training men to fly – experience so vital in laying a sound foundation upon which to build the Air Force.
Since Time was of the essence, the Army needed pilots and needed them quickly . . . equipment had progressed rapidly to a point of being very intricate and calling for a high degree of skill in operating. With it came the outstanding achievement of all – a Safety Record. Not only are the pilots being trained but . . . they are the world’s best and the story of their deeds will long live in the history of the future.”

In February 1945, the U.S. Navy took over the facility to train fighter and torpedo plane pilots. 800 men were stationed at the Naval Auxiliary Station located in King City. The Navy demobilized the basin in September 1945, and the property reverted back to the City of King in 1951.

In 2011, through the perseverance of Joanne Banuelos, MCARLM received a video depicting Army pilots in the making at Mesa del Rey. It contained video footage, photos and records that were provided to the City by the family of Harry S. White. Mr. White was one of the three principle owners to start the civilian flight school. The video footage shows pilots arriving in King City by train and provides a view of how Mesa Del Rey operated in the 1940s.
Recently, during the Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser, this video was shown to those in attendance. Local boy, Jack Hayes attended the school in 1943. During an oral histories interview with Jack he talked briefly about his time at the facility:

Jack Hayes

“ . . . they’re all sharp young men from the age of 20 to 26. We call them the cream of the crop and I suppose they were. The cadets were assigned to living quarters, two to a bedroom with a bathroom dividing every two bedrooms, so it was pretty deluxe accommodations. We were here for 9 weeks to get about 65 to 70 hours of training before we went on to basic. Cadets were assigned 5 cadets to an instructor. King City was one of the earliest primary training fields and had one of the top ratings of the primary fields. Harry White and his people went all over the United States recruiting top flight civilian flyers and they got a pretty darn good bunch. As a local boy, nobody wanted to instruct me because I knew them all and they were afraid they’d have to wash me out. I got Joe Gillespie to start with, and he solo’d me. Then I got Luke Zanidovich for my second half of training. We flew a Ryan PT22. It was a good interesting airplane to fly. The snap roll to the right was so quick you didn’t know what was happening. Most of the time they used bi-planes, Stearmans for training. They had a pretty high wash out rate here, somewhere between 20 and 40% didn’t make it. Most of us made it and I’ve loved flying ever since.”

Categories: History, MCARLM, Museum | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Visiting This Summer

sticker-3.5inx2in-h

What would life be like without teachers, doctors or firefighters? Every day Americans are hard at work on farms, factories, in homes or at desks keeping our communities thriving. The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum, will explore the professions and the people that sustain American society when it hosts “The Way We Worked,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. “The Way We Worked” will be on view June 15 through July 20.

MCARLM and a few other California communities have been expressly chosen to host “The Way We Worked” as part of the Museum on Main Street project—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour five communities in California from October 2013 through July 2014.
“The Way We Worked,” adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration, explores how work has become a central element in American culture. It traces the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and increasing use of technology. The exhibition draws from the Archives’ rich collections, including historical photographs, archival accounts of workers, film, audio and interactives, to tell the compelling story of how work impacts our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities.

MCARLM is excited to be hosting The Way We Worked. It will allow the opportunity to explore fascinating aspects of our own region’s history, and hopefully it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of the local community.

The Way We Worked is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation and local host institutions. To learn more about “The Way We Worked” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit http://www.museumonmainstreet.org.

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. SITES connects millions of Americans with their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of art, science and history exhibitions. State humanities councils, located in each state and U.S. territory, support community-based humanities programs that highlight such topics as local history, literature and cultural traditions. To learn more, visit http://www.sites.si.edu.

Sack Room Operations

      To kick off the visit of this exhibition, MCARLM will be hosting an evening grand opening that will advance through an average work day while touring the exhibit and enjoying progressive heavy appetizers. Featured speaker, Meg Clovis, will tell the stories of generations of working people who made Salinas Valley agriculture what it is today. The Junior Historian members will be adding to the exhibition by creating a local aspect of the exhibit showing different pieces of local industry, how they have built and influenced our local community.

The exhibit will be located in Harden Conference room of the King City Train Depot and will be available for visitation Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 3, or by appointment. A public closing event will be held on Thursday, July 17 starting at 5:30 and will include a panel of local businessmen to discuss different aspects of business’s that have created, built and impact our area, community and the people that inhabit it. This event will be in conjunction with a mixer for the King City Chamber of Commerce. Make a point to visit the museum during this traveling exhibition and don’t miss out on an opportunity to view this first class exhibit from the Smithsonian.

 

Categories: Events, MCARLM, Museum | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

523470_10202618833339031_639950198_n

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

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.

Categories: Community, MCARLM, Museum, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Exciting Announcement From The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum

MONTEREY COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & RURAL LIFE MUSEUM RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS GRANT FOR CHILDREN’S GARDEN COLLABORATION WITH THE EGYPTIAN AGRICULTURAL MUSEUM

The Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum is excited to announce that we have been chosen by the American Alliance of Museums to receive a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of State to participate in a international Museum Connects Program that will be in collaboration with the Egyptian Agricultural Museum (EAM) in Giza.  This exciting program will be in partnership with the Community Science Network (CSN) located in Greenfield and the Monterey County’s Cooperative Extension and will be creating the “Common Ground:  Connecting Communities through Gardens” program.  Through this program, a community garden will be built as a part of the museum complex at San Lorenzo Park.  A select group of local students will participate in this program and develop relationships with other children participants in Egypt whom will be engaged in similar projects.  Both groups will work together and communicate through internet exchanges, videos and as pen pals.  Students from both countries will see first-hand how the pieces of the world’s ecological puzzle interconnect, that environmental challenges are complex and cannot be understood in isolation.

Museums Connect pairs museums in the United States with museums abroad for a cross-cultural exchange that brings people, especially youth, together to open a dialogue through community projects, partnerships with local or tribal governments and schools, and local events.  The mission of Museums Connect is to build global communities through partnership, collaboration and cross-cultural exchanges, linking the respective museums with communities both abroad and locally, while also supporting U.S. foreign policy goals such as youth empowerment and promoting disability rights.

The $64,650 grant is awarded by the American Alliance of Museums’ Museums Connect program.  Grants are awarded for innovative, museum-based exchanges that strengthen connections between museums and communities.  This 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.

“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.”

The program between MCARLM and the EAM is 1 of 11 Museums Connect programs that have been chosen to participate in the 2013 Museum Connects cycle.  This program will run from August thru June of 2014 and will include mutual visits by participating museums.  The next 11 months are going to be busy and exciting for us here at MCARLM, but we couldn’t be more honored to be able to participate in this incredible opportunity that is taking our small gem of a museum international.

Categories: MCARLM, Museum, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

And on the menu . . . Bologna Sandwiches!

At the Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum, we have found that the key to keeping people happy at an event and coming back for others, is to provide good food and drink as well as quality programming.  As mentioned in previous blogs, MCARLM is lucky enough to be hosting the Smithsonian traveling exhibition, Bittersweet Harvest The Bracero Program 1942-1964 from now until July 28, 2013.  Planning the grand opening for this special exhibit, we booked a great speaker, contacted and scheduled our local politician and nailed down a special evening for our members and special guests.  The last piece to the puzzle was to talk with a local caterer and plan a menu that would compliment the exhibit and the evening we had planned.  Dbologna & cheese wedgeelicious Chili Verde Burritos, Taquitos and guacamole, a fresh fruit salad, chips, salsa and Bologna sandwiches.  What?  Bologna Sandwiches?

Processing Center, Monterrey Mexico.
Photo by Leonard Nadel

For many Braceros, the noon time meal provided by the farmers consisted of a sandwich comprised of yellow cheese, bologna and white bread.  These quick and easy meals could be made and distributed in mass.  Touching into this aspect of the Exhibit, our talented caterer made a tray full of ‘fancy bologna sandwiches’ with the addition of mayo, lettuce and red onion.  We set up the main part of the meal down in another building, where we were holding the lecture and presentation, and set up the tray of sandwiches by itself with some wonderful wines in the gallery that is housing the exhibit.  Now taking into mind that we were hosting a group of local VIP’s including the area Supervisor and town mayor, the nerves set in.  Our guests have become used to fun, educational events with delicious food and lots of beverages.  How would they react to an appetizer of home spun bologna sandwiches and a glass of wine?  Does wine even complement bologna sandwiches?

To my relief and surprise, the sandwiches were received with delight and for many, nostalgia.  The appetizer brought back memories of camping trips, youth and were just plain delicious!  Before transitioning from the gallery to the presentation tent for yet more food, the tray was just about empty.  Thinking outside the proverbial chaffing dish and serving a non traditional treat not only tied in the exhibit to the menu, but also added a fun touch to the evenings meal.  Now to answer the question posed, does wine complement bologna sandwiches?  To that I answer, a good wine complements everything!

Categories: Events, MCARLM, Museum | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.