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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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.

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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!

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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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Setting a 1930’s Event Theme

The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum recently held its 1st annual Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser.  Easily planned was the dinner and venue, and once we decided on the setting the program around the 1930’s magic lantern slides that have been housed in our archive, the time period and theme was decided.  So the task that lay before me was how to plan and decorate for a 1930’s theme that didn’t leave attendees in a great depression, and how to turn a plain, small hall

DeAnza Building before Event

DeAnza Building before Event

that’s décor is already pretty retro (think laminate floors with carpet on the wall) in to a speakeasy/art deco lounge with little to no budget.  After hours of strenuous research via the internet, I realized, I was pretty much on my own.My first thoughts went to the tables.  To me round over rectangle was a clear choice.  Sure you can fit more in a room with banquet style seating, but I was looking for elegance.  Needing to save money, we needed to use our stock of tablecloths, which meant I had to work with a burgundy color scheme, which actually worked out quite well.  I Centerpiecechose to hunt down peacock feathers which were reasonably easy to find and ostrich feathers, much harder doing so within a meager budget, but I eventually found a source that was within an acceptable realm of indulgence.  I paired these plumes with a few white Calle Lilies, some pearls, votives and round mirrors for a simple, classy centerpiece that enhanced the table, but wasn’t so tall it took away from the conversation of the guests.

Dinner SetupThe building has 8 windows that look out upon a beautiful park, which would never do for a ‘speakeasy’ so I needed to pull the eyes away from the lovely brown carpet and frame the room and windows accordingly.  Looking on-line for backdrops, I found that they are pretty pricey, so that was out of the equation.  My first thought was to bring out a pen and cover the windows in art deco cityscape and silhouette designs.  After realizing that my artistic ability would greatly prevent me from accomplishing much more then rectangles and stick people, I needed to come up with something else.  So instead of looking out at an art deco scene, I decided to brick wall all of the windows.  Using clip art and over 100 11×17 pieces of paper, I copied, cut and taped together enough brick walls (complete with bullet holes) to cover the windows.  The lovely silver drapery is nothing more than plastic table covering by the roll.  I completed the room with posters of movies, art deco art and magazine covers from the 1930’s, many great conversation pieces (ever heard of ‘Reefer Madness’?  The poster alone is worth checking out!).

Keeping with the theme, using a cardboard beer flat, I made some chocolate cigars and added a little ambiance by having a cigar girl walk around offering “Cigars, Cigarettes”.  After weeks of planning

DeAnza Building Event Ready

DeAnza Building Event Ready

and crafting, my venue was ready for the party.  So, did I do all of this within a reasonable budget and was all the work worth it?  For a party of 75, the final cost of decorations was just under $3 per person, the event which included a fantastic Live Auction was a huge success and attendees raved about it for days, and this is for sure the museum’s newest annual event.  This event is barely to rest and now my mind is spinning with plans for next year.

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The Many Hats of a Small Museum

Like many museums, here at the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum, we operate on a small staff.  With just 2 taking care of all that the museum needs on a daily basis, that means being open to taking on new, sometimes foreign jobs.  Administrator is event coordinator is programmer is marketing is . . . ok, so you get the point.  We are very excited about hosting the exhibition, Bittersweet Harvest The Bracero Program 1942-1964 this summer.  This exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian will include programming focused around it and we are preparing to do a lot of promotion for it.  Luckily, the Smithsonian provides a graphics package for all of our promotional needs!  Unfortunately, it is all Mac based, and here at our humble museum, we are happy to fumble around our pc.

Time to bring out the graphic design hat and learn how to use that Adobe Photoshop program that has been hidden neglected in the All Programs file.  Days of cutting and pasting, playing with an eyedropper and paint bucket and I have a folder full of beautiful promotional items that even the Smithsonian approves of and says “send them to print!”.  So after diligently price comparing multiple sources, I find both quality and a price that fits my budget.  Download this and that, and we are off to print!  Take a moment to bask in the pride of overcoming a challenge and then a quick change of hats and on to the next task.  All is good in the land of graphic design, until I receive an email notifying me that my order is all wrong.  It must be print ready and needs to bleed?

A couple more hours delving into the foreign language of graphic design, and we are back on track.  Files are back at the printer, confidence is renewed and graphic design hat is safely stowed away and replaced with a more familiar and comfortable hat.  Working in a small museum with a small staff certainly has it challenges, but the reward is learning and growing with the immediate need and being able to adapt to almost any situation.

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Jumping into Blogging

To Blog or not to Blog? Such a big question. Here at this little museum in a relatively small town, we find ourselves hesitantly dipping our toes into new areas of technology and with so much going on we are attempting to test our hand at the world of blogging. No promises on the outcome that will be reached. All we can hope for is to reach out and keep our readers interested and impart a little information about our ever-changing museum.

Right now we are in the middle of planning for not 1 or 2 but 3 big events, with smaller events popping up around us. We are weeks away from the Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser. (Yes, here at Magic Lanternthe Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum, we believe in long titles!) This dinner will be set in a 1930’s theme to complement the private preview of the King City Magic Lantern Slides. The museum has recently acquired a 1930’s Balopticon, also known as a Magic Lantern.  We will be providing attendees the opportunity to view firsthand over 180 glass slides of ads from local businesses that range from the early 30’s to mid 40’s that the museum has preserved in its collection.

We are also gearing up to host an exhibition that will be on loan from the Smithsonian from May 31, 2013 to July 28, 2013 called Bittersweet HarPostcard_A_frontvest, The Bracero Program 1942-1964.  The museum will focus on the families’ aspect of the exhibit while planning its programming and is working on a Cultural Community Celebration including dancers, music and original artwork by local youth as well as lectures and a movie based around the program.  The community opening will be held on June 1, so there is a lot to look forward to with this program.

Of course not to be forgotten amongst all of this planning is the annual community celebration, 4th of July in the Park.  This fun day brings the local area to the park to enjoy live music, local food and beverage vendors and a great family activities area featuring fun old-fashioned games and activities.  This event is annually a great opportunity for friends and family to connect as well as support the museum.

With so much going on, and being a new blogger, this site will have to be a work in progress.  Any suggestions will be appreciated.  So, enjoy the story and join me on this adventure into a world of technology that we are hesitantly exploring.

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