Posts Tagged With: Community

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.

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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.

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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!

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

Doe, a Deer an Invasive Deer!

In preparation for our museum exchange program with the Casa K’inich Childrens Museum in Copan Honduras, MCARLM planted it’s first crops in the Common Ground Educational Garden.  Not wanting to jump into this important exchange program without having some gardening experience, we planted our basic tomatoes, peppers, beans squash and pumpkins.  Boy are we glad that we have had this time to work out some kinks.  Being located in a 250+ acre county park we figured there would be some deer issues, but since there are visitors in and out of the park as well as a neighborhood along the outer fence of the area, we figured that it might not be so bad.  First month of planting, once the transplant shock passed, went pretty smooth, especially after we were lucky enough to have irrigation supplies and initial installation of drip hose donated to us by a very generous local landscaper.  (Thank you Frank Lopez Landscaping and Gonzales Irrigation!)

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Soon we had a garden of lovely green, producing plants with big green zuccinini, vibrant yellow squash, ruby red cherry tomatoes, spicy and sweet peppers and one beautiful growing pumpkin.  Out of three pumpkin plants, we had plenty of male blossoms, but only a few females.  As is typical for temperamental female flowers, they opened and closed before the stamens could do their work.  With the help of one of our Common Ground team members, we were able to manually pollinate a female flower and tenderly nurtured it until it was about the size of a basketball.  Then came the inevitable day when we saw the first sign of ravenous deer.  They started slowly, testing the waters to see what wonders we had created.  After a few successful midnight snacks, the invitation was sent out to the deer world and a party was thrown over the weekend (yes, deer party on the weekends too!).  What a shock we had come Monday when we went to check in on our little garden.

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Our beautiful pumpkin, was demolished.  All around what remained of the pumpkin plants were deep prancing hoof prints gleefully dancing and scatting as they feasted on our labor of love.  Knowing that a fence is weeks if not months away, we rushed to the nearest Home Depot and purchased a motion sensor light, set that up and put together a super scary (well maybe not that scary) tyvek suit scarecrow.  We went home that night almost sure we had won this battle with our 4 hooved foe.  The next morning we arrived ready to declare our victory, but alas, all signs (hoof prints, scat, completely eaten pumpkin plants and now squash plants) proved that we had lost this battle as well.  Seeing our lovely garden being the main course at Bambi and his friends all you can eat buffet, we knew that if we didn’t do something fast it would all be gone in a matter of days.  Thanks to the help of a MCARLM ‘friend’ who happened to be jogging by the garden, the 3 of us quickly pounded some pickets and made a make shift plastic snow fence garden fence.

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While this has slowed down the onslaught of hungry deer, the war is far from over.  Where there is a hungry deer, there is a way.  Plans for a deer fence are currently in the works and short of deer jerky (it is hunting season right?), we are hoping that a tall enough fence will turn our deer fans into outside the fence spectators.  Make sure to  follow us on our garden saga as we develop our garden program.  It is sure to be an adventure for everyone involved.

Categories: Children Programming, Common Ground Educational Garden, MCARLM, 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

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

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