Mapping the future

Highway design usually isn’t a thing that museum directors have to think about, but when your northern border is an interstate, it comes up.  In my very first post here, I talked a bit about my surprising meeting with TXDoT officials as part of the CityMAP project.  Since that meeting back in July, there have been several articles about the project, as well as a few public listening sessions.

There are so many remarkable things about this project.  It apparently began with Commissioner Vandergriff in Austin noticing that Dallas has been having a lot of disagreements about highway projects (namely, whether the Trinity Toll Road should be built and whether I-345 should be torn down.  For the record, I’m against the toll road and undecided on I-345).  So, he realized that maybe there should be a series of conversations about what the community’s priorities are, so that when highway funding became available, he would know how to direct those funds.

Let’s pause for a moment with our collective gasp.  A Texas politician is looking for wide, broad based community input?  According to their one sheet guide “the goal of this effort is to develop a set of transportation, urban design, and adjacent development scenarios with associated investment considerations for the major urban interstate corridors identified.”

As I was waiting for the last of these listening sessions to begin about 10 days ago, I couldn’t help but think how shocking this whole process would be to those who planned I-30 over 50 years ago.  Though I haven’t done the historical research, I’m pretty sure they didn’t do a single community listening session.  Today, people are clamoring for more parks, green space and walkability.  Fifty-plus years ago, they thought nothing of taking half of the land of the city’s first park.  They thought very little of destroying homes and neighborhoods.  For 5o years, the Cedars has been fighting to overcome the damage that highway caused.  Only recently has real development begun, at least in our corner of the Cedars.  And now, there are a chorus of voices asking for solutions to bridge I-30 and reconnect the Cedars, Dallas’ first residential neighborhood, with downtown.

During the meet and greet, I ran into one of the architects that had been at my meeting.  He said two things to me that I found pretty amazing.  First, he said “You know, I keep talking about our meeting.”  Though I can’t know for sure, I’m wondering if that day back in July was truly the first time they had looked at the historic aerials and realized the damage I-30 caused to traffic flow in and around downtown.  That comment sure supports that suspicion (and also causes me to do a bit of a fist bump for history!).  And then he said: “One of my personal goals for this project is to make sure DHV is easy to find for anyone.”  I, of course, thanked him profusely.  And later, I thanked him again for being an advocate for the Village.

I did my duty and followed the rotation to each station, all highlighting a different area around downtown.  And then I got to our map.  I was with a friend who happens to live in the Cedars, so together we jumped right in.  “This, deck it.  Link DHV and Farmer’s Market.”   And we just went from there.  I think the moderators were a little surprised at our passion!

During the summary portion, the Cedars moderators stated at the very beginning “Every group mentioned the need to link DHV and Farmer’s Market.”  (well, actually they called us Dallas Heritage Park, but I suppose I can get over that.  Maybe.)  And then, the very next day, Willis Winters, the director of Parks, was interviewed on NPR.  He stated that he had 3 priorities for deck parks–and DHV and Farmer’s Market was #2.  So, it was a pretty good 24 hour period.

Why does all this make me so happy, especially when the optimistic side of me knows it will probably be 15 years before any of this happens?  Well, for years, this has been an idea DHV has been advocating, but we always felt kinda lonely.  We’re not alone anymore–there are lots of people that also believe that healing the rift caused by the construction of I-30 is something that can and should be done.

We have a proposed strategic plan under review by the board right now, and one of the main focuses is community involvement.  One of the supporting parts of this is the need to be active and engaged in conversations about the future of our city.  During one of the conversations with the board, a trustee asked “But where’s the money in this?”  I had a pretty good answer for her, with actual dollars, but the real reason why it’s in the strategic plan right now is this: The conversations happening in this city right now will shape the city for the next 50 years.  Dallas is at a turning point.  And if we don’t want to be left behind, we have to be at the table.  The visitors will come, and the money will come.  But right now, we have to attend a lot of meetings, participate in a lot of conversations, and plant a lot of seeds.  And in the meantime, I’m learning an awful lot about urban design and highway planning.

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Two Years

I’m still not completely sure how I feel about Facebook’s memories that pop up unexpectedly in my feed.  Over the last two weeks, four of them have been about what I was up to two years ago.  I’ve never had Facebook hone in on a year quite like that before  But how on earth does Facebook know that was such a turning point in my life?

Two years ago, I was in an Indianapolis hotel room, alternating between a comfortable bed and a very uncomfortable couch with my roommate, Natalie.  Luckily, we became friends almost immediately (which certainly makes sharing close quarters easier!), and now, two years later, I certainly count her among my closest friends.

Graduation Day at SHA
Graduation Day at SHA

We were attending SHA (Seminar for Historical Administration), a three week professional development experience organized by the American Association for State and Local History.  When Gary and I first began talking about the possibilities of me becoming Executive Director, I knew I needed to somehow broaden my experience and prepare a bit more.  SHA seemed like the best, most practical choice.

When I arrived in Indy, I was Interim Executive Director.  But after a rather disastrous executive board meeting, I wasn’t sure if I would ever lose the word interim.  In fact, my thoughts at the time were to get through SHA and Candlelight, and in January, I would start looking for a new job.  Today, I’m most definitely Executive Director with the full support of my board.

Two years ago, I sensed that the neighborhood around us was changing.  Vogel Alcove had begun construction on their new home at City Park Elementary, and I knew that there could be a good partnership there.  DHV’s property at 1610 S. Ervay had been placed on the market, and there was almost immediate interest.  We had certainly worried that it would sit for months, if not years.  During SHA, I spent a lot of time talking about the future of these two redevelopment projects.

Last Thursday night, I accepted the inaugural Community Partner Award from Vogel Alcove for our ongoing partnership.  Not only are we doing practical things, like sharing parking and mulch, the kids are using our museum regularly.  There are twice a month, curriculum connected field trips.  I presented on this partnership at AASLH in September and have been asked to write an article about it for The Public Historian. We’re currently working on a major grant together as well.

As for neighborhood redevelopment, two years ago, I was excited about 2 new neighbors.  Today, five major redevelopment projects (all in historic buildings) are set to begin construction soon.  Two of these are new cultural non-profit friends.  Talk is beginning about a new cultural district for the city.  Very soon, we will no longer be surrounded by big empty buildings.  DHV will no longer be an island.

Two years ago, I lamented how difficult it is to have our voice heard, since we’re a small museum in a very big city.  Last year, I led efforts to get Dallas ISD field trip funding reinstated for science and social studies.  We were successful.  By building better relationships with the city’s elected leaders, we got $45,000 to repair three leaking roofs.  Through efforts that I’m a minor part of, overall city funding for the arts has increased each of the last two years.  This has resulted in another $20,000 for our operating budget.  And just the other day, I was complimented by a new board member for the role the museum is taking as we participate in the current swirling conversations about the future of Dallas.

Two years ago, I knew I had a great state and local network, but really didn’t know people nationally.  This past summer, I was able to visit with two SHA friends during trips.  And at this point, AASLH conferences can only be described as marathon slumber parties.  But it’s not just SHA friends that have become part of that network–though those SHA friends are the best part of that network.  We may have shut down a bar one night.  In our defense, the bar did close at midnight, which seems early.

I can’t give credit to all of the good things that have happened in my career and at DHV to SHA two years ago.  But I do know that SHA helped build my own confidence in my leadership abilities.  I know I gained new tools to analyze and react to new opportunities. And, perhaps most importantly, I gained some pretty amazing friends.  I’m the first of my museum educator peers to take the big step into leadership, and I was feeling pretty lonely–the museum world definitely looks different when you’re the boss.  Two years ago, I found my people for this stage of my life and career.

So, I guess I should forgive Facebook for continually reminding me of where I was two years ago.  It was a good place.  And I’m in an even better place today.

Notes to Self

Just returned from Louisville, where I was attending the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History.  And before I get back involved with the day to day of running Dallas Heritage Village, here are a few notes to myself I’d like to make for next year’s conference in Detroit.

  • Don’t agree to present at two sessions.Yes, both were important topics (advocacy and partnerships) and it was an honor to have two sessions accepted. However, I didn’t get to go to a session that wasn’t my own until halfway through day 2.  And I know I missed good things.  Two sessions also meant that the prep work for the conference was a wee bit more intense.  On the bright side, both session were well attended and we got lots of great comments.  So it was totally worth it, but I would have liked a bit more flexibility in my schedule.
  • Don’t begin the conference with a sleep deficit.  It’s unlikely that I’ll have a college reunion the weekend before ever again.  However, because I’m one of those people that likes to see as much of a city as possible (and I knew I had two sessions!), I decided to make sure that I arrived early enough on Tuesday to do some exploring of Louisville.  Alas, that meant a 7:45 a.m. flight departure.  By the time I got to Louisville, all I cared about was lunch and a nap.  Instead of exploring, I dozed and watched old episodes of Friends and Modern Family.  I should have just caught a later flight.  Sleep is gold during AASLH!
  • Remember the SHA pin!  This is the only time where it makes sense to wear it, and by God, I earned that pin!
  • Pack snacks.  I was a good girl and got up for breakfast twice.  But as the conference exhaustion set in, I probably would have been happier with a granola bar and in room coffee.  Instead, I skipped breakfast and was starving.  Usually, I do this.  Not sure why I didn’t think about it this time around.
  • Bring the travel neck pillow.  I bought mine years ago in anticipation of a long flight to Hawaii, but I haven’t taken it on a trip since.  I hate carrying it, but it would have been so wonderful to have it yesterday for the flights home.  Because I was sleepy!

And here are a few things that I was smart about, and that I probably shouldn’t forget for next time.

  • Pack multiple options for layers.  This was possibly the coldest conference I’ve ever been to.  In some rooms, you could feel a temperature drop of 10-15 degrees as soon as you walked in.  So grateful that I had more than one sweater, because there wasn’t ever a time that I wasn’t wearing some sort of layer.
  • Carve out time for special friends.  My first AASLH was in 2008, and I really didn’t know anyone except a few friends from Texas.  2012 was slightly better, but I still spent most of my time hanging out with neighbors.  And then I went to SHA in 2013, and I suddenly had a national network.  I have one special friend in particular, and we made sure to set aside some time just for us.  Of course, she also brought her adorable baby with her, so there may have been an ulterior motive of baby snoogling on my part.
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The SHA 2013 Class was well represented–and this isn’t even everyone who came!
  • Bring a small purse.  I hate overpacking, but having a small bag for evening events (rather than lugging the giant conference bag) was really nice.
  • Take one official, offsite tour.  I spent Wednesday in Frankfort and it was delightful. You have a bit more time to explore an institution than during an evening event, and you’re more likely to get some behind the scenes scoop.  I adore behind the scenes scoop.  I’ll probably never get to eat lunch in a Governor’s Mansion again, but that was definitely a perk.
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I don’t think we’re used to this level of fancy at conferences.
  • Don’t be afraid to shut a bar down.  You can sleep when you’re home.

Where I’ve Been and Where I’ll Be

This has been another summer of travel, mostly museum related, and there’s more travel ahead.  Part of me has grand dreams of writing some thoughtful posts about some of these trips, but the practical side of me is starting to dump items off of the to do list.  It seems like my only hope of keeping afloat.

So, here’s a brief account of where I’ve been and where I’ll be.

In July, I had the opportunity to make a return Peer Review visit (a program with the American Alliance of Museums) to the Renton History Museum. They’re a great local history museum, just outside of Seattle.  It’s always a pleasure to return to a museum, and it’s rewarding to see if the report I submitted had any impact.  One of the highlights was seeing their fabulous photo booth that went with their “Furry Friends” exhibit–further proof that delightful exhibit moments don’t always cost a lot of money.

In August, I headed to a tiny town outside of Pittsburgh to do a first Peer Review visit to the West Overton Museums.  They have about 18 buildings on their original sites.  It’s a wonderfully rich site, with lots of great industrial history.  It’s also the birthplace of future robber baron, Henry Clay Frick.  Lots of good ideas floating around, but my job was to help them focus a bit.

During that trip, I also crossed something off the Historic Site Bucket List: Fallingwater.  Wish there were fewer people on the tour, but I know that this home is on a lot of people’s bucket lists.  Even with the crowds, it was a magical experience to be in the house.  And the visitor’s center was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

I also spent some time at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.  I’m always inspired by a good children’s museum and firmly believe that history museums could learn all sorts of things about exhibit designs from children’s museums.  The official reason of that trip was to chat with Chris Seifert, Deputy Director, about their Charm Bracelet Project–a unique community/neighborhood development project.  I was hoping he would inspire some thoughts about what’s ahead of DHV and our neighbors in the Cedars.  And he did!  Lots of good ideas to ponder.  I also stopped by the Mattress Factory, Carnegie Museums, and of course, the Heinz History Center.  A good friend gave me an after hours tour of the Fort Pitt Museum.  I also really enjoyed the Phipps Conservancy–so many pretty plants!

Last weekend, I headed to East Texas with the family for a 50th Wedding Anniversary party of one of dad’s cousins.  Hearing about the family history is fun, and we even did a driving tour of Timpson, where a few generations of Prycers farmed.  Of course, I didn’t love seeing the “old Prycer place” in such disrepair, but I am very tempted to go back and exploring it further.

Next weekend, I’m heading to Fayetteville for a mini-reunion of the college gang.  I’m also hoping to make a quick trip to Crystal Bridges.  I’ve been there before, but I really want to see their progress on rebuilding a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

And then on Tuesday, I head to Louisville for AASLH.  I’m doing two presentations–one on unique partnerships and one on advocacy.  The advocacy session will also be a part of the online conference–which means I’m going from never having presented at a national conference to three presentations. I love conferences, but I’m also anticipating being very, very tired (and possibly “all museum-ed out”) by Friday.

Finally, on October 1, I’ll be speaking at the Stone Fort Museum in Nacogdoches.  They’re opening up a new exhibit on 19th century diseases–and I’ll be talking about the literary portrayal of consumption.  It’s a talk based on an article that was published several years ago.  I’m really looking forward to wearing my historian hat too.

So, it’s not like I’m anticipating my life calming dramatically in October, but at least I’ll be home a bit more.

End of an Era?

Like all snarky liberals, I stayed up late on Thursday night to watch the end of an era–Jon Stewart’s last episode of The Daily Show.  I’m sad that he’s leaving for many reasons, and Trevor Noah has some awfully big shoes to fill.  I know that it won’t be the same, but I sincerely hope that Noah likes historians half as much as Stewart.  As one of my friends said on facebook “What I love about Jon Stewart is that he is as (or more) excited about his historians as guests as his entertainment friends.”

During his final stretch, historians continued to be featured.  Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough and Sarah Vowell all made appearances.  Of course, it might make sense that a snarky historian like Vowell would be a regular on The Daily Show.  And McCullough and Goodwin are some of the most widely read historians today.  These aren’t exactly obscure folks Stewart is interviewing.  But let’s face it–shouldn’t we ecstatic any time a historian sits in the same chair as a Hollywood celebrity?  I can’t think of another popular medium where historians and their books are regularly featured, honored, and promoted.  This is public history at its finest.

But if you dig deeper into Comedy Central’s schedule, you’ll find there’s a greater love of history there than well, maybe some other network that calls itself the History Channel.  I never really got into Drunk History, but they’re doing a heck of a job of skewering both well known stories and those that are hiding in the shadows. I hate that I love Another Period, but it cracks me up on a routine basis.  It pokes at so many different angles of the early 20th century–and there are plenty of jokes that will fly right over non-history nerd’s heads, which is awesome.  How often do history nerds get the “insider” jokes?

None of these things are “serious history” but I’ve long believed that part of our problem as historians is that we often take ourselves too seriously.  History is the story of humanity, and people can be awfully funny.

I know The Daily Show will change with Trevor Noah as host (and honestly, it should feel different).  But I sincerely hope that I’ll continue to delight in interviews with some of my favorite historians–and they’ll get exposure to a broader audience.  And maybe one day, there will be more than one place in this world where historians are treated the same as Hollywood celebrities.

Wardrobe Conundrums

Back in grad school, I talked myself into buying a totally useless (but very pretty!) dress by telling myself “But I might need a fancy dress like this for exhibit openings or fundraisers.”  Even though I had never previously worked at a museum that had lots of fancy dress occasions, I just assumed that my future career path would lead me to glamorous parties that required beautifully appropriate clothing.

I thought of this today when I climbed a ladder to check out some roof repairs.  I didn’t know I would be climbing a ladder when I got dressed this morning, so I was quite grateful to be wearing flats and pants.  And, of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of thought during my career at DHV.

Fashion decisions can be really hard at a place like DHV.  We have a lot of land, a lot of buildings, and some extreme weather conditions.  Over the years, I’m not sure how many shoes I’ve bought that felt comfortable in the store but spectacularly failed the DHV test.  I get super excited if I find a skirt or dress with pockets.  I refuse to buy pants that don’t have pockets.  There’s an entire section of my closet devoted to the necessary layers for Candlelight.

Since becoming ED, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about clothing, and I’ve never been that kind of girl before.  Part of it is the struggle to strike the right balance–some days, I need to look professional but still be comfortable enough to move a table.  And then there are those unpredictable emergencies when you don’t exactly have time to change. Example: we had a flash flood in June, and I waded into knee deep water to clear a drain.  I was wearing a dress.  In fact, of the 7 staff members that responded to the emergency, 4 of us were wearing dresses.  The dress survived, but my shoes didn’t.

The other struggle is to make sure I look like I know what I’m doing.  When I took the job, I knew I was young for the position (34 when I became ED–36 as of tomorrow).  What  I didn’t realize until later was just how much younger I was–it didn’t matter if I was in a room of other arts leaders, non profit leaders, or museum leaders, I was typically the youngest by at least a decade and usually more like 20 years.  Now, I knew I wasn’t going to stop dying my hair and start showing off my gray hair, so I just thought harder about what to wear at certain meetings.  And I started to carry nicer purses.  Dallas can be a very label conscious city, and I refuse to spend big money of clothing (see above flood incident).  But purses will probably not be in a flood situation, and I can get a lot more bang for my buck.  Plus, they’re really pretty and make me happy.

Finally, there are the random parties and invitations that can cause all kinds of angst.  Last fall, I was invited to an evening dinner fundraiser.  Now, I had my set outfit for luncheon fundraisers, but shouldn’t evening be different?  When I asked the friend that invited me, she said “it’s a real mix of cocktail and business attire.”  What the heck does that even mean?  I spent more time than I should admit agonizing over that one night, and probably tried on 4 different outfits that day. (For the record, I went with a gray dress and rhinestone jewelry.)

Right before our 2014 History with a Twist event. Notice the flip flops, which I kept on as long as possible. Even said in a Facebook comment: “The best thing about that dress is that it looks fabulous and allowed me to do things like haul giant palms.” At the 2015 Twist event, I wore 4 different pairs of shoes that day and my feet were still killing me. The struggle is real.

There were two things I did shortly after being named ED for my own sanity levels.  I hired a maid to come twice a month.  And I joined Stitch Fix, with the instructions that I needed to upgrade my wardrobe for my new position.  Because the other fashion conundrum: I don’t have a lot of free time to shop, and I realized I had a lot of gaps in my wardrobe.  My feminist side constantly tells me: “Stop worrying so much about what you wear!  No one cares!”  But I also know that I’m representing DHV at these various events and meetings, and that just makes it more complicated.  I have joked often with Gary (my predecessor) about how much easier he had it, only having to decide tie or no tie, jacket or no jacket.

So, about that fabulous purple dress I bought in grad school?  After moving it from North Carolina to Texas, from my parent’s house to two apartments and to my own house, I finally gave it to Goodwill several years ago.  I never wore it.  Not once.  But I do now have a fabulous collection of random Western attire that fit in perfectly with DHV’s former gala theme of Gone to Texas.  Which is no longer needed since we’re now doing a 1920s theme. The wardrobe conundrums will never end.

A different kind of community anchor

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a professional development workshop, taking a quiz about how connected we were with the community.  The quiz deeply frustrated me—Dallas Heritage Village is located in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.  Major institutions in the city routinely have close to a million annual visitors.  Our annual budget isn’t even a million dollars.  The second most visited history institution in Texas (behind the Alamo) is a few minutes’ drive away.  And this quiz was asking me if the mayor had ever visited my museum?  And how often other city officials attended events? I asked the facilitator: “If you’re a small organization in a big city, how can you begin to make those kinds of connections?”  They stared at me blankly.  Part of me wondered if perhaps there were some other ways to measure community engagement.

Museum people spend a lot of time talking about becoming engaged with their community, and I think most of us acknowledge that this is a key to future sustainability.  For many museums, this may mean program partnerships, collaborations, and efforts to get your audience demographics closer to your community’s demographics.  This is incredibly important work, but for me, the definition of a community anchor has become infinitely more complex—and infinitely messier.

Dallas Heritage Village is located on the edge of Downtown Dallas, separated by a major interstate.  We are also in the middle of a redeveloping neighborhood known as the Cedars. This redevelopment has been a long time coming, but it’s also been incredibly rapid.  Eighteen months ago, DHV was a virtual island; today, we’re working with 6 new partners within walking distance.  When all of this began, I knew that we had to make sure we were a part of the conversations.  New eyes were turning to the Cedars, and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew who we are, what we do, and that we had been here all along.

City Park, 1880--future site of Dallas Heritage Village
City Park, 1880–future site of Dallas Heritage Village

And I suppose this is where my thoughts about museums and community really began to change.  Internal strategic planning was put on hold, because external factors were changing too rapidly.  And I started to have meetings with people that history museum directors usually don’t interact with.

First, it was the real estate developers.  They saw our land (27 acres in all) and said “Oh, look! A park!” And I said “Not exactly.  A nationally accredited history museum in a parklike setting.”  Then they said “Oh look! Parking!”  And after multiple meetings drawing up a parking lease, we had to say “No, we can’t lease park land to a private developer.”  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would create a folder called “Parking Issues,” but that folder is resting happily in my files because the issue will likely come up again.

In January, there was a meeting called by city staff to discuss the formation of a task force for our neighborhood.  But somehow, despite the fact that we are the largest landowner in the neighborhood and the fact that we are on city land, with city owned buildings and city funding, my invitation never arrived.  A close relationship with our councilman and a neighborhood activist got me a seat at that very large, round table.  Looking around, I was astonished to realize I was the only female at the table.  And I was even more astonished when a developer (whom I had not yet met) said “No matter what our plans end up being, Dallas Heritage Village will always be the showpiece of the neighborhood.”  And thus, my annoyance about not being invited in the beginning was tempered by the fact that I didn’t have to explain how valuable we are to the development plans.

Then it was the traffic and transportation people.  In the winter, I got an invitation to a meeting to discuss updating a strategic plan regarding transportation issues for downtown.  My first thought: this must be a mistake.  My second thought: Even if it is, I’m going to show up.  So, I did my homework, pulled up the existing transportation plan, and discovered that there was a proposed streetcar line through the middle of our property.  On a street that had been grass for several years at the time this plan was released.  And with that, I had no problem fitting that meeting into my schedule.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from the Texas Department of Transportation.  They are currently doing a massive study and plan for all of the highways around downtown Dallas.  I arrived to a meeting at a downtown high rise to be greeted by traffic engineers, urban planners and architects.  Though I had been sent an official set of questions, we never got to them.  They said “How does Interstate 30 affect you?” and I was off and running.  I’m not sure they were expecting me to be able to talk about those bigger issues, but in the last several months, urban planning has become a lot more interesting to me.  This meeting was supposed to be an hour; it lasted almost two hours, the day before a holiday weekend.  But the most surprising aspect of this meeting is the way they kept asking “What did I-30 do to the neighborhood?” The last 30 minutes of the meeting were spent looking at aerial pictures of downtown pre-I-30 and talking about the damage that interstate did.  (In my head, I was cheering “History at work!”) At one point, I made a comment to the traffic engineer “I hate to place all the blame on your predecessors,” and he said “Oh no.  I don’t see any reason why they did what they did.  This makes no sense.”  In some way, that comforted me.

Aerial shot 1975
City Park, post construction of I-30. 1975.

But it’s not all urban planning and real estate developers and traffic engineers.  Last week, I had two meetings about the growing issue of homeless encampments along our perimeter.  Our north border is the interstate, and there is a median between us and the access road.  Just over a year ago, TxDoT rescinded the Criminal Trespass Affidavit it had with the Dallas Police Department.  Now, the only way DPD can clear those camps is if they witness an active criminal act.  Because it’s not our property, our hands are tied, but it’s deeply affecting us.  Homelessness is an incredibly complex issue, and there aren’t a lot of answers for the service resistant.  And yet, our historic buildings, our staff, and our visitors are at incredible risk.  So, in one day, I had meetings with a VP of public safety for downtown, city attorneys, the office of our state representative, and the head of crisis intervention with the DPD.  There aren’t a lot of answers, but at least I now have the assurance that we’re all working together for the same goal—finding the best solution for these individuals and the neighborhood.

As a former educator, my heart will always lean towards the warm and fuzzy stories of community engagement.  But from a practical standpoint, community engagement means so much more.  It means getting involved in local politics—not just making sure the local politicians are invited to your events, but making sure you’re being included in the important conversations shaping your city. Sometimes it means showing up at meetings that may only have a peripheral connection to your organization.  Most importantly, it means educating yourself on the issues, whether it’s urban planning, homelessness, or traffic flow.  My job has changed in profound ways as a result of these efforts, and it’s also changing my museum.  We’re becoming more externally focused, more flexible, and more creative.  We’re becoming a community anchor, not just for the Cedars, but for all of Dallas.

This blog will help me chronicle that story and hopefully provide some guidance for those that may be facing similar issues.  Won’t you join me?