It was just a simple question. . .

Dallas Heritage Village closes two months–January and August–every year.  As much as I love our visitors, it can be really, really nice to be closed.  This time gives us time to plan, work on some more involved projects and catch up on a few things–both at work and at home.  This January, I was looking forward to tackling a few big projects at work, as well as finally organizing my home office.

And then, at the end of the first work week of 2016, I asked a very simple question that has uprooted all of my plans.

On Thursday afternoon, I was chatting with our neighbor Michael about a variety of things (per usual!).  He said “You know that blue Victorian house on Griffin?  Something is going on with it.  All of the upstairs windows are open.”

Me: “Well, use your investigative powers and see what you can find out.”

The next afternoon, Michael forwarded an email to me from another neighbor (sent around 2:50 p.m.), reporting that there was a bulldozer parked in front of the house.  Michael called me almost immediately and was already in his car to go check things out.  I told him that I would call my friend David at Preservation Dallas to see if there was anything we could do.  Dallas recently passed a demolition delay ordinance for any building over 50 years old, and our neighborhood is a part of that overlay.  David, God bless him, picked up the phone late on a Friday afternoon.

My simple question: “Is there anything we can do?”  David told me to call and email the preservation officer at the city.  While I was doing this, Michael posted (around 3:15) pictures on social media of the bulldozer.

I copied them into the email I was writing and hit send.  Within 30 minutes, I had a phone call from Robert Wilonsky from the Dallas Morning News wanting permission to use the photo.  I gave him Michael’s number and headed to a meeting.  Coincidentally, it was with a board member who happens to be a preservation architect–and we were talking about the deferred maintenance inventory at DHV.  So, I figured if I was ever in a meeting constantly checking social media, this was the right issue and the right board member. Because social media was exploding.

That night, I had drinks with Michael and we strategized a bit: if we can stop the demolition, what options are there?  Can this home get a new lease on life?

The next morning, I was minding my own business, sipping coffee, when this got published:

Victorian home in The Cedars, built in 1880s, soon to become a Time Warner parking lot

And then this:

Time Warner Cable says it needs to raze Victorian home in Cedars for hub site, parking

Throughout the weekend, I kept a close eye on social media conversations, jumping in when I felt appropriate.  My goal: make sure that people understood that DHV couldn’t just rescue the house.  With a huge needs list of buildings we already care for, the only way we could consider accepting the house would be with a very large check.

On Monday, I spent the morning filming a few of our early supporters as they talked about the early days of DHV.  We were founded to save a house from becoming a parking lot.  So when a colleague stood at my door and said “I just let in a reporter from Channel 8 news in.  They want to talk to you,” the historical parallels just slapped me in the face.  Here we are, at the dawn of our 50th anniversary year, and there’s another preservation battle.  But this time, we’re not sure moving the house to a museum is the best choice.

The story aired on Monday night.  And then they kept running it.

Temporary reprieve for 19th century Dallas house

I had become the face of this particular historic preservation crisis.  In the last few weeks, there have been dozens of conversations with people that want to save the house (and then realize the cost), people that have family that lived in the Cedars, board members, neighbors, and preservation friends.  Though I know I have done other things this month (like have some important conversations about the growing homeless issue in Dallas. Or conversations with the board about growing our budget.  Or important staff training.), I feel like all I’ve done is think about this lonely, threatened blue house.

In all honesty, I don’t think this particular preservation crisis wouldn’t have gotten the media attention if it hadn’t been for its location.  It’s very visible from a major interstate, and it just looks totally out of place.  It’s a gateway to the neighborhood–but also a symbol of all of the abuse the Cedars has endured over the years.

Though the media flurry has calmed down a bit, there have been other articles in recent weeks as we move towards the all important Landmark  Commission meeting on Monday.  My favorite might be this one:

Near-demolition of Victorian house: Here’s what Dallas got right

And this one caused my jaw to drop.

DALLAS PRESERVATIONISTAS ARE OUT TO GET SOME MONEY AND SOME MUSCLE

We’re definitely still in the middle of this. But as I reflect on this month that didn’t go as planned, I know that dropping everything to work on this was the right decision.  Even if the house ultimately comes down (and I don’t think it will), it will still be a victory. For once, a historic building in Dallas didn’t come down in the middle of the night.  People across the city are talking about historic preservation, the Cedars, Dallas Heritage Village and Preservation Dallas. There’s a rising push to do more for the historic fabric that’s left in this city.

One of my recurring jokes is that there are no history emergencies.  The stuff is already old, and it’s just getting older.  But these events have reminded me that sometimes we have to act quickly to save the past.  David, my colleague at Preservation Dallas, knows this quite well, but these aren’t the kind of battles that history museums typically get involved with.  But maybe we should?  It certainly seems like an important part of being a community anchor, even if we can’t save the house ourselves.  Working side by side with David on all of this has been a great learning experience for me.  He knows how to build the arguments about history relevance.  He knows what to do in a crisis. We’ve worked together before, but this whole incident is taking both our personal and institutional partnerships to a new level.  Very soon, I think we’re going to need to have an adult beverage.  Or several.

So here it is, almost the end of January.  Somehow, I’ve managed to complete the do-or-die portion of my to-do list, but other big projects remain on the back burner.  And I’m so very tired.  I was supposed to be rested as we head into spring.  Oh well.  I guess this is the life of an executive director in a changing neighborhood.

 

 

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Other duties as assigned

Last week, I had a lengthy interview with a local reporter about the homeless encampment just on the other side of DHV’s fence.  Since July 2014, we’ve had a steady stream of individuals that have chosen to live next to the I-30 access road, behind our Farmstead.

About halfway through that interview, I said to the reporter, “When I became a history museum director, I never dreamed that I would also become an expert on local homeless issues.”  But this isn’t going to be a post about the complexities surrounding homeless issues in Dallas–after all, I’m hoping that this is an issue unique to us and our urban environment.  However, the odds are good that at some point in your career, you’ll also be facing a difficult, complex issue, whether internal or external.  Though this issue is far from resolved, I thought it might be helpful to share a few lessons I’ve learned over the past 18 months.

Get to know your local political representatives TODAY.  My first meeting with Adam Medrano, councilman for District 2, was in March 2014.  It was just a getting-to-know-you general tour.  In the following months, we invited him to our fundraiser, I got to know his assistant, and ran into him occasionally at the neighborhood restaurant.  So, when I wrote my first email asking if there was any way he could help with the homeless encampment that had popped up on our perimeter, he already knew who I was and what the museum meant to the neighborhood.  Our first communication wasn’t about an issue, which made it a lot easier once there was an issue.

Do your research.  In this case, I began reading a lot more articles about homeless issues in Dallas.  We have a much larger tent city under a nearby overpass, so I follow any developments with that, knowing that our smaller camp will also be impacted.  And as painful as it may be, read the comments on social media.  It helped me learn what trigger words to avoid in any communications I made about the issue.  It’s also a prime way to identify potential advocates–or people to be very careful around.

Communicate constantly.  Over the last year, I’ve had a lot of meetings about this issue with a lot of different people–city attorneys, elected officials, police, and people working directly with the homeless.  I make sure that staff and board know about each of these meetings and what I’ve learned.  When a reporter showed up to talk about the encampment with no warning (and I was offsite), I let my board chair and our PR people know immediately.  And when the story aired, I made sure to send the link to the board, along with an assessment of any potential repercussions.  (For those that don’t follow journalism about homelessness in America, it can be very easy to be made out as if you hate the homeless simply by not wanting them to camp near your property.  This was what I worried about–how might DHV’s reputation be impacted by this story?  The good news is that everything was mostly fine.)

Have friends to whom you can safely vent.  In some ways, homelessness is the third rail of politics.  I have to be very, careful of what I say, but the whole situation is deeply frustrating.  No one should be living next to a highway, whether they’re next to my museum or not.  And all of this has been going on for a very long time.  It’s good to have a few people that I can share my frustration with–so it doesn’t accidentally leak out in public.

Start working today on better understanding and increasing the soft power you hold in your community.  Several weeks ago, I picked up a newish book from the American Alliance of Museums, Cities, Museums and Soft Power.  The majority of the case studies feature internationally known art museums, so the connection to our issues and opportunities was slim at best.  However, there were several times I found myself nodding.  Without knowing the term, I’ve been steadily increasing our soft power in the community for the past two years.  So, what is soft power?

According to the authors, Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenburg, “soft power is the ability to influence behavior using persuasion, attraction or agenda setting.  Where the resources of ‘hard power’ are tangible–force and finance–soft power resources are intangibles, such as ideas, knowledge, values and culture.” (p. 9)  So, what does this mean when facing a neighborhood homeless crisis?  DHV matters in a very different way than the new developers or the homeowners.  I saw this immediately in response to an incident last July: a cooking fire turned into a small grass fire uncomfortably close to one of our historic structures.  Within a few days, I was able to line up a series of meetings that neighbors had been trying to get for weeks.  And, of course, I made sure to have a neighbor with me at those meetings.  Soft power also means that we’re not the only ones asking the city for help on our behalf.  Two different neighborhood associations have asked for assistance on our behalf, as well as scores of friends via social media, calls to the police and more.  Our neighbors want to protect DHV as much as they want to protect their neighborhood.  If your complex issue is at all external, your institution’s soft power will be invaluable as you work through things.

This issue is far from solved, both in the city at large and in our own neighborhood.  In fact, in recent weeks, both our encampment and the larger Tent City have gotten larger.  But we have a pretty amazing team, forcing the uncomfortable conversations and working towards a solution that will serve both the homeless and the neighborhood.  And as the neighborhood’s fortunes rise, DHV will also rise.

 

 

 

Armchair Leadership

For the past year, change has been brewing at Fair Park, located just a few miles from Dallas Heritage Village.  This remarkable spot in Dallas is home to the largest collection of Art Deco structures in the nation, the State Fair of Texas, and many museums and cultural organizations.  But many people think it’s completely broken and needs total transformation.  Some commentators have even suggested bulldozing the buildings and starting over–since the cost of rectifying the deferred maintenance is so high.

My museum career began in Fair Park, during a summer internship at the Dallas Historical Society.  This was in the late 1990s, just after Fair Park had been named to the National Trust’s Most Endangered List.  The fabulous Art Deco murals on the Esplanade were being restored, and it was so exciting to watch the progress.  I spent the next two summers at the Women’s Museum, both doing research on the history of the building and helping prepare for the grand opening in 2000.  Since joining the staff at Dallas Heritage Village, we have worked with the Dallas Historical Society on many projects, as well as Texas Discovery Gardens.  I am also a member of Texas Discovery Gardens.  I visit Fair Park often for a variety of events and frequently bring out of town visitors to see the remarkable architecture.  For me, it has always been a year-round destination.

I just sent a letter to council members, outlining some of my concerns about the current proposal.  For me, the big elephant in the room that isn’t being discussed is the future of the many resident institutions.  From the first plan presented at the beginning of the year to this most recent presentation, their voices have been silent. Each of these institutions has their own relationship to the city, whether it is through an Office of Cultural Affairs contract or a Parks contract.  How will those relationships change?  How will these institutions remain autonomous, even as they are part of the bigger picture of Fair Park?  Will they maintain their city funding or will those funds all be directed to the Foundation?  A change in the funding structure for these small institutions could have a dramatic impact on their financial sustainability.

But there are a few things I didn’t say to Council.  Namely, how deeply disappointed I am at the lack of visible leadership from the resident institutions.  Their voices just don’t seem to be a part of the conversation. And it’s also clear that they haven’t actively inspired their community of support.  When I read the online comments, people will occasionally mention Texas Discovery Gardens or Dallas Summer Musicals, but they rarely mention the Dallas Historical Society.  And I’ve yet to see mention of the African American Museum or the Children’s Aquarium–or the million of other things that happen regularly on these historic grounds.  Something is missing in the leadership of Fair Park.

Now, I know it’s really easy for me to say “If I was a director of one of those institutions, I would. . . and that would change everything.”  But I’m going to do it anyway.  If my institution was located at Fair Park, myself, a staff member or a board member (or all of the above) would be at every single meeting discussing the future of Fair Park.  I would schedule meetings with every council member.  I would keep my members up to date and encourage them to write their council members.  I would write editorials.  I would make sure that the powers that be know about my institution and our place in Fair Park and in the city.

Our voices may not make a difference, but silence will certainly not make a difference.  There’s a reason why developers are now keeping me in the loop on pending development projects in the Cedars–they know that I show up to things, ask questions and speak up.  They’re pledging to make sure that we’re a part of the overall vision for the neighborhood.

I just started reading a recent publication from the American Alliance of Museums, Cities, Museums and Soft Power by Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg.  As they explain it, “soft power is the ability to influence behavior using persuasion, attraction or agenda setting.  Where the resources of ‘hard power’ are tangible–force and finance–soft power resources are intangibles, such as ideas, knowledge, values and culture.”  Of course, like any form of power, soft power isn’t an automatic–it has to grow through relationships and conversations.  It may be too late for Fair Park to start using what little soft power it may have, but it’s certainly giving me a lot more reasons to continue doing what I’m doing at DHV.  With the work I’m doing today, one of my hopes is that developers will never look at our land and ponder bulldozing everything on our historic park land to make something new and shiny.

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.

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.