Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Friendly Ghost Story

This past Sunday at the Laurel Museum we had our Kids Fall Fun Day. Featuring the wonderful world of Pumpkins, this 2 hour event brought about 30 children and their families. We had some fun crafts like pumpkin weaving and pumpkin seed mosaics. We also had a pumpkin patch for children to pick their own pumpkins that they then decorated. We had lots of tasty pumpkin related food--pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin whip, pumpkin butter, etc.

We also told the public that we would be having an age appropriate ghost story. I took up the charge to be the person to tell the age appropriate ghost story. I spoke to one of our wonderful volunteers who is also the vice principal at a local school for some rules on what I could and could not talk about.

Here were my parameters:
It can not be scary.
No one can die.
You can not talk about dead people.
Try to make it related to the history of Laurel and the house.

Hmm. Sounds easy, right?

The ghost story was to begin at 2:15 and right around that time people started trekking to the spot we picked for our ghost story.

As I watched the little ones trickle in, I realize how much of a challenge this will be.

We had kids ranging in age from those who could barely walk to those who were already putting on makeup. It might be a little difficult to reach all of them with the same story.

But that's fine. Who doesn't love a great challenge? Certainly not small museum directors--we live for the challenge!

So I begin telling them the story.

I start by talking about the Museum building and how 4 families would have lived in the house.

I asked them where the people would have worked (The Mill), how old they had to be to start working (8yrs), etc.

I tell them about a little girl who was only 5 yrs old named Samantha who was left alone in the house to do chores while all of her family went to work. Her mean older sister liked to play tricks on her and hide things from her so that she couldn't finish her chores.

My story was interrupted by one boy who insisted Samantha could not have told us this. I asked him why, and he said "Because she's dead". I realized at that point I had never given a date for the story and asked him how he knew she was dead. And he said because this happened like a long time ago. GREAT!

I responded, "Yes, this all happened over 100 years ago." Whew! I almost didn't tell them the date. And I thought, yes, she is dead, but you brought it up so I didn't technically go outside my set parameters.

Now back to the story...

Luckily, the little girl had a friendly ghost named Rebecca who would help her with her chores. Rebecca helped Samantha find the bucket to get water from the river for doing laundry that her mean sister would hide from her before she went to work. Rebecca also helped Samantha find the soap and other things her sister would hide.

All of this concluded with the children coming up one by one to plunge the washer plunger into the clothes bucket three times.

Throughout the experience I tried to keep their attention by asking questions. I asked them things like if any of them ever hid things from their brothers and sisters. I also kept asking them how old the little girl was and how long she had to wait before she could work at the mill.

Some of the kids were really annoyed that the story wasn't scarier. According to our evaluations, others seemed to really enjoy the story.

In the end, it was an interesting experience of us all. I learned that maybe I should plan out the ghost story a little better next time so the kids don't end up doing laundry. But I'm not sure. I think some people liked the "hands-on appropriate for all ages ghost story." We'll see. Maybe Samantha and Rebeccawill make another appearance sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Magic of Technical Difficulties

As I write, my phone plays corny 80s music. No, I did not buy a new ringtone.

I am on hold with the company that hosts our webpage (read: does the magic that makes our website appear).

Why would I want to spend my Tuesday morning on hold, listening to 80s music?

Because we're experiencing technical difficulties.

Apparently our website was hacked. Why would someone want to hack the LHS website? I don't know. I really don't.

Maybe they wanted to rewrite Laurel history. Maybe they couldn't resist our online walking tour. Maybe the fluffy teddy bears for sale in our online shop were too much for them to resist. I really don't know.

But what I do know, is how much we here at the Laurel Historical Society depend on people outside the organization to help us do what we do successfully.

About 5 or so times a week, I update our website. Add an event, a newsletter, a new feature, link to another website, etc. I try to keep it fresh and full of information. I want it to be as useful as possible to those who visit.

That being said, I personally could never develop, design, or say the magic spell that gets webpages up and running on the internet. And we certainly don't have an internet magician in our staff of 1 and 1/2.

But that's okay.

Because, as is the norm with the LHS, things were done well before I got here.

A committee convened and worked with 2 consultants to develop a website that works for us. A website that I(with my lack of internet-y type knowledge) can update and play with. That can be adjusted to fit our needs. Basically, a website that is magical.

The consultants, Lisa Bernard at LHB Consulting and Donna Safko at Mudpuddle Creations, are great. They work well with people who have little technical knowledge but have big ideas (people in this case means me). So we have an ongoing relationship with both of them.

Lunar Pages, the company that hosts our website is a company I rarely have to work with. Usually our website is up and running and doing magically well. But right now, it's not and we're all working with Lunar Pages to fix the problem.

When Lunar Pages realized someone hacked our website, they closed. It can only be re-instated when we've resolved the problem. So our email and website are both down. But not to worry, we will be back up soon. Hopefully. If I can find the magic spell, repeat it 5 times, and run around the Mill Worker's home 25 times in 2 minutes.

Or I stay on hold, listen to corny 80s music, and work with Lunar Pages to resolve the problem.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How do you measure success?

Yesterday we hosted our Second Annual Laurel Historical Society Educator's Open House.

Last year for our Educator's Open House we had about 25 people visit the Museum. This year we had 15.

The decrease in attendees made me think: How do we measure success?

Is our goal to have 60 local educators visit the Laurel Museum?
If so, then we certainly are moving in the wrong directions. But here at the Laurel Museum we tend to value quality over quantity, so perhaps raising the number to 60 is not our goal.

Is our goal to have the administrators of local schools visit the Museum?
Perhaps. We had the principal of St. Mary's and the new vice principal of Laurel Elementary School visit. So I was quite excited to meet both of them.

Is our goal to have several different schools represented?
We had a more diverse representation of schools this year and that made me happy. I'd rather see a total of 10 teachers from 4 different schools than 25 teachers from 2 schools. Each school has different needs and different visiting capabilities, so the more I hear from the better.

Is our goal to have schools, home school groups, and scout groups represented equally?
I believe so. I would like to see all the groups well represented. Whether that works out to a teacher for every scout leader or 4 teachers for every scout leader, I am not sure. But I will say I would love to meet as many educators from each group as possible.

But mainly our goal for the Educator's Open House (and for all of the activities we do for educators) is to remind them of one thing: We're here for you.

We want them to remember that we fulfill our mission by serving them. So did our Educator's Open House fulfill that goal? Yes. I think it did.

Now is the time to evaluate what we did, why we did it, and how we can do it better next year. Suggestions and comments are VERY welcome.