Friday, October 1, 2010

A very busy month....

So October is gearing up to be one of those months at the LHS that is ridiculously busy. But it's in a good way.

We have a lot of the normal stuff going on---planning for a new exhibit, hopefully beginning the steps to get some new lighting, planning a holiday open house, and more. You know, the normal stuff.

But we also have a bunch of really exciting programs that will take place this month.

We'll start off the month's programming this Saturday with a collaboration with Venus Theatre. Venus Theatre is a small theatre in Laurel that is dedicated to setting flight to the voices of women and children. They have professional playwrights submit plays to them and all of their actors are professionals. A really cool gem in Laurel. What, you may ask, are we doing with them?

Well, we have collaborated with them to put together "Laurel: A Haunted History". It's a candlelight walking tour around Laurel. You see, one of the people at Venus has a background in giving Haunted Walking Tours in places like Gettysburg and NY City. So we worked with him using material from the Laurel Museum's collection to develop a haunted walking tour for Laurel. As far as we know, it's the first time this has ever been done. And we're really excited about it!

So if you're interested in a night of fun in Laurel, sign up.
Here's the link:

But if you can't come Oct 2, don't worry. Venus Theatre is running the tour every Saturday in October. So come another day to be scared!

We quickly follow up our Oct 2 ghost walk tour with something quite different. On October 4, Mike Boivin will be giving a lecture for the LHS titled "Researching Immigrants Through the Port of Baltimore". Mike is the leader of our Genealogy Group, a group that meets monthly to discuss topics related to genealogy and help one another in their research. This group has been quite active and began about a year ago following a lot of interest in the genealogy programs we offered then.

Mike's talk is not only done as part of the LHS's regular programming, but it is done in collaboration with "Between Fences". "Between Fences" is a traveling exhibit put together by the Smithsonian for small museums throughout the country to show and build upon. This fall it is being shown at Montpelier Mansion along with "Barriers and Gateways: The Immigrant Experience" a companion exhibit that the people at Montpelier put together in collaboration with BF.

When Between Fences is brought to locations throughout the country, the hope is that the locations will work collaboratively on programming to accompany it. We've done just that with Montpelier and many of our programs this fall relate to that exhibit. Mike's program on immigrants coming through the port of Baltimore is just one iteration of that collaboration.

Not too long after Mike's talk, we have another exciting collaborative program. (Who would have guessed??). On October 9 we are partnering with Laurel Mill Playhouse. Laurel Mill Playhouse is a community theater non-profit located on Laurel's Main Street. They run plays continuously throughout the year and involve people in the community in a number of exciting and refreshing ways. Like Venus Theatre, we've partnered with them before and it has always been a pleasure.

On October 9 we are working with them again to offer another of our "Have You M.E.T." Events. Museum, Eats, and Theater in Historic Laurel has been a popular evening out every time we have done it. This time we'll begin with an all-american dinner at the Laurel Museum and continue our evening at LMP to see "The American Way." An epic take of the American immigrant experience in the early 1900s, this play is done in collaboration with Montpelier's "Between Fences" as well. So in fact, we're partnering with both Laurel Mill Playhouse and Montpelier on this program!

On October 20th we'll have our normal Book Club meeting. Last month we discussed "Outcasts United" a book that was part of the One Maryland One Book initiative. This book tied directly into "Between Fences" at Montpelier too, so it was also a part of the collaborative programming as well. This month we'll be discussing a crowd favorite, "Love in the Time of Cholera." I haven't read it yet, so please, don't post any spoilers in the comments!

We complete the month with one of our quarterly children's programs. This month is "Harvest Some Fun at the Laurel Museum: Harvest Time Traditions from Around the World." October is always a harvest themed children's program and since we have the opportunity to tie it into "Between Fences" and the idea of immigration, we thought we'd do so.

At this event children will explore Vietnamese, English, Indian, Salvadorian, and Mexican harvest traditions. Members of Montpelier's staff will be helping us as well--making it a very collaborative event.

We hope we'll have the usual kids running around having fun and eating lots of yummy food while learning a little something too.

So, as you can tell, it's going to be a really busy month. We hope to see you around the Museum, or at the playhouse, or walking along Main Street being spooked!

Happy October!

Friday, September 3, 2010

And They're Off....Researching!

So things have been pretty quiet here on the blog. I decided that a summer hiatus was in order, but don't worry, we are back!And don't let the quiet fool you, we've been pretty busy here at the LHS. Watch out for the month of October where we have a lot of programs planned!

What I personally have been working on a lot lately is planning for our upcoming exhibit. When I arrived at the LHS in June of 2008, I was told in no uncertain terms that the February 2011 exhibit would be on the 100 year anniversary of the Laurel Park Racetrack.

So back in March we began planning for the new exhibit. Right now we're deep in the planning and researching phase.
One of the most exciting parts of the planning and researching is meeting people who work or worked at the Race Track. We've been conducting interviews to learn more about the personal experiences of people involved at the track and it's been a lot of fun.

I've spent so much time at the Race Track I'm beginning to think I should have an office there as well. Learning about what goes on "behind the scenes" has been a lot of fun!

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit the jockey's room at the racetrack. This is the place where all of the jockeys get ready before the race. It is here that they weigh in, get dressed, and get ready to ride.
Here are some of the pictures I had the opportunity to snap!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Fourth of July: 1910 Style!

Images provided by Charles Hessler, Laurel Museum Registrar and 2006 LHS Volunteer of the Year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Fever and the LHS

For those of you who know me well, you might know that this Executive Director (speaking in the 3rd person here) likes to spend her weekends and weeknights playing the best sport on earth, soccer. (yes, I am biased).

So, for those of you who don't know, we're in the middle of World Cup fever. The tournament takes place once every four years (yep, just like the Olympics) and this year it's taking place in South Africa.

Because soccer is on my mind, I thought writing a blog post about some lessons learned from the world cup might be a good idea. For those of you who hate sports analogies--stop reading now!

For those of you who can stomach the analogies, here are 2 decent ones:

Things are not always as they seem.
This World Cup, we're learning that just because you see something doesn't make it true. Whether it's a 3rd goal against Slovenia or a 1st goal against Algeria, the US has proven to us that we can't always believe our eyes (and ears, hearts, and minds). Sometimes there are things going on that we're not aware of (like a ref that can't see or think or hear me screaming at him from Laurel, Md).
On a more positive note---here's your first sports analogy. This summer, you won't be receiving many flyers from us announcing fun and exciting programs. As usual, we're slowing down our public events in the summer. You might even begin to think we're dozing around here (or watching too much soccer). But don't worry, we have lots of things going on behind the scenes.
Every Wednesday we'll spend time with our Junior Docents working on a new project. We have Laurel Parks and Rec summer camp coming once a week. We have a high school volunteer coming to work on a project that should increase the accessibility of our collections online. We are creating some traveling trunks that will be able to travel to classrooms in the area so students can learn all about Laurel without coming to the Museum. We'll be meeting once a month for out monthly volunteer luncheon (next up--July 6, 12:30 at Lenny's). We'll be going to restaurants to talk about our upcoming Taste of Laurel. Working with Montpelier Mansion on the Between Fences project. And of course working on our upcoming exhibit on the Laurel race track. And you know, between that all, watching some soccer.

Sometimes, it's the little guys who pull through in the end.
This world cup has seen some huge, huge upsets. For those of you not watching, let me summarize it in the simplest way possible. Italy. the champions from 2006, are going home after the first round. (I'm personally loving that fact!)
Some of the most amazing upsets have taken place-- South Africa beat France, Serbia beat Germany, Slovakia beat Italy, and Switzerland beat Spain. Again, for those of you who aren't big soccer fans, these are all huge upsets.
So why do I bring this up in the context of the LHS? Because we are a little guy. Any organization that employs only 1 full time and 1 half time person is a little guy.

But we're pulling through in a big way. Our current exhibit incorporates community input in a way that many larger museums struggle with. All of our collection is inventoried and in Past Perfect, a feat larger museums sometimes can not complete. We have annually changing, interesting, engaging, and informative exhibits. Our public programming is regular, interesting, and worthwhile. And of course--we have a great membership and volunteer base.

So pat yourselves on the back for all that you've done to support the LHS lately. We appreciate you cheering for the little guy.

And this World Cup, if you catch a game, root for the underdog! (Or Spain, because I personally love them!)

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Busy Week

I arrived back to the warm, slightly suffocating heat of sunny Maryland last Thursday.

Since then, I've been playing a bit of catch up. I was on email for the 2 weeks I was away, but I was also spending plenty of time in program sessions at AAM, visiting Museums, and to be honest, paddling around the Oceanside Harbor with the Sea Lions. (which I thought were seals until I visited the Aquarium of the Pacific and learned the difference...yay museums!!!!)

So I've been playing a bit of catch up for the last week. And I didn't necessarily have the easiest week to settle back in.

This week we were pretty busy.

Wednesday night we had several local businesses come to the Museum so we could share the great work we do with them. Thursday was our friends and family picnic--THANK YOU to all who came! And Sunday we're having another one of our kids day, this time around the theme of Picturing Yourself in History. I also had to report on a grant that wraps up this month, visit with volunteers at our monthly luncheon, and do all the other normal fun stuff we do around here!

But I had 2 great things happen this week to remind me of why I'm here.

1) Another local non-profit that serves the community approached me with some collaboration ideas. It's exciting to think that we've built the foundation of a relationship that they felt comfortable coming here and just pitching it. And guess what? One of the ideas is something I'm REALLY excited about and one I've tried to do since I arrived. So hopefully we can make it happen. (the mystery here is on purpose--I can't ruin the surprise!)

2) The Laurel High School I.B. Program dropped off some artwork they did in collaboration with the exhibit. I began talking to the IB Program people several months ago and brainstorming ways we could collaborate. I wasn't sure anything was going to happen this academic year, but I was hopeful and so were they. Tuesday, the Laurel IB Art Teacher dropped off several collages that the students made based on our exhibit. I immediately put them into the exhibit for all to see.

So the conference with it's engaging sessions, the paddle boat with it's friendly sea lions, and all of that sunny California has to offer was great.

But I'm happy to be back and working with my small museum to engage the community!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Good Day (or week) in Sunny, CA

So tomorrow AM, I leave for sunny southern California.

Why, you might ask?

For the American Association of Museums Annual Conference.

The Annual AAM meeting is a place where thousands (I've heard somewhere between 6-8,000) come together to discuss "museum stuff".

What sort of stuff?

Well, here's a sample of some sessions I'd like to attend:
Museums: Catalysts for Civic Renewal
How to Demonstrate the Public Value of Museums
Engaging Audiences and Community: Lessons from Libraries, Performing Arts, Parks and Communities of Faith
Passing it Forward: Using History to Inspire Civic Engagement
Remembering the Recnet Past
Engaging Diverse Donors
Successful Strategies for Sustainability in Uncertain Times
Creating a High Impact Volunteer and/or Docent Program
...and more...

For me, it's sort of like a kid in a candy store. It's a time when I get to sit with Museum people and talk totally museum stuff for 4-5 days. It's GREAT!

Although some of the sessions (most actually) are usually run by large museums with tons of $ to build huge, wonderful, life changing exhibits, or spectacular kid's programs, I've found that with a little bit of creativity, those programs/exhibits can be scaled down and used for our wonderful little community museum.

Plus, for the second year in a row, I will be chairing a session. This year is on Strategic Planning, but from a Small Museums perspective. We were actually also asked to present online--in a webinar format. (Which is ironic, since I've yet to be able to sit through a webinar without actually checking my email, answering the phone, or just getting up and leaving on accident---oops). But since we're presenting twice hopefully we'll be polished by the time the online session takes place.

And last, but not least, I'm going to be visiting some museums!!! Big surprise, huh?

Here are some of the museums on my list to visit:
Aquarium of the Pacific, Museum of Tolerance, Japanese American Museum, Museum of Jurassic Technology, The Getty Center, La Brea Tar Pits, Sand Diego Zoo, The Autry National Center, Homestead Museum, The Huntington, Rancho Los Alamitos, San Luis Rey, and more...

So, I'm quite excited. I will try to keep the blog up while I'm away, but if you don't hear from me, look forward to some great AAM/Sunny CA pictures!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking At What Isn't There

In honor of last night's lecture, I am going to post a few pictures and ask you all to think about what"isn't in them."

Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Can you predict the future?

Can you predict the future?

Here at the Laurel Historical Society, we can't. But sometimes we have to try to.

Like all museums, we have a permanent collection. It's a bunch of "stuff" otherwise known as historic items that we take care of and use to present and interpret Laurel's history.

But like all good museums, we can't collect EVERYTHING that people try to give us. A lot of times people clean out their attics, or their closets and want to give us everything they find. But we have to find a place to save it and a place to keep it safe and a way to organize it.

So, like most good museums, we have a collections policy. Our collections policy is a document that says what we hope to collect, what we never will collect, and what we will consider collecting.

It's a pretty long document (more than I'm willing to copy and paste here), but the main point is this: If an item helps us tell the story of Laurel, we will consider it for our collection.

Pretty broad, huh?

So how do we narrow that down?

Well, that's a little more complicated. We have a Collections Committee made up of volunteers and myself who decide the significance of objects. Like most museums post-late 80s, early 90s, we aren't just interested in collecting the "famous" people's stuff. We're interested in the mundane, the objects that tell the true story of Laurel, no matter whose story it is.

And the story of Laurel can stretch from pre-European influence to today. Yep, that's right--until today. Because as we all know, it's important to collect today's story for tomorrow.

So the question of what to collect becomes a little more complicated when you consider contemporary history.

Think about it this way. I could, in theory, donate my water bottle to the Laurel Museum. It's a blue nalgene that I carry everywhere. Literally, everywhere.

My water bottle, if interpreted properly, says a lot about me and my place in history. It tells the story of the "green movement." It has the ability to tell the story of our dependence on oil-based products and our complicated attempts to escape that relationship. It can tell the story of an athlete. The story of an active dog owner and a culture which values time spent actively with pets outdoors. The story of a thrifty person trying to save money. The story of suburbia and how so many people shop at the same stores throughout the country. I could go on and on.

So in 100 years, that story could be interesting to someone who didn't know about any of those stories.

And if you think about how much we would appreciate an equivalent object with all of it's stories from 1910, it's easy to see why we need to collect our present for the future.

But how do we determine what has the potential to be interesting? In theory, everything could be interesting, right? Who knows what the future will be like or how much they will know about our time back in 2010.

It's a tough question. And it's not as easily dismissed as you would think.

So what do you think? How do you predict the future?

Friday, April 30, 2010

A True Community Celebration

Just in case you forgot, this February we had a lot of snow. Like 3-4 feet of snow.

And also just in case you forgot, our "Grand Opening" was postponed and then basically canceled because of said snow. As someone who almost never cancels anything, this was especially difficult for me.

On February 12 as I sat with two of my board members talking about the upcoming dilemma of an opening on February 14 with 4 feet of snow on the ground and no parking outside the museum, we came up with the idea of an opening in the spring.

I tagged it a "Community Celebration" of Snapshots in Time. I wasn't sure just what I meant by a "Community Celebration", but I knew that I wanted it to be festive. I wanted people to have a reason to come see an exhibit that had already been open for 2 months.

And most importantly, I hoped that I'd get some people involved who helped put together the exhibit. I wanted to keep the community groups engaged in the LHS and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

So this Sunday, our twice snowed out exhibit opening took place with the threat of a lot of rain. But guess what?! Mother nature decided we had had enough bad weather and she held out for the entire length of the Community Celebration.

Instead we had a true community celebration.

We had a museum filled with music provided by the Laurel School of Music.

We had a basement filled with games provided by Oseh Shalom, one of our partners in developing the exhibit.

We had visitors engaged in "Community Conversations" throughout the afternoon.

We had visitors from the Islamic Community Center of Laurel, another of our partners in developing the exhibit.

We had families enjoying themselves in the galleries.

In the end we had 85 people join us for a fun and festive Community Celebration. Not bad for an exhibit that had already been open a couple of months.

We're thinking this isn't such a bad idea after all. We think it might be worth repeating.

So next year, even if it doesn't snow 4 feet in February, look out for a Community Celebration in the Spring

And it will be the Museum's 15th Anniversary and we think that's definitely worth a celebration!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ever wonder what happens to the stuff you leave behind at museum?

Check out my post on the Uncatalogued Museum's blog:

Friday, April 16, 2010

An Intern's Perspective

Our Spring Intern, Bethany Hyers is working on helping us organize for our upcoming exhibit on the Laurel Race Track. She has been charged with scanning images from our collection and attaching the files to Past Perfect records. She also has done background research on different exhibits on racetracks.

Here is a personal perspective on how she connects to her work at the LHS:

This spring I am interning here at the Laurel Museum to learn about collections. Currently I am set with the task of helping with the 2011 upcoming Laurel Race Track exhibit by updating records so as to streamline the design process. Despite my childhood love for horses, I am not an avid horse race watcher nor do I have much previous knowledge about the Laurel Race Track specifically. I was given the task of researching past exhibits of race tracks that have been done in other museums and I realized that the Triple Crown is coming up in a couple of weeks (May 1st to be exact)! This realization made me think of how the Laurel Race Track got other people excited for the races and what those races meant for them. I think that the online research, finding extremely interesting photographs of people at the track, and the realization of the upcoming Derby that increased my personal connection with this project.

The Kentucky Derby is becoming a new family tradition with more and more in attendance each year. My grandmother - the reason for all the excitement - used to bet on Kentucky Derby horses with her boss when she worked in Washington DC. And ever since then she has always had a love of the Kentucky Derby which has slowly become my love as well. It is always on the calendar of family events.

Derby Day. My dad is charged with the duty of making the mint juleps while my grandma prepares herself for the race by wearing her version of a Kentucky Derby hat and watching the pre-show. (Her hat is not as extravagant as the hat worn by the women at the actual derby since it is a sunhat but it does the job.)This hat, a black and white straw fiber hat that reminds me of a casual version of a church hat, always makes it debut on Derby Day.

As the horses are being led up to the gate, my grandma and I choose the ones we are going to shout for. I tend to base my choice more on the name and look of the horse while my grandma uses a more sophisticated process. (I don’t think my horse has ever won except once. Maybe I should consider changing my picking strategy?)

The opening of the gates starts the cheering and shouting for your horse. It is almost like the room holds its breath (if you can forget the shouting) while the race goes. This atmosphere reminds me of a photograph in the collections of a woman holding her binoculars with a look of anticipation and hopefulness toward the track. I feel like that is a more glamorous version of what goes on at my Grandma’s and what I imagine happens every horse race everywhere.

I think I will always have fond memories of my grandma shouting at the TV with her sunhat-Derby hat on for her horse to win. And so as I update Laurel race track records I remember the excitement of Derby Day and how the atmosphere of horse racing is captured by these photographs.

Friday, April 9, 2010

So much potential...

So, last summer our Junior Docents worked long and hard on researching Laurel's history in order to put together a Junior Docent video.

They learned all about Laurel's history. Then they tried to figure out what was REALLY important and what they wanted to share. Then they worked on figuring out the best way to present the information. In the end, with the help of our volunteer videographer, they made a video of their work. After some editing, the video is finally ready to be shared.

I put it on youtube in preparation for sharing. I thought that would be the quickest and easiest way to share it.

But then the question arose of: How should we share it?

It made its debut, unexpectedly, at the LHS Gala on March 27 where it played on the TVs without sound the entire night.

But what's next?

I put it in the monthly email that goes to all contacts whose email address we have.

Then I tried to talk to someone about it at a program and realized I had never put it on facebook.

So I did that today.

I haven't put it on our website because I haven't figured out where I want it to go.

But our real goal, our major goal, was to use the video as a tool to engage kids in the Museum. But I'm not sure how many kids are on our facebook or are reading our monthly emails.

So how do we go about getting it to them? Should we make DVDs for all of the teachers in the area? Should we create a badge program to go along with the video for local scouts? How about home school groups?

What is the best way to go about marketing and presenting the video and using it to engage kids? What do you think?

Oh, and here's the video for those of you who haven't yet seen it:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One Docent's Reflections

The LHS is powered by many different people who help turn the wheels of our organization. One of the most important groups of people turning the wheels are our docents. Our docents serve as the front-line of the museum, greeting our visitors and giving tours when we're open.

One of our docents, Ireene Ohlmacher, related an interesting front-line experience to me and I asked her to share her experience for the blog. Enjoy!

On Sunday, March 28, I worked as a guide in the Museum. As you all know, sometimes we are overwhelmed with visitors and sometime - well, it's hard not to take a nap. This Sunday I had several different groups. One had young children who thought that the idea of making collages was the most brilliant thing they had come across in a long time once I explained that they could cut out ANY picture they liked for the collage. At first they wanted them put up, but then they thought it would be more fun to take them home with them.

However, the neatest experience was when a boy scout troop of 12-16 year olds walked in with their leaders. You could just see the look on their faces when they came in - "What a waste! We have to visit a boring old museum." They had come in to get the patches which are available in the gift shop (which I didn't know at the time). I however could not let all those young minds escape me. So, 1st I shanghaied them to give them information about the mill & the house (emphasizing how many people lived in each of the apts and what ages they would have been working at). Then I explained that the idea of this year's exhibit was what makes a community - shared religion, activities, places, the games we all played growing up. THEN I showed them the games & told them - "go ahead - play them, have fun." However, I took the older boys over to the character game, explained it, gave them each a character (no boy wanted to be any of those alien creatures - girls) & we discussed how they might react to a situation in 1910 - then we did 2010. At this point, I told them "why don't you all play it - you don't need me. Just return all the cards, because I get yelled at if they aren't all returned" and I walked away. I stayed in the room to watch (and mediate if necessary). It was fantastic - They proceeded to pick up more cards & (without an adult who might give the "evil eye" if they said the wrong thing) had a great time playing out the game their way. Amazing. Then they decided to play Jacks (the scout leader & I refrained from saying mostly girls played it & we didn't explain the rules). I don't know when I have seen 3 teenage boys have so much fun, - they made their own rules. It was so much fun to watch them play. The younger boys were into yo-yo & Connect Four, but the laughter came from the older ones.

Next time, when they come in, they'll be looking for the games to play and not just thinking another dry museum trip - I hope. I don't know if that's good or bad.

Friday, March 26, 2010

We're on Flickr!!

A while back we had an excellent intern, Eli, work on developing a shortened walking tour for the LHS. He did a GREAT job producing both an online product and a printed product.

In order to put the version online and on our website, he had to host some pictures on Flickr.
At least, I think that's what had to happen. The reason Eli was doing this work is because he was MUCH more skilled at it than me. But he broke it down for me and told me the details and showed me our Flickr site. Which looked great in my opinion.

At the time, I thought "hmmm, this has some real potential, but how can we use it?"

So I've sort of let that sit for a while and thought about some other things. Like an exhibit. And public programming. And budgeting. And strategic planning. And you know, the regular stuff at the Museum.

So fast forward almost a year later and we're thinking about our current exhibit. Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010 is supposed to capture images from today and encourage people to realize that THEIR story is the LAUREL story.

Part of that effort involves letting people continually contribute to the exhibit. So we have spaces in the exhibit where people can make their own self-portraits, vote on an issue, and leave a picture.

But then we're faced with the next question: Who actually has printed pictures anymore?

Large sigh.

Okay, so what can we do to collect digital images. We could have them emailed to us and then upload them on our website. Which takes a lot of effort and time and in the end the pictures can't be commented on or really manipulated.

Then I remembered Flickr and how great it looked from Eli's work. So we're back to Flickr. We've decided to post pictures from the exhibit that people have contributed to Flickr. There are some on Flickr that never made it into our exhibit. And some that are definitely up in our galleries.

And a lot of interesting, fun pictures both from 1910 and 2010. But remember, we're still collecting for 2010. So if you have an image, feel free to bring it by the Museum and put it on our wall.

Or email it to me ( and we can post it to our flickr page.

Oh and this isn't the only way we'll continue collecting images from 2010. We'll be making a special effort this summer. Details will be coming soon!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Can you believe it?

We're already starting the planning for our next exhibit. No, not this one that just opened in February, the next one. The one that's scheduled to open February 2011.

It's hard to believe that we're already in the process of planning this exhibit. When I arrived in June 2008, the decision was already made that the 2011 exhibit would be on the track. So I've been waiting for this exhibit for almost 2 years.

And now we're finally here. But where is here? Where do we begin?

We know we want to do an exhibit about the track. Why? Because it will be the 100 year anniversary of the track and we think that's important. And we have A LOT of cool stuff about the track. A LOT.

So where do we go from here? We can't just throw a bunch of stuff on the wall and call it an exhibit. We need to develop themes, goals, etc. Then we start to pick objects, write text, revise text, revise text, revise text...And did I mention, revise text?

So we're doing a couple of things first. Contacting everyone we can who can help us tell the racetrack story. So if you're a person who worked at, frequented, loved, or hated the race track or you know someone who has done any of these things, let us know. We'd LOVE to talk to you.

The other thing we're doing right away is collecting data on what people want us to talk about. Yes, we're asking YOU before we go any further, what YOU are interested in. We've even put it in survey monkey so you can access it easily and give us a quick answer.

So please, visit our Survey and tell us what YOU want to hear about in the next exhibit?

<-----Is it stuff like this? Like how the race track looks and how it has evolved?

Or stuff like this? The stories of the people who worked at the races or made bets at the races ----->

YOU tell us!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Website Tracking

Friday, March 5, 2010

An Early 20th Century Night on the Town

On March 13, the Laurel Historical Society is partnering up with Venus Theatre for an exciting night on the town.

We've done this before, partnering with a theatre in Laurel to have an exciting night on the town.

And this time we have the same goals--helping to support another small local non-profit, promoting cultural life on mainstreet, bringing people into the museum to see the exhibit, and providing another, creative, learning venue for Laurelites.

Last time we had a 1950s theme and worked with the Laurel Mill Playhouse. This time, we're working with Venus Theatre and have an early 20th century theme.

So we'll begin with dinner at the museum in the galleries of our current exhibit "Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010". After what sounds like a very delicious dinner, we'll take a trip to Venus Theatre and see "Zelda at the Oasis", a play about the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

We think it will be an exciting night. And apparently people agree with us. We only have 4 spots left out of 30.

But this type of collaboration brings to mind some questions...

What is it a Museum or a Historical Society should do? Should we be providing entertainment? Should we only be presenting history through exhibits and lectures?

We know what we think.

But what do you think?

Are you happy to see the LHS involved in this type of programming? If not, why? What do you think we should be doing instead?

And if you are happy to see us doing this, do you have any suggestions for other things we could be doing?

That's all for now folks. Let us know what you think!

Oh and if you want more information on the upcoming event and to save a last minute spot, click here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One of those moments...

Today is one of those days in the small Museum field when you never feel like you have enough time. In between volunteer training, helping with a mailing, a conference call, budget work, membership programming, and more all in one day, things can feel a little hectic.

So when you hear that visitors are walking up the walk an hour after you've closed sometimes you have to take a deep breath to calm down. It is my policy that if at all possible in my schedule, I let visitors in. In the end, aren't they the reason we're here? So turning them away is something I do my absolute best to avoid.

This afternoon I took a break from catching up on emails and the long list of other stuff to field one man's questions about Laurel. He came with his two sons and he had found somewhere on the internet information quoting Gertrude Poe that had to do with an old exhibit. After trying to find the information he had found and showing him more information on that exhibit, we convinced him he should do a tour.

So I had the opportunity to show him and his two inquisitive sons around the museum. The sons were the first kids to the exhibit that I've been able to work with one on one and we did the scavenger hunt while I talked with their father about the "big" themes present in the exhibit. The father, a longtime Laurel resident, was genuinely excited to learn about the Mill and the history of the house. He marveled at how clear the images from 1910 were and the entire family was excited to see an image of the old Laurel High School, a place they are quite familiar with in their lives today.

After showing them the exhibit and the basement, I let them leave with their hands full of our kid's pamphlets, walking tours, program material, and more. It was very exciting to give a tour to a family that was genuinely interested in the history of Laurel. It almost made me forget that it is supposed to snow tonight!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Exhibit Progress Update!

The exhibit is in its final days of production. This past week we've finalized how everything is going to look with the consultants. Whew, what a relief. No more choosing images, editing text, or figuring out of captions.

in theory, I can take a break and relax while our consultants make sure the exhibit is printed and looks pretty before they come down and we install. Oh, only in theory.

For the first time on my gmail I produced a list of tasks. It's a function I have never used because I've always thought it would stress me out more seeing the tasks just sitting there. But there is so much that needs to be done before (or very nearly before) the exhibit opens that I knew I would lose track if I didn't keep a list. So here's the list I currently have up. As you can tell--I'm making progress!

Exhibit Opening

  • Exhibit Opening Basket
  • Shop Postcards
  • Cards for Giveaway
  • Interpretive Plan
  • Community Groups Interactive
  • Food/Drinks/Opening Stuff
  • kids booklet
  • Exhibit Rack Cards
  • Contributors Invitations
  • Exhibit Website Info
  • Lesson Plans/Scavenger Hunts

As you can also tell, there is a lot of stuff still on the list. Wish me luck!

Because I know you are all very excited to hear more about the exhibit, I've included the "long version" of our press release on the exhibit. Written by Karen Lubieniecki, it gives a great overview of what the exhibit will be about.

And if all goes well, next week I'll post pictures of the exhibit as a sneak preview!

New Exhibit Explores Community and Its Meaning.

Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010 Opens February 7, 2010.

Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010 a new exhibit focusing on community and its many meanings opens February 7 at the Laurel Museum in Laurel, Md. The exhibit uses photos from the Museum’s historic Sadler Collection taken in the early 1900s and contemporary photos. It challenges visitors to examine their own ideas of “What is Community?” by comparing and contrasting how these are the same or have changed in the past 100 years.

According to Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker, “We are very excited about our next exhibit. In our rapidly changing society, connecting present day people with a town’s past is a major challenge for history organizations. Asking “What is a community” is one way to do that. Snapshots in Time had a lot of input from community groups during its development, but even more importantly, will continue to encourage visitor contributions. We hope those who come to the new exhibit will take the opportunity to ask themselves how they define community today and how that may be the same or different from 100 years ago.”

The exhibit begins by asking us to See Ourselves. Looking at photos ranging from a Muslim children reenacting the Hajj to children lighting a candle for the first night of Hanukah to a circa 1910 photo of friends will help visitors to consider which (or how many) of these define how they see their personal community, versus how this was reflected 100 years ago. This section will also feature a display of photographer Bert Sadler’s turn of the century cameras – and contemporary cameras illustrating how much has changed in how we document our communities.

Visitors then explore what we Value. This section explores the groups and activities that reflect our values. A local Catholic Church conducts a baptism, families gather for picnics, we remember September 11, a community celebrates Emancipation Day and a high school class graduates. Looking at photos of gatherings from the past, and today, visitors consider what activities and values we place in highest regard.

Section three looks at broader community interactions and is called Help. It suggests that communities help others in many ways. Boy Scouts bond and Girl Scouts help each other. A local pharmacist gives a shot.

Fun is the focus of the next section. Laurel’s A 1900s marathon, a recent 4th of July parade and a quiet moment at the piano remind us of the many ways people celebrate and have fun in their community. Kids play sports – hockey and baseball.

The exhibits’ final area, Demographic, takes a closer look at population of Laurel as it stood in 1910 and 2010, exploring its changing demographics and increasingly diverse population. In 1910, for example only 7% of the population Laurel population of 2500 was African American. There were, according to the 1910 Census, two Chinese families. Today African Americans make up 43% of the population, while 11 % are of Hispanic background and 6% are Asian.

Snapshots in Time also includes a number of interactive elements including “Self Portrait”and “Your Vote Counts” which will poll visitors on their personal preferences “Are you a Redskins or Raven’ Fan?” for example, and questions designed for children.

Support for the exhibit was provided by Prince George’s County and the office of Councilman Tom Dernoga.

The Laurel Museum is open Wednesday and Fridays 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., and Sundays 1:00-4:00 pm.Laurel Museum is located at 817 Main Street, Laurel, Md. For more information and directions visit or call 301-725-7975. ## Group tours are available by special arrangement. Admission is free, and there is a museum gift shop on the lower level.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Appreciating Our Volunteers

This past weekend we had our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. Held at Jhanna Levin's Home, Harmony House, we celebrated the contributions of our volunteers throughout the year.

This event is always a little tricky because many of our volunteers help with the planning and the actual execution of the event. So I am very thankful to those volunteers for helping me thank the other volunteers. See, tricky!

The first thing we always do for this event is identify the 5 year volunteers. These volunteers have served the organization for five long years and for their service, we like to honor them by bringing them to the front of the crowded home we have the event in and giving them a token of appreciation. This year's five year volunteers were: Frieda Weise, Jerry Chappell, and Beverley Jacobs. They are all great volunteers and we REALLY appreciate all that they do!

The other part of the event is a surprise. We announce our Volunteer of the Year. The Volunteer of the Year is chosen with the input of the Executive Committee, the Assistant to the Director, the Executive Director, and the retired Volunteer Coordinator. This year there was actually some tough competition with 3 volunteers being considered. All 3 of these volunteers do great work. I won't name the 2 runners-up because they just might win next year!

The Volunteer we ended up choosing was chosen for her above and beyond commitment to the Laurel Historical Society over the last year. This volunteer sits on at least 2 or 3 committees and is always ready and willing to do the work that needs to get done. She is always one of the first people to volunteer for special events and special tours. She is in the process of photographing the entire (yes, ENTIRE) collection. And she is our Research Volunteer who mans the Research Library and responds to the myriad of requests we receive. She has, in short, become one of my top "go-to" volunteers. Her name is Frances Brooks and we're VERY privileged to have her volunteering for the organization.

When I was giving Frances the award at the Volunteer Appreciation Event, she made me tear up a little bit. It was exciting to see someone who works so hard all of the time and never expects any recognition be surprised that people noticed her efforts. Of course, it reminded me that I need to keep telling all of my volunteers how great of a job they do all of the time.

Overall it was a great event. I left full of sweets and cheese and thankful for the wonderful group of volunteers that choose to help the LHS become the great organization it is today!