If you’ve driven past the museum in the last few days you have probably noticed some changes in front of the museum. You can see there is a pile of dirt that has been upturned in a long line spanning the length of our yard. Don’t worry, it was not a giant mole that destroyed our yard, it is actually a good thing. With the weather finally getting warmer, hopefully for good, we are preparing for our quilt garden that’ll be up and running by the end of the month. This year we are getting help from the Elkhart County Master Gardeners, and to help the effort in maintaining the garden they wanted to install an irrigation system so that the flowers in the garden can be watered easily. So for the past couple days the process began and they had to dig a ditch from the garden to the building so it can connect to a water line. This will be a great improvement for the quilt garden. Now it will be much easier to water and maintain the garden so that it will look beautiful all summer long. The garden will open later this month the same day as our Heritage Quilt Challenge exhibit. To celebrate the opening of both, we are going to be holding a reception on our front lawn.
Yesterday, the staff took a little field trip to Kalamazoo. The reason being with the library opening up soon we wanted to talk to an expert in libraries, particularly local history libraries, and see how they have their books and records organized. Our first stop of the day was at the Kalamazoo Public Library Local History room. The library itself was very impressive , not just the way it looked but also how it was run. We got a tour of the local history room to see how they group their books together, what type of subjects they collect, and how they organize their news paper clippings, articles, and genealogy collections. The good thing is that we have organized our new Corson Library in a similar manner to how the Kalamazoo Library has their local history section organized. With no one on staff coming from a library background it was good to know that we are doing things correctly. We also left with a lot of good ideas and tips when it comes to revamping our museum policies so that we are on point with other libraries.
After lunch we took in the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. The museum incorporates all different types of subjects: history, science, music, art. We saw an exhibit on mummies, learned the history of the Kalamazoo area, and also had fun with the hands on activities in their Science in Motion exhibit. It gave all of us some great ideas to integrate into future exhibits at our museum. In all, it was a great day, the staff had fun, and we learned a lot and gave us some great tips and ideas.
Last Thursday we got a pleasant surprise from the UPS man: a new EPSON flatbed scanner! A couple of months ago, Matt had applied for a technology grant through ESPON, and we hadn’t heard anything so we had thought they were still deliberating on who would would receive the grant or that the museum wasn’t chosen. So it is safe to say that we we’re all very surprised to find this being delivered to us.
The reason that we are so happy that we got the scanner is all the things that we will be able to do with it once we have it up in running. The museum already has a scanner, but our new one is larger and state of the art. With a larger scanner we will be able to digitize larger documents like newspapers, maps, posters, architectural drawings, and other things that just wasn’t possible before given the size of the scanner we werer using. With our new digitization capabilities we will be able to raise the quality of signage we produce, which will raise the quality of our future exhibits as well as programs. Most exciting, however, is that this scanner will allow us to share more of the history of Elkhart County with all of you, the public. We can now take items that might be put at risk from being handled and used, and we can digitize it, and allow people to use the digitized copy while the original can be preserved for generations to come. Altogether, this will let us share the treasures of our collection with all the audiences we are trying to reach.
We want to thank EPSON for awarding us the grant of our new scanner!
Here is our schedule of events for the month of March. Information can also be found on the ECHS website
March 5th: Tuesday Tours: Occupations of the Past
Time: 1:00 p.m.
March 7th: Tupperware! Movie Night
Time: 6:30 p.m.
March 19th: Tuesday Tours: On The Home Front
Time: 2:00 p.m.
March 21st: Collection Curiosities program
Time: 7:00 p.m.
March 24th: Palm Sunday Tornado Remembrance Event
Time: 1:00 p.m.
This Thursday we are holding a public feedback session from 6:30-7:30. This is one of the first steps we are taking in our StEPS program as well as the beginning of creating an Interpretive Plan for the museum. After reading that sentence you are probably asking yourself what is an Interpretive Plan? Well, an Interpretive Plan is a document that will guide the museum in the future in regards to the history we present and how we interpret to the public. For example, this plan will help us develop themes and periods of history that will become future exhibits, programs, tours, and other experiences at the museum.
To create this plan , the staff has been working hard looking at what we already do, what we are not doing, and what we think could be done in the future to improve the museum. We, as a staff, could work really hard on this process but we need the most important voice to be heard and involved in this process: Yours! The visitor. Whether you have physically visited the museum, been to one of our events, checked out our Facebook, been on our website, or are reading this blog, you are the most important part of the museum, and we want to know what you think.
When you come to the museum on Thursday, we want to show our appreciation, and get your feedback to a variety of questions that involve things like why you think History is important. What makes a good exhibit? What kind of themes should the museum present? And others. We also wanted to have an event that is fun for everyone so instead of having people sit and we ask you questions and get your responses; we have come up with so creative ways for you to respond. For example, you can share your ideas by posting them, with a post-it note, on a big board as you can see what others have written to see what your community finds important, or you will be able to respond to questions by putting candy into buckets (don’t worry there’ll be some candy you can keep too!) or filling buckets with written responses. We think when you come, you’ll have a fun time while giving the staff vital feedback, and most importantly, helping the museum.
With the focus on the future of the museum at this event, we will also be providing you a glimpse into what we will be going on at the museum over the next few months. There will be guided tours of the museum showing you the vision the staff has for the museum by showing you recently renovated exhibit galleries, a sneak peek at the new Corson library, our plans for the old library space, and some new exhibit themes on the horizon. There will also be the opportunity to see what the museum currently offers in terms of programs for schools, and groups, and always staff will be there to answer questions.
In appreciation of our visitors, and with it being Valentine’s Day we there will also be door prizes that you will be able to win. The prizes include gift certificates for Danny K’s Smokehouse and Grill, The Elkhart Civic Theatre, and a private tour of the Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard. It’ll be a fun time, so come on out, and let your voice be heard.
We wanted to highlight some of the great work our volunteers do for the museum. Today we are looking at Phyllis and Gordon Hostetler. Phyllis has been volunteering at the museum since 2004, where she started doing work in the library. Her husband, Gordon, joined the museum in March of 2011. Together they have been working entering information from our photograph collection into our Past Perfect museum software. Entering this information into Past Perfect is extremely important for the conservation of the museum’s photographs and it helps people conduct research quicker and more efficiently. We asked them to write a description about what they do in detail, so read about what they do in their own words:
Past Perfect is a data base for organizing the information about museum collections. The information includes what the item is, who the donor is, when it entered the collection, what its condition is, etc. We work just on the photographs. Others work on entering information about the physical items in the museum collection. All of the photographs were catalogued on paper and scanned into the computer in the early 2000s. We are now taking the information that was recorded on paper and putting it into Past Perfect. We also marry the photo graphics file with the Past Perfect record. When we come in we go to the archives room and get the paper records that we will need and the box of photographs that we are working on. As we enter each record we note on the paper that we have done so. There are still many photographs to be entered, so we are not sure that we will be able to complete this project this year. Overall, we really enjoy looking at the photos and we often learn new things about the people and places in Elkhart County.
You can usually see Phyllis and Gordon working at the museum on Friday mornings. Thank you Phyllis and Gordon for all your hard work.
A few days ago our library project made a huge leap forward in only a few hours. On a Monday morning the staff and volunteers came together to move the books out of the old library and into the new one. By using boxes and carts it made the process very easy. Liz and Frank devised an excellent game plan to keep the books in order by labeling the boxes and when they were moved into the new library to be put on specific tables to ensure when they go back on the shelves they’ll be in the right spot. Moving the books took much faster than we anticipated, and were done in about an hour and a half!
With the books moved the work wasn’t done. With the time we had, we cleaned the shelves in the book cases. Each case was taken out one by one and given a good cleaning. In this picture you can see Liz and one of our volunteers, Alice, really getting in there to make sure all the dust was gone, and the shelves were cleaner than clean.
The next day is when the heavy lifting took place. Terry, our maintenance man, moved all of the book cases into the new library. It was interesting to see the cases come down and see what was behind the book cases. Maybe there would be a book that got stuck, or a secret treasure map from people who hid a bunch of money in the fields of Middlebury. But, alas, we found nothing like that, but we did see some of the brickwork of the building and some interesting green paint. Looking at the paint and brickwork gave us snapshot of the past. For those of you that don’t know, our museum is housed in what used to be a school. Looking at the brickwork showed us how they constructed the building, and also help date when this particular part was added; the school went through a few expansions. There were also some grey blobs on the brickwork which we think might be what was used to hold up the blackboard when this room was a classroom. You can come look for yourself, the section of the wall will still be exposed while were finishing the new library. Now, all the book cases have found their new home in the library, the shelves have been put back on, and the glass doors have been reinstalled. They look really great in the new space. The books haven’t been put in the shelves yet, but this was a huge leap forward in completing the new library. We want to thank all the volunteers that helped us move the books. It was a huge help!
Other than moving the books, the main desk was completed. It was moved from the annex and into the library were the the tops were put on. We also had two custom made tables that match the main desk made and there were also put in the library; you can somewhat see them in one of the pictures above. You can’t get a good view, because they’re covered in books, but they look really nice. It is exciting to see everything starting to come together. We have our public opening of the library scheduled for April 26th, and while we still have a lot of work to do, we can’t wait to have the library completed to share with the public, and help them research the county history.
Greetings everyone on a bright sunshine filled day in January! My reason for being a “guest” on this blog is to remind all of you of our Quilt Documentation Day here at the Museum on Saturday January 19th.
This will be our 5th year for documenting Elkhart County quilts and it promises to be another exciting day of quilt discovery! Although we all enjoy getting together and sharing the quilts, both vintage and newly made, there is an enduring reason for us to have Documentation Day. On a local level, quilts have been an important part of the history of our county and regional area. I think of course of our Amish and Mennonite heritage but also the social and cultural history that our quilts contain. Some of you will remember the quilt we’ve had the privilege to document that was beautiful velvet Stars with the fabric being of instrument case lining remnants from the Conn Music Industry right here in our own area. Each time we get together we have the privilege of seeing extraordinary quilts made or migrated to ‘Elkhart County. We become a part of that history when we document quilt history in our own time.
“MIgrated” to Elkhart county gives a new dimension as that allows us to trace immigration patterns to Elkhart County through quilts. We know certain quilt patterns and styles were made in certain areas of our country so we can identify where the quilts originated. When someone has had the foresight to sign and/or label their quilt we can all share in the history of the quilt’s as well as the owner’s/maker’s journey.
We as well as those before us quilt to create, and celebrate, events such as weddings and the birth of new family members, we quilt to commemorate, such as the World’s Fair Century of Progress quilts or the many quilts that arise from a shared event, such as the Quilts of Valor. We quilt to grieve, knowing that when our hands are busy it gives our hearts a chance to heal.
Whether you are a quilter,, collect quilts ,have quilts to share or are curious about quilting, I cordially invite you and encourage you to join us again this year as we gather on Saturday January 19th to document and discuss yet more quilts. As always, we’ll have refreshments and lots of good quilting fellowship! Come learn along with us!
Donna L. Kooistra, American Quilter’s Society Certified Appraiser of Quilted Textiles
Hi everyone! My name is Paige Erwin and I am a senior and part of the internship program at Elkhart Memorial High School. I have a very active schedule consisting of softball, marching band, PEERS ( A program ran by students that go to the middle schools that teach about abstaining to obtain your goals in life), as well as a winter indoor marching percussion group and my internship here. I’ve always wanted to get into history and so I was really excited when I found out about the internship program and my chance to work at a museum and took the chance right away. I am so glad that I have had the chance to get a feel for what it is like to work in a museum.
So far I have done quite a few projects for the museum, the major ones being a new I spy activity worksheet for kids, started creating a historical photography contest, putting up a volunteer appreciation board, and even getting a chance to handle some artifacts behind the scenes.
My favorite project so far however had to have been when I was able to work with some of the artifacts in the collections. These pieces were part of a traveling exhibit and needed to be placed in new protected sleeves. Being able to have a chance to handle a piece of history was really an exciting experience that not many people get to have! I’ve had a great time with each project I’ve done and I continue to love what I am doing here a little more everyday. I cannot wait to continue with more projects in the future!
A few days we ago we recieved a package in the mail that made the museum staff very excited. The packaged contained a workbook for the StEPs program that we decided to enroll in a few months ago. StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) is a program that was designed by the American Association for State and Local History to help organizations like ours evaluate the work that we do against nationally recognized standards for museums and historical organizations.
Over the next several months we will be looking at certain subjects through a self study.For example, we’ll be looking at how we interpret Elkhart County history to our audience or how we take care of the artifacts in our collection, and seeing how we measure up to the national standards. In the areas that need work, the StEPs program will provide a clear direction on the literal “steps” we need to take to improve. Our hope is that this process will create a solid base that will make the museum a stronger, more vibrant part of the community now, and in the future.
Not only is the staff going to be involved in this process, but we want our most important stakeholders to be involved: you! In the coming months we want to hear from the people of Elkhart County on what comes to your mind when you think of the museum, and what you would like to see in the future. Stay tuned for information on events where you can share with us what you think, and see how we are progressing in the process.It’s an exciting time for all of us at the museum as we look to improve and better serve our the people of Elkhart County.