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The spark

Come with us now and catch a glimpse of exciting behind-the-scenes action at Dallas Heritage Village.

The setting: Gary Smith’s Office, about a year ago. Executive Director Gary Smith, Curator of Exhibits and Collections Evelyn Montgomery, and Director of Education Melissa Prycer are talking about The Future.

Gary: Attendance is holding steady, but income just isn’t. We’ve got to figure out new ways to fulfill our mission.

Melissa: We need to focus on children. They’re just so darn cute!

Evelyn: But what about our precious artifacts? We have to protect our artifacts, and children might accidentally destroy things.

Gary: You know, we’re finishing up restoring the General Store. What if we rethink the exhibit in there? What if we let visitors walk in past the front door?

Melissa: We could let them shop! Or they could use a real cash register! Adults will get just as much out of that as children.

Evelyn: But we can’t ever leave that space unstaffed. It would be chaos! Unless we found a magical way to make children behave the way they did in the 19th century. . .

Gary: Well, if we gave them proper guidance and some aprons to wear, I bet they would act right.

Evelyn: You know, I bet they would love to play with scales and balance beans.

And then all three came to the following decision: We can do this. It won’t be that hard.

Fast forward to today:

For those that follow life at Dallas Heritage Village, you may know that we opened the re-designed, hands-on General Store in early March. You may have even shopped in there. The project wasn’t quite as easy as we thought it would be (have you ever thought about how much stuff is in a General Store exhibit? Ask Evelyn!), but visitors have completely fallen in love with it.

We’ve been having a lot of conversations like the one above over the last couple of years. These conversations have been sparked by many different things: another flood on Main Street in June 2009. Shrinking financial resources since 2008. Some new research and ideas in the museum field. An increasing number of family visitors. We’re really excited about some of the ideas that have come out of those conversations. Some of us are eager to do all of it Right Now (that might be Melissa), but we have to be careful as we move forward.

In the meantime, we do want to talk about what we’re thinking, see if you like where we’re heading, and share our enthusiasm about the future. We’ve done a bit of this with our Facebook page. Throughout the General Store project, we posted progress pictures. And our fans seemed genuinely excited about the new exhibit! But there’s only so much you can share on Facebook. We couldn’t share our thought process on which elements to make interactive. We couldn’t talk about the hours of research Evelyn spent on finding appropriate products and labels. And Evelyn couldn’t share all of the fun trivia that never made it into the final product.

We’re in the early phases of planning our next major exhibit re-design—the Citizen’s Bank. We want to take you with us on that journey. But there’s so much more we want to share with you! When something really exciting happens, such as preservation work on Millermore, we want to talk in more detail about what’s happening and how. When we’re forced to make a tough decision, like suspending our summer camp program, we want to share our reasons. For the past two years, staff have been talking and working constantly to implement some major changes in the ways we teach history at the Village. Change on this scale takes time, but we want you to know what we’re actively working on and what we’re thinking about next.

But this is also a place for you to share with us. If we need some feedback on things we’re pondering, we’ll come here. If you want to write a guest post on something related to the Village, we’ll be happy to consider that. If you want to talk about some of the projects we’re working on, you can do that—and we’ll listen.

As a history museum, we spend a lot of time thinking about the past. But we’re constantly thinking about the future too. This blog is for friends, members, volunteers, and museum colleagues. It won’t be an event listing—that’s for our calendar. It won’t be for short and sweet status updates—that’s what our Facebook page is for. This will be a please to dig deep, ponder, and let you catch another glimpse of our shared past, present and future.

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