I traveled around the middle of Japan with my daughter a month ago. While there, we went to quite a few museums, historic buildings and parks. There is a fire festival in Nara that has been held annually without break since the 700s, even through earthquakes and world wars. More than a thousand years of an observance conducted religiously. Inherent in that time line is respect for the past and commitment to the future.
There are huge structures that have been moved from one location to another as family systems evolved and capitols changed. Castles have been destroyed by fire multiple times over the centuries and have been rebuilt again and again. The spectrum of shrines - Shinto, early Buddhist, Chinese-influenced, and fusions of all of these - is amazing and we walked to and through as many as we could. We collected calligraphy and red stamps from the larger shrines in fan-fold books that tell the story of our journeys.
Each area we went to identified its traditional arts and showcased them - the beautiful white embroidery on deep indigo blue cloth, lacquer ware and gold leaf work, textile dyeing and printing. Traditional foods varied from place to place as well, from Kobe beef to a special form of bean curd. We enjoyed Izakaya - Japanese bar food. which consists of a wide variety of small dishes.
Being able to get wherever we wanted by bullet train, intercity train, and subway was wonderful. And trying to live out of small rolling carry-on for three weeks, was educational.
We had a great time - Japan is beautiful and friendly - and I hope to go back someday.
Today has been quite a day!
It started with the Coordinators Team for the Willits Kinetic Carnivale,
which has drawn the most creative and catalytic people with whom one would ever hope to plan a festival.
Then we rolled out our annual appreciation luncheon for our Museum Volunteer Partners (MVPs),
which include the most engaged and energetic people with whom one would ever hope to run a museum.
That was followed by a meeting of folks all working on our new Native American Cultures exhibit,
a group of the most helpful and handy people with whom one would ever hope to create a new exhibit.
The day was wrapped up by a promising volunteer intern being trained by our key collections volunteer, who showed the amazing model of the ship Frolic that he built, to the illustrator of the amazing detailed drawing of the Frolic we have on display, who just happened to stop by to get information from a very talented volunteer, who is restoring the Museum's dark room to its former glory, and by chance met an acquaintance from Round Valley, whom he had first met 40 years ago, who was visiting the Museum to see our current Native American basket display.
This has happened before: a Friday afternoon when our friends drop by to see what's happening,
and they meet other friends and they all connect around a shared commitment to the Museum and to the community of Mendocino County. Those Friday afternoons at the Mendocino County Museum are magical.
It is the Fourth of July, a County Holiday, the Museum is Open, and it's the First Wednesday, a confluence of circumstances that means one of the biggest days ever at the Mendocino County Museum. And, since the day was warm, but not torrid, we know that it isn't just our air conditioning that brought people inside.
We managed to get a decent entry together for the Parade. Panels decorated the 1927 Model T Truck, which was loaned to the Museum by Roots of Motive Power and driven by expert Model T driver, Don Ford.
It is the opening reception for the Bicentennial Signatures and Stamps Collection in the Long Gallery, and Dennis Tuomala shared his stories with avid stamp fans. His daughter, Allison Tuomala, is well on her way in the collecting field, with a display of Broadway Playbills, autographed by the starring actors.
July 4th also marks the first day of the display of photos and items from Jesse Pittman's family, commemorating his service as a Navy Seal and his death almost one year ago. It's a somber complement to the Veterans History: Personal exhibit. Those who want to only see the display for Jesse Pittman, and to visit the rest of the Museum at some other time, may come in free at any time.
Was it only April - two whole months ago - that I mused on the swift passage of time? It's July now (tomorrow), and a rare day off after an incredibly busy week. Is it a day off, if one is writing about work? We will leave that philosophical question unanswered.
Our 40th Anniversary Dinner and Chautauqua Program on June 24 went incredibly well, with great food, wonderful performances, and a spectacular company of friends and volunteers on hand to help celebrate. The weather, after a week of hot weather, was a bit chilly, but at least it didn't rain, as it had the two days before. We actually received thank you notes for having a such a nice event, and encouragement to do it again next year, which we will.
From that event, we proceeded to installing a neat display of stamps and autographed envelopes that Fort Bragg resident Dennis Tuomala had conceived and collected in 1976, our nation's bicentennial year. The frames of crisp white envelopes line the wall of the Long Gallery, with stamps that were specially selected for each participant, and signatures, some legible, some not, some with bold strokes, some thin and angular. They're a fascinating glimpse at leaders throughout the United States, and their penmanship.
Now to figure out what we're doing for the Fourth of July parade in Willits!
Despite the calendar on my wall, it is unclear to me how April got here and one fourth of the year zipped past. I don't mark the passage of months, I mark the passage of exhibits and events:
- Vintage Toy display goes away, Mendocino Flavors display goes up, hold reception - That's January.
- Hear Greg Giusti speak on Redwoods, host six (!) field trips and tours - Lucky that February has an extra day this year.
- Prepare for the Carl Purdy Exhibit Celebration, Kate Frey speaking, where to put over 200 people, take down the photo banner of Carl Purdy, that calm and friendly presence in the Main Gallery - That would be March blowing by.
Coming up are the Heritage Ranch Tour
in Potter Valley and installing two exhibits, Veterans History
with local American Legion members who are truly dedicated to putting together a memorable display, and the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge
, which has generated interest even before we've designed the lay-out. It must be April
.Mendocino Heritage Month and Education Day will make it May.
And our 40th Anniversary Chautauqua program will happen with a flourish in June
Months might unfold differently at some other place, but, at the Museum, they're marked by the things we show and the things we do to share Mendocino with our visitors and friends.
These were my opening remarks at the Carl Purdy Exhibit Reception on March 18, 2012.
When someone has lived with you awhile, you get to know him pretty well. And we've gotten to know Carl Purdy quite well during his stay here at the Museum.
We know that he loved to explore and to study outdoors; that he found his life’s calling in the valleys and hills and fields of Mendocino County; that he connected with colleagues in horticulture throughout California and the United States; and that he became involved with landscaping projects at home and at some of the most visited sites in California.
We know that family was important to him. He named plants that he discovered for those he loved.
We’re here today to recognize the Life and Times of Carl Purdy and to acknowledge the pivotal role played by family.
This exhibit was a creative collaboration of the Guest Curator, Dot Brovarney, and an intrepid band of volunteers. They did research, read books and correspondence, looked at paint samples, and connected with Carl Purdy’s family. That’s how the exhibit came into being and took up residence in the Mendocino County Museum for almost a year now.
This is not, by the way, the end of the line for the text panels and the photos and items belonging to the Museum – we have received a request from the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley to display the panels in their downstairs lobby. We are looking at providing a special display for Carl Purdy Hall at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. We’ll be carefully documenting the exhibit before it is disassembled.
We want to thank Carl Purdy’s family for sharing him with us, and for loaning us most of the objects in the exhibit. The objects have provided 3-dimensional substance and perspective to Purdy’s work. Thank you so much for sharing your grandfather, great-grandfather, and relative with the Museum, and so with the communities of Mendocino County. This has been a wonderful gift.
We also want to thank the major financial donors to the Museum for this exhibit. We are grateful for the trust you placed in the Museum and its crew in the creation of the exhibit.
The Museum has a family as well – those of you who visit regularly or infrequently, who attend our events, who send us money, and who know the value of our local heritage and the absolute necessity of saving it and studying it and learning from it.
That came home to me recently when I spent a morning with an individual whose grandmother was originally from Willits, with ties to the original outside settlers of this area. He had a family album with photos from the early 1900s lovingly arranged within a leather cover embossed with a California poppy. We were walking through the Museum as he described the ties of the various people in the pictures in the album, pointing out specific individuals, and homesteads.
As we returned to the front of the Museum, his wife reminded him that they had another place still to go. He hesitated, then handed me the album with both hands, saying that he knew that it was going to be taken care of, and shared with others beyond his immediate family and he felt fine letting go of it.
Although I am always struck by this feeling as I walk through our exhibits and back in our archives, it was in that moment that I could truly feel what it means when we say the Museum is a public inheritance. We are safeguarding the inheritance of the larger family of County residents, Museum friends, and visitors.
Thank you so much for recognizing and participating in the public trust that the Museum fulfills by being here and connecting people with our history.
So, today we’re going to celebrate an individual, his family, the places that sustained him and that sustain all of us still.
The Museum has and will continue to remember other individuals and families, from the first settlers thousands of years ago, to the tribes of the last several centuries and the present, the outside settlers in timber, ranching, fishing from the last half of the 1800s, those who continue to make this place their home. You may recognize some of the names: Leonard and Mabel McCoy, Elsie Allen, Mark Walker, Captain Faucon, Andree Connors. We’ll have more family reunions.
The Chinese New Year starts on January 23, 2012 and I am writing this on New Year's Eve. I wish all the friends and partners of the Mendocino County Museum a happy and healthy new year. I wish the Museum an especially prosperous new year.
The Year of the Water Dragon
is the 40th Anniversary of the Museum
. Dragons are one of the most auspicious of Chinese symbols. This year is predicted to be transformational
, and for the Museum it will be.
In mixed good news-bad news, w
- This is the year that we'll celebrate 40 years of taking in amazing artifacts, caring for them, and sharing them with people in Mendocino County.
- This is the year we say good-bye to Carl Purdy and welcome a new ongoing Native American exhibit.
- This is the year that we will establish a non-profit partner of the Museum.
- This is the year that we will create a balanced and sustainable public-private partnership that will allow the Museum to prosper for another 40 years.
e are starting the year so busy that we are unable to host the Chinese Lantern Festival dinner as we did in 2010. We have made much progress in getting word out about the Museum, but we still have a ways to go. We have increased programs and events, but our resources just barely allow us to do so. Our internal systems, from fiscal tracking to donor appreciation, are rickety. If it weren't for the energy and creativity of our great staff and our wonderful volunteers, and the support we get from our dedicated friends - all of you, dear readers - we couldn't do what we're doing.During Chinese New Year, referred to in China as the Spring Festival, families get together; they eat special foods, and they wish each other harmony and wealth in the new year. We are in the process of creating a Mendocino County Museum family that stretches across and even beyond this county. May the Museum have "The energy of a dragon and a horse" and "May money and treasure be plentiful!" Guò Nián Hǎo 过年好 Happy New Year!
We're putting the finishing touches on our schedule for 2012 and it's going to be wide-ranging, educational, and fun.
My first year as Director in 2010 was a chance to figure out what the Museum was all about. We featured a couple of traveling exhibits, "Gold Fever!" and "Past Tents: A History of Camping", and we experimented with several community events, from the Chinese Lantern Festival Dinner to our first Heritage Ranch Tour and Campfire Programs.
Last year, 2011, we exponentially increased our activities and launched our first Countywide Artwork Outreach with the "Why Mendocino?" Collage Project, our first home-grown exhibit with "A Passion for Plants & Place: Carl Purdy of Mendocino County", our first Wine Heritage Brunch, and our first Holiday Open House.
This new year, we are focusing on anchoring our most successful programs and including different topics and directions that exemplify Mendocino County, from wine history to veterans history, from ranch heritage to solar energy, from reactivating our dark room for photography to celebrating our do-it-yourself heritage with a Mini Maker Faire.
What happens behind-the-scenes is just as important, though our limited resources have most negatively affected this area. To date, we have not been able to implement or update a computerized system for donors and donations, for documentation of collections and exhibits, or for our store and publishing program. Research access to artifacts and archives is currently almost impossible to arrange. Nor have we yet been able to address necessary facility repairs. We hope to make progress in these areas as well this year.
Being the Museum for all of Mendocino County is not a one-shot, narrow-range endeavor and trying to encompass all that has gone into making us Mendocino is exhilarating and daunting at the same time. We need the ideas and involvement of the people and communities from throughout Mendocino County. Especially as we get ready to celebrate our 40th anniversary!
Do you know where your Mendocino County Museum is ??? Check us out. Tell us what you think. Discover your story! ~ Alison
The creation of the new exhibit on Carl Purdy - set to debut on April 16, 2011 at the Mendocino County Museum - is in motion. Under the able curatorial direction of Dot Brovarney, a local historian and author, and former curator at this Museum and the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, the imagined presentation is becoming real. The research is taking form as words on panels and labels, as photos and drawings of flowers and plants, as ledgers and furniture that were used by Purdy and now will be part of the display. The space in the Museum has been cleared and primed, ready for the colors chosen to highlight the natural beauty of native plants and the Arts and Crafts time period. A team of people (stipended and volunteer), two Museum staff, Purdy family members, community contributors, and business partners are all part of making this happen - a celebration of the 150th birth year of a quintessential Mendocino County resident, who devoted a lifetime to study and entrepreneurship, native plants and local agriculture, right here in Mendocino County. We hope you'll join us
The Opening Reception for the Museum Collage Project was on Saturday evening. Over 100 people visited the Museum to see the long-awaited results of the Collage Project, meet fellow Museum-goers and artists, eat some food, and listen to music.
Kathleen Kirkpatrick, the Artistic Director, Museum staff, spouses, and key volunteers had been laboring since the beginning of January to figure out first how to display the collage pieces (1/4" birch 4'x8' plywood sheets), then how to arrange them, and affix them (Loctite clear tape), label them, and hang them in the Long Gallery. It has been an educational opportunity (as is much of what I do these days) to practice exhibit techniques on reasonably low-security and low-maintenance materials.
The question we asked people to answer in collage was "Why Mendocino?" Why are you here? Why do you live here, stay here, like it here? And the answers were creative, heartfelt, thoughtful and stunning. From dinosaurs to family trees, from nature shots to souvenir buttons, from photos to drawings to poems. It's a wonderful and thought-provoking display of collages from people of all ages, and from all parts of the county.
We called out to county residents and we received nearly 100 responses. It became clear that the written messages and explanations were as important as the composite images of the collages themselves, so we made sure that labels accompanied the pieces.
We hope people will stop by and see what our county means to people. And we hope that people will come to see what the Museum can mean to this county.