By: Arlene Christiansen
Read the full September issue of Viewpoints.
At the McFaddin-Ward House, we have always taken pride in the work we do, the programs we offer, and the books we publish. We continually work to offer our audiences better, more engaging tours, whether through ongoing docent enrichment programs or our successful junior interpreter program, which gives teenagers the opportunity to learn about the house, the family, and Beaumont history, in order to provide visitors with interesting and informative tours.
One program we are particularly proud of is our conference series. The series was awarded an Award of Merit and in 1997, a Certificate of Commendation by the American Association for State and Local History.
The range of conference topics has pretty much run the gamut; the first four were academic in content and covered consumer culture and trends in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These conferences were held when the McFaddin-Ward House was still a new museum, and the staff was eager to share research on popular trends and their relevance to the time periods.
- 1987 – “American Homes in Transition 1890-1930”
- 1988 – “Consumer Culture in the American Home 1890-1930” Publication: “Consumer Culture in the American Home 1890-1930”
- 1989 – “Life at Home 1890-1930” Publication: “American Home Life 1890-1930”
- 1990 – “The Arts and the American Home 1890-1930” (Publication: “The Arts and the American Home, 1890-1930”)
The next three conferences dealt with the actual running of historic house museums and all of the related issues. They were more “nuts and bolts,” down-to-earth, “let’s get it done” endeavors. We held the first of these when our carriage house restoration was complete and it opened to the public; we were also dealing with the major restoration of the main house roof. The conferences were a great way to provide other museums with real “live” examples of major projects, including both progress and problems.
- 1992 – “Cadillacs, Calisthenics, and Carriage Houses: Running the American Home”
- 1995 – “Historic House Museums: Issues and Operations”
- 1998 – “Historic House Museums: Issues and Operations II” (Publication taken from these conferences: “Interpreting Historic House Museums”)
Next we held two symposiums on interpretation and how best to present your museum, both well-received topics. “Telling the Story,” presented in 2001, focused on the interpretation of the house and family; “Who Else Lived Here,” the 2007 conference, was about others—people, animals, or perhaps even ghosts—who might not be main characters in a museum’s story but who nevertheless played significant roles. The 2007 conference was especially notable because the keynote speaker, Jim Vaughn from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, first discussed findings from the Kykuit Conference, which called for museums to develop a survival strategy to respond to declining attendance.
Partly in response to the Kykuit Conference, our latest offering, “Teaching the Past to Ensure a Future,” held in 2010, focused on ways museums can remain relevant, given changing demographics and nontraditional audiences who do not necessarily think of “home” and “family” in traditional terms. This conference was also a popular one.
“Conservation Savvy: From Expert to DIY” is the eleventh conference that McFaddin-Ward House has offered to museum professionals nationwide. Due to the popular subject matter of this conference, we are broadening our horizons and opening up the registration to antique dealers, conservators, and the general public, as well as museum professionals—in short, anyone who is interested in conserving collections, whether furniture, textiles, paper, art and paintings, structures, and digitization of archives and photographs. We will even cover disaster prevention in one of the sessions.
Our speakers will address the ins and outs of conservation and how to decide if a project is “do-it-yourself” or if it is time to call in an expert. We have lined up eight speakers, all experts in their fields, to share information on common conservation conundrums.
The McFaddin-Ward House Museum feels that cooperation is essential to success. To make the conference more affordable to museums and to the general public, the Mamie McFaddin Ward Heritage Foundation has underwritten much of the cost. For more details on the conference, visit our website. This is a conference not to be missed and we look forward to seeing you there!
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