(/images/postimages/hotel.gif)What does it take to repair a historic structure that is a bit worn? In the case of the Worth Hotel, it took a village, a charitable foundation, a social services organization, three generous corporations, a self-taught carpenter who used to fix trolley cars, and an unemployed history major. The Worth Hotel was never intended to be a beautiful structure. Traveling salesmen looking for a place to stay did not expect much in the way of aesthetics. For the past few years, this humble structure has looked alarmingly bad. Siding fell off, and we had to cover the hole with black plastic, which is incompatible with Victorian structures. Paint peeled and wasps lived happily in the walls. Visitors helpfully pointed out the problems, as if we might h ..
Last summer, I was faced with a bit of a conundrum. We had just concluded another great “Teens in History” event. Once again, the Junior Historians had done an amazing job of researching their topics and presenting that knowledge to visitors of all ages. But once that day was over, their hard work just vanished. This didn’t seem right. At the same time, I had been doing a bit of reading. Specifically, Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum and D. Lynn McRainey’s and John Russick’s (http://www.lcoastpress.com/book.php?id=222)Connecting Kids to History Through Museum Exhibitions. (http://www.lcoastpress.com/book.php?id=222) All these thoughts merged into an idea: what if we let the Junior Historians do an exhibit? What if we let them add a lay ..
The headlines this spring and summer have been full of references to federal and state budget discussions, usually revolving around cuts in funding. The Texas Legislature just finished its work, and the implications of their budget cuts will soon be rippling throughout city and county governments. In the culture and arts world, we always watch these events with interest, because they inevitably affect our operations. What starts out as a cut at the state level trickles down to city and county governments, affecting their ability to pay for basic services. When city and county leaders have to make choices on where to cut, museums, libraries and parks are always first in line. For history museums, especially house museums, cuts in public funding are especially difficul ..
There are a lot of people that shudder when they hear the words “teenager” and “museum” in the same sentence. Two weeks ago, we held our annual Junior Historian training camp. During that week, I went to get my hair cut and my guy asked me what I had been up to lately. I said “Well, this is Junior Historian week. So I’ve been outside with a bunch of teenagers.” His shocked response: “Whatever possessed you to do that?” Confession time: this is one of my very favorite programs. But maybe I am a little crazy. For many, many years (no one is exactly sure how long, but we’re talking about decades), Dallas Heritage Village has had a Junior Historian program for teens. The basic format hasn’t changed too much: ..
Thursday, June 2 was an explosive day at Dallas Heritage Village. For the first time ever, the Curatorial department disposed of an antique from our collection by blowing it up, with the help of the Dallas Police Department’s bomb squad. There was no act of terrorism or other criminal threat, just a dangerous chemical legacy from the past. The artifact was a brown glass bottle that once contained liquid picric acid. Doctors and dentists used this around 1900 for medical purposes, particularly to treat burns. Liquid picric acid is poisonous, but that would not be enough to scare a history curator. Collections of historic artifacts can contain many dangerous things, including medical artifacts. Many early medicines were substances that, technically speaking, were poisons, ..