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Becoming Browder Springs Hall

It doesn’t look like much yet, but the changes underway in Browder Springs Hall are pretty thrilling. But wait–Browder Springs Hall? Is there a new building at the Village?

Nope, Browder Springs Hall is the recently rechristened Print Shop. We’ve talked before about how recurrent flooding is changing the way we interpret Main Street. The Print Shop has always been one of the most vulnerable buildings, but when the water was rising, we couldn’t exactly move that equipment out of the way. Cleaning up after a flood wasn’t easy either, and so we made the decision a few years ago to find a new, better home for the printing equipment showcased in that building. Some of it went to other museums, and some of it went to artists. And we were left with a very empty building.

Browder Springs Hall, in transition

Large, climate-controlled, ADA accessible spaces are rare around here. So even before we spiffed it up, we started using it. We’ve held classes and workshops in there. It’s a home base for the Old Time Music Jam, who meets here twice a month (and if you haven’t heard them, you’re missing out!).

Old Time Music Jam players. Notice the printing equipment roped off and the plaster repair job on the walls.

This summer, we finished cleaning it out, repainted the interior, and now, it’s looking pretty good. The Candlelight Memories exhibit was held in there.

Candlelight Memories Exhibit, which also shows off the freshly painted walls and repaired ceiling.

But we’re not done with that building quite yet. We knew early in the process that we needed a multi-purpose programming space, but we also knew we needed some traditional exhibit space. There’s a key story that we wanted to tell and have never had a place to do it.

Most of you probably know that we were once called Old City Park. That name was chosen in the early days of the museum because we sit on land that was Dallas’ first city park. J. J. Eakin donated the land to the city back in 1876 in a clever manuever to get out of paying taxes. Over the years, an extraordinary amount of history happened here, and the neighborhood surrounding us, the Cedars, was once one of the finest residential neighborhoods in Dallas. We want to tell this story, and BSH is the perfect location.

We’ve received two grants to help fund this project. The Summerlee Foundation has given us money for the exhibit itself, while the Joe and Doris Dealey Foundation has given us money for some physical improvements we’d like to make for the space. We are a museum staff that is used to operating on shoestring exhibits budget, so it is gratifying to have enough funds in place to turn Browder Springs Hall into a first-rate exhibit and meeting space. Evelyn is spending time in archives across the city, from Temple Emanu-el to the City of Dallas to the Dallas Historical Society and more. She’s having a very good time.

But we also want to record some of the stories that may not be housed in an archive. Every so often, a visitor will walk in and casually say “I remember swimming in the pool that used to be here.” or “I went to the elementary school across the street.” Or “My parents did their courting in City Park.” So, I’m working on collecting these Cedars Stories. We have a simple form for walk-in visitors to fill out, and we’ve also started a wiki for neighbors to share their stories. You can find that wiki here: http://cedars-stories.wikispaces.com/

The exhibit is slated for a Spring 2013 opening, but the Cedars Stories project will be ongoing. This part of Dallas has a very rich history, and we’re looking forward to sharing that with all of you. Throughout the project, we’ll post updates here about fun stories we’ve discovered, challenges as we pick and choose what goes into the final exhibit, and more. It’s an exciting time for the Village, and we’re so glad you’re along for the ride.

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