New Evaluation Project Will Help SBTHP Meet Program Objectives

By Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation recently completed a comprehensive evaluation training and development project that will allow us to better understand and serve our community.  Like most small nonprofits, we lacked the internal skills and experience to create an evaluation program on our own, yet we understand that evaluation is a vital practice. An evaluation program will help us understand our current audience, and also what community members we might be missing with our programs. It will also help assess whether our programs are meeting our goals and objectives.  In fact, we prioritized creating an evaluation program in both our Strategic Plan and our DEI Plan, to ensure we take action on this important project. 

SBTHP’s Asian American Neighborhood Festival at El Presidio SHP on October 16, 2022. We tested one of our new evaluation models at this event.

Earlier this year we hired Bridging Voices-Uniendo Voces to assist us with training on evaluation and development of evaluation models and strategies that would fit our programs.  Lena Morán-Acereto and Gina Vanegas put together a learning plan for us and worked with our Program Planning and Evaluation Committee to conduct the training.  SBTHP’s Program Planning and Evaluation Committee is made up of staff, board members, and community members who are committed to producing high quality programs that meet our educational objectives and the needs of the communities we serve.  After conducting informational interviews with all committee members, Bridging Voices began our training sessions.  The committee broke up into three groups, each tackling a major program area: school and youth programs, public programs, and visitor experience. During each of the three training sessions, we learned about the components of evaluation, including the intersection of evaluation and diversity, equity and inclusion work; creating logic models; choosing an evaluation model; evaluation methodologies; assessment tools; and conducting evaluation with a focus on cultural relevance.

Between trainings, the three teams developed evaluation models related to their program areas, and visited with the consultants during “office hours” to ask questions and refine their work.  At the end of this three-month training process, each team presented their model and received verbal and written feedback from their peers and the consultants.

New bilingual interpretive panels at Casa de la Guerra, the focus of one of our evaluation training models.

Now that we have completed this work with Bridging Voices, we not only have three evaluation models for three specific programs that have been peer reviewed and vetted by our consultants, but we now also have the tools to create more models ourselves to fit any program needs. Creating the evaluation models ourselves, with support, training and coaching from our excellent consultants, was an efficient use of our small nonprofit’s resources; one that will leave a lasting impact and lead to sustainable evaluation of our programs.

SBTHP would like to give special thanks for a grant from the City of Santa Barbara via the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture that supported this project.

SBTHP Introduces Olive Oil Soap

by Melanie Magolan

At the end of every year, SBTHP hosts olive picking at Santa Inez Mission Mills. The olives are pressed into oil and bottled. It’s a big seller in the gift shop, with people waiting all year for the new batch of the Olio Nuovo. It’s also very popular with Santa Barbara tourists.

The olive grove at the Santa Inés Mission Mills. Photo by Christa Clark.

However, there are more uses for olive oil than just eating. This year, we decided to return to a project that had been conceptualized a few years ago, and turn it to soap. SBTHP found local small-batch soap maker William Smariga, and his company Salty Bros Soap, and a partnership emerged. The result? Three types of soap, plus lip balm.

Olives at the Mission Mills. Photo by Tim Aceves.
How Does Olive Oil Become Soap? A Quick Science Lesson

All soap has the same basic recipe: oils, mixed with sodium hydroxide – also known as lye. The types of oil vary, and other ingredients such as colorants and scents can be added, but the chemistry is the same. When combined, the oils and lye react and go through a process called saponification. The resulting molecule has two sides, one of which is attracted to water (hydrophilic), and other of which repels water (hydrophobic). The hydrophobic side attaches to the oils and dirt on your skin or other surfaces, and the hydrophilic side attaches to water and washes away, bringing those oils and dirt along for the ride.

Castile soap, or olive oil soap, is one of the earliest types of soap in existence. It would have been one of the varieties available to residents of early California, either on the annual supply ships, or made locally once olive trees were established enough to bear fruit.

The Soap Process

After extensive consultations with our soap expert, we decided to make two batches of soap. One is a pure Castile soap, unscented and uncolored. Although Castile soap does not create a lather, it is great for people with allergies to scents and other additives, and has many household uses.  The other is a mix of olive oil and coconut oil, split in half to make two scents.. The scents we ultimately decided on were citrus and rosemary, as scents that are appropriate for both the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra’s time periods.

We also made the last-minute decision to make lip balm, in addition to the soap. 12 oz. of olive oil can make over two hundred tins of lip balm. The balms are scented with peppermint essential oil.

SBTHP’s entire olive oil-related line. Photo by Tim Aceves.

The soap was delivered in February, but had to rest for a month to fully dry and reach its final size. This rest also allowed the initially overpowering scent of the rosemary soap to mellow out. All three varieties of soap, as well as the lip balm, are currently available in the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop, at the Casa de la Guerra, and on our online store.

Melanie Magolan is the Director of Visitor Experience for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

New SBTHP Spring Programs Respond to Community Feedback

by Kevin McGarry

In 2019, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) joined the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ISCS), an organization that supports the work of historic sites as places of memory in the effort to create a more just future. Through ICSC, SBTHP received a pandemic-related federal grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Sciences (IMLS) designed to help communities recover from the pandemic. This funding, received in 2021, provided resources to evaluate our educational programs. To conduct this work, we wanted to hear and learn from diverse community members to ensure that new programming would be more inclusive and resonate with the culturally diverse students we serve.

To accomplish this, SBTHP staff and volunteers organized multiple community focus groups and educator interviews, held over Zoom. Focus groups participants were strategically selected to reflect the diversity of our city and county. During the focus groups we asked participants for their input about our pre-pandemic programming, what educational topics and approaches matter most to their communities, and what could be done to improve SBTHP’s youth and family programming.

SBTHP is now putting everything we learned into action. Here are two programming changes that came out of the process:

From Early California Days to Our Communities, Our Stories

SBTHP’s Early California Days was our flagship school program that we have offered to hundreds of Santa Barbara County third graders each spring. Early California Days began in the early 2000s and had never been updated. Our school programming needed to more closely align with the current History- Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, adopted in 2016.

Our Communities, Our Stories is SBTHP’s new immersive field trip experience for elementary school students (grades 3-5) that begins with an interactive tour highlighting the daily life of the diverse communities that lived in the Presidio Neighborhood over time. The tour is followed by a hands-on, student-centered and community-focused activity designed to help students synthesize and build upon the information they’ve learned. The facilitated activity provides an opportunity for the students to learn more about themselves and their classmates.

The Our Communities, Our Stories field trip experience will leave students with a deeper understanding of our culturally diverse Santa Barbara community and its history as well as a foundational experience that will encourage them to learn/explore more about their community.

Celina Garcia (left) leads a discussion about memorialization and statues. With the statue of King Carlos III behind her, Celina asks students how they think history is often memorialized and what they would choose to memorialize. Students were then given supplies to build their own memorials or statues out of air-dry modeling clay and shared their work with their classmates. Image by Kevin McGarry.

From Founding Day Festival to Community History Day

El Presidio Royal de Santa Barbára was established by the Spanish Crown on April 21. 1782. For over fifty years, SBTHP has held an annual Founding Day event in April to commemorate this date. In the late 1990s Founding Day programming evolved from a commemoration ceremony to a larger community event. Noting waning attendance in more recent years, SBTHP worked to broaden the scope of the event to wider celebration of the City’s Birthday, however no structural changes were made to the program itself. Recent efforts described above have provided the organization with the momentum and insight to better respond to our community’s current needs, which include the acknowledgment of underrepresented local community histories. The result of this process is Community History Day, which will be held on May 1, 2022.

Learn more about Community History Day >>

Community History Day is a celebration of the diverse cultures, communities, and histories of Santa Barbara. Community History Day’s free, family-friendly festival atmosphere will include educational, hands-on learning stations, local artists and vendors, activity booths from local nonprofit organizations, live music and dance performances, and history tours, exhibits, and experiences that focus on the layered histories and diverse communities of the Santa Barbara and its Presidio Neighborhood over time. 

Community History Day will capture the imagination of visitors who may encounter aspects of local history they were not aware of and will also ideally see themselves and their families’ experiences represented in the program. 

We are grateful to the community members and teachers who shared their time and expertise with us in the focus groups. We have their feedback in mind as we implement these new ideas, in hopes that we can better serve our mission, and the needs of families in Santa Barbara County.

SBTHP Launches New Strategic Plan!

by Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is proud to launch our 2022 – 2024 strategic plan and to share it with all of you.

In 2019, SBTHP completed its first ever strategic plan. The extensive planning process during 2017/18 included the remarkable participation of over seventy community stakeholders in focus groups, combined with internal work including a SWOT analysis, and multiple convenings of board and staff at every stage. The process was also marked by the disastrous Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow in Montecito. One community member arrived for a focus group on a weeknight accompanied by a swirl of wildfire ash from outside, and said, “I hope I can get home tonight; I heard the fire might jump the freeway.” He stayed for the focus group, nonetheless.

We felt a remarkable synergy during that process, as our community came together to mourn the environmental devastation and loss of lives during those natural disasters, but also, to give their time to brainstorm with SBTHP the many ways we can be of greater service to the community. The launch of the 2019 – 2021 strategic plan felt like a new beginning, after a period of reflection, deep discussion, and a certain amount of necessary chaos as we worked towards a shared vision. That process was transformative, not only because it resulted in our first plan, but also because it led to a new mission statement, and value statements that inform our work as a staff and board every day.

The development of our 2022 strategic plan shares many qualities of the earlier one. We conducted workshops with staff and board members to gather input, and circulated drafts for review and comment before approval on February 28, 2022. We experienced the same synergy among the staff and board, and a shared commitment to our mission and values that drove the previous plan. We also experienced an altogether different unprecedented catastrophe with the Covid-19 Pandemic. In fact, the pandemic overlapped two of the three years of the 2019 – 2021 Strategic Plan. As a result, we faced challenges and distractions which diverted our attention away from some of our original goals. We tabled some objectives and we foregrounded others, and we responded directly to the surge in racial justice activism in 2020 with the launch of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan.

We conducted our planning for the 2022 – 2023 Strategic Plan during the Omicron variant surge in January and February 2022. Our workshops were held on Zoom, and we could not gather in person, but we worked hard, together, nonetheless. The results are a clear re-commitment to our mission and values, and to the direction of the previous plan. We approached the process as a refresh rather than a new plan, in order to build on the momentum of our earlier work, while acknowledging the changed circumstances of our world. Among the objectives in the new plan you will find evidence of new skills learned during the pandemic, a brand assessment project with an expanded scope, a reinvestment in the Presidio Neighborhood, a commitment to a high maintenance standard for the historic resources and venues we manage, and much more. We will keep you updated as we implement the plan and hope that the results will be visible and tangible to our community.

The Presidio Research Center is Open for Business

by Tim Aceves

This past month saw the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) return to a bit of pre-pandemic normalcy, with El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP reopening seven days a week and the Presidio Research Center (PRC) once again welcoming the public. While many are familiar with the aforementioned, it is more than likely many people have never set foot inside the PRC.

The Presidio Research Center, present day. Image by Tim Aceves.

The PRC, Alhecama Theatre and the buildings currently home to Zaytoon Lebanese Cuisine and La Playa Azul Café once encompassed the Santa Barbara School of the Arts (founded in the 1920s). The school would eventually close in 1938, but the buildings have had long lives serving the community.

Image of the PRC in the 1940s, courtesy of the Gledhill Library, Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

The PRC was created in 1986, formerly located behind the Cañedo Adobe, the Center moved to its present location fifteen years ago. The mission of the PRC is to develop and curate a collection of research materials and cultural objects to support the archaeological, research, educational, and curatorial programs of SBTHP and El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP.

Interior restoration and rehabilitation of what is now the PRC’s reading room, 2003. Image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Using original blueprints, building permits, and paint analysis, SBTHP restored the façade of the 1928 Spanish colonial revival building to its earliest appearance. The project began in 1999 with significant basement work (excavation, waterproofing, retaining walls, and drains) from 2001-2003, rehabilitation of the interior spaces including restoration of the floors, doors, windows, ceilings, and hardware from 2004-2005, and the interior furnishings, bookshelves, lighting, restrooms, and security from 2006 until the PRC officially relocated in 2007.

PRC exterior during the renovation. Image by Michael H. Imwalle.

The PRC is home to a multi-format collection of materials about the history of the Presidio Neighborhood. This includes published books about local history, but it also includes photographs, scrapbooks, newspapers and journals, oral histories, and much more. “Santa Barbara is blessed with a number of great historical societies and institutions and what makes the PRC collections really unique is that we have an incredible depth of coverage for the history of this area, and how that is present across many different source types,” said SBTHP Archivist and Librarian Dez Alaniz.

These black binders hold the PRC’s historic and local neighborhood photos, representing contributions from community members and other historical institutions. Image by Tim Aceves.

“When doing research here you may encounter multiple types of sources that are relevant to your research, and that’s really special,” they added. Alaniz joined SBTHP in October after working for several years as a librarian UC Santa Barbara. Alaniz grew up on ancestral Kizh and Tongva lands in the San Fernando Valley before attending UC Davis. “My experiences as a queer, Chicanx researcher and student at UC Davis as an undergrad were hugely influenced by working with archives and historical materials, and experiencing that ‘wow, somebody created this AND held on to it!’ feeling has never gotten old to me.”

SBTHP Archivist & Librarian Dez Alaniz thumbs through a binder of historic photographs depicting Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi (Japan Town), one of many historical communities present in the PRC’s collections. Image by Tim Aceves.

While many visitors may be most familiar with the Spanish and Mexican colonial histories of the Presidio park area, these are not the only community histories that are found in the PRC’s collections. In the early 20th century, the Presidio neighborhood was inhabited by Chinese- and Japanese-Americans and their families, whose businesses, homes, and community spaces stood within the historic boundaries of the Presidio Park. Through intentional and sustained community engagement with the living residents of the community, the PRC was able to collect oral histories, historic and family photographs, and cultural objects owned by members of the thriving Asian-American community in downtown Santa Barbara.

Purchased sometime in the 1930s in Kyoto, Japan, this paper wrapping accompanied a silk kimono donated to SBTHP. Image by Tim Aceves.

With the PRC reopening, guests can reserve two-hour time blocks to conduct research in the library (available Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday/Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.). The PRC’s website also contains digital collections of oral histories and photographs, along with catalogs of books, subject files, maps, and other archival collections.

Alaniz guides a group of UCSB undergraduate students through a recent tour of the PRC. Image by Claire Giroux.

For those who are looking to do more than just research, the PRC is currently recruiting volunteers. Examples of volunteer projects include sorting through and describing photographs, digitizing images for our online collections, transcribing oral histories, and evaluating collections. SBTHP is offering a paid internship to interested undergraduate students to work more in-depth with our collections and gain experience in a museum, library, and archive setting.

Students explore a hand-painted, silk kimono. Image by Claire Giroux.

The Presidio Research Center is located at 215 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California. For more information regarding research or volunteer opportunities, please contact Dez Alaniz by email or by phone (805) 961-5369.

Mission Mills Goats

by Andrew Doran

Towards the end of 2021, Santa Barbara County received over 8 inches of rain, turning the foothills and mountains from a dry, golden brown to a vibrant green, more reminiscent of the rolling hills of Ireland or Scotland. With the new grass and new vegetation, the Santa Inés Mission Mills property needed ways to help tame the new seasonal growth, so SBTHP turned to a small herd of goats:

“The goats and sheep have been in the Rasmussen and Mills Groves for about 2 weeks. They have grazed down the grass in that time and were removed today while their handler, David Uribe, sets up a new location on the Mills property,” wrote Leeann Haslouer, the Santa Inés Mission Mills State Historic Park Agricultural & Maintenance Supervisor. “They have 2 dogs that live with them to protect them from predators such as coyotes, bobcats, & mountain lions. The dogs’ names are Lulu and Scooby; the breed is Great Pyrenees.”

All images courtesy of Leeann Haslouer.

2021 Santa Inés Mission Mills Olio Nuovo

By Michael H. Imwalle

On the frigid morning of December 18, 2021, Santa Inés Mission Mills Agricultural and Maintenance Supervisors Leeann Haslouer and Tom Walton hosted twenty-four volunteers for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual volunteer olive picking day and post-event barbeque.

Volunteer olive pickers, image by Leeann Haslouer.

Historically, we have picked our olives as early as mid-October, but for some reason, the olives were slow to ripe this year. Ideally, we want to have fifty percent ripe olives (black) and fifty percent green olives to provide the best yield and freshest flavor. Thanks to the dedication of the volunteers and Lupe Peña Hernandez’ crew of professional pickers, we harvested a total of 3.95 tons of olives.

7,900 lbs. = the total weight of 2021’s harvest

2021 olive crop, image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Figueroa Farms milled the olives on Monday, December 20th. The olives yielded more than 130 gallons of liquid gold! Nine days later, Figueroa Farms bottled and labeled 40 cases of 2021 Olive Nuovo and they were delivered to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara SHP on January 5th.

Bottled olive oil is delivered to El Presidio SHP, image by Michael H. Imwalle.

Bottles and cases are now available for purchase at the Presidio Gift Shop >>

2021 Santa Inés Mission Mills Olio Nuovo, image by Tim Aceves.

(Header image by Michelle Newcomb) is Now Available in Spanish

by Tim Aceves

One of three goals in SBTHP’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Plan speaks to Audience and Outreach, and the first objective is “Knowing & Building our Audience:”

SBTHP will begin to analyze and remedy barriers to access and inclusive engagement with audiences known, and as-yet unknown.

As more and more of SBTHP’s programming became virtual, our website became a more dynamic resource for delivering information and rich, engaging content to the public. Combined with the inability to hold in-person events for more than a year and half, it became essential to provide a more accessible experience online for all Santa Barbara’s residents. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, just over 40% of residents in Santa Barbra County speak a language other than English at home. Many of those residents are Spanish speakers, leading SBTHP to prioritize a Spanish website.

A translated lecture description on

With the help of Lena Morán-Acereto of Bridging Voices – Uniendo Voces, and funding thanks to a grant from the City of Santa Barbara via the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture, we’re now able to offer a Spanish-translated website. By simply selecting your language at the top of any SBTHP’s webpages and you’ll be able to view the translated content. The website will automatically re-direct for visitors depending on their browser language.

Toggle between English and Spanish at the top of any of‘s pages.

Our website is fluid and constantly changing, so we acknowledge that this is just a first step of many as we continue to update and provide a more user-friendly experience for our entire community.

To visit in Spanish, please visit >>

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