Category Archives: Education Programs

Meet Unita Ahdifard, SBTHP’s 2020 Public Humanities Graduate Student Intern

by Kevin McGarry

In 2019, UC Santa Barbara’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) offered its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program, which includes internships and fellow-designed community projects. These paid opportunities enable fellows to apply their academic training in community settings. SBTHP partnered with the IHC and hosted its first Public Humanities Graduate Fellow internship last summer. The success of this partnership’s pilot year led us to continue offering this unique internship opportunity in 2020.

Unita Ahdifard, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in UCSB’s Department of English, was selected for 2020 internship after SBTHP staff interviewed a slate of applicants in March 2020. Her work with SBTHP’s Public Engagement department officially began on June 15, 2020, and her work will help us to increase the public’s awareness and interest in our house museum, Casa de la Guerra, as well as increase visitors’ knowledge of how the site’s history relates to contemporary issues facing people in the Santa Barbara community.

Unita will work with staff to develop more interpretive programming to pilot at the site, and assist with expanding our online and digital resources relating to the history of Casa de la Guerra and the De la Guerra family. 

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Unita says she has always been passionate about museums, archives, and historical homes; “whenever I visit a new city, one of the first things I usually do is find a way to learn more about the history of the particular place, be it through a park, museum, or reconstructed “old town.” Unita’s current graduate work focuses on women writers and Anglo-Persianate relations in the early modern period, postcolonial theory, and the boundaries around fictional and nonfictional genres in travel writing.

When asked what she hopes to gain from joining the team for the summer, Unita explained: “I’m looking forward to learning more about how historic preservation happens on the ground, especially with the SBTHP’s work with the Casa de la Guerra. Non-profits such as the SBTHP do the incredibly important work of making community history accessible to the public, keeping history alive through the tangible experience of walking through historic neighborhoods and structures, and being able to learn about the daily lives of their inhabitants from decades and centuries past. I’m excited to contribute to this public history and preservation work however I can during my time here.” 

Welcome aboard, Unita! 

SBTHP Receives Grant from National Endowment for the Humanities

Just recently, The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of NEH CARES. $40.3 million in grants were awarded to more than 300 cultural institutions across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to support essential services, staff, and programs. 

“Over the past few months we have witnessed tremendous financial distress at cultural organizations across the country, which have been compelled to furlough staff, cancel programs, and reduce operations to make up for revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “NEH is pleased to provide $40 million to preserve thousands of jobs at museums, archives, historic sites, and colleges and universities that are vital to our nation’s cultural life and economy.” 

SBTHP’s $29,634 grant will fund the second iteration of the new, annual school program, Where We Are From (WWAF). In partnership with Santa Barbara Junior High School  and UC Santa Barbara‘s History Department, WWAF is a multi-week, cross-disciplinary, interactive program held at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park that reaches approximately 400 seventh-grade students and their families. The program involves hands-on, multimedia and digital learning activities utilizing the Park’s historical resources and digital learning platforms. The grant will also provide SBTHP with the opportunity to hire four graduate students from UC Santa Barbara’s History Department as project consultants and co-facilitators.  

“The knowledge and practice of history is vital to sustaining healthy individuals and communities,” said SBTHP Associate Director of Public Engagement Kevin McGarry. “Where We Are From is the programmatic embodiment of SBTHP’s institutional mission and values. The project highlights and promotes the diversity of Santa Barbara, especially the layered, cultural history of the Presidio Neighborhood. Where We Are From is a student-centered educational experience designed to deepen the connection the participating seventh graders have to their own family stories, as well as our collective past as a multi-cultural community. The hope is that the program will inspire the students to make that first step toward a deeper commitment to shaping a better future for us all. Thank you NEH for recognizing SBTHP and our partners’ commitment to this important goal.” 

Students gather at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to participate in “Where We Are From” last year.

As SBJHS history teacher Kristin Martinez-Pettit explained, the goal of this program is to “build a sense of community amongst the students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.” SBJHS’s Principal, Lito M. García, says that the positive effects the program on his students has revealed the “importance of collaborating with a local organization to enhance our students’ understanding of their city, their home.” The NEH CARES grant will also allow SBTHP to adapt the program for new modes of learning designed for remote access. Mr. Garcia explains, “As we have entered new ways of educating our youth beyond the school site the need for access to digital platforms and devices is greater than ever. Where We Are From must continue for several reasons. One, the educational value of research, reading, writing, and speaking. Two, the intrinsic value of knowing more about the community you live in. Three, the need to have access to and the ability to learn remotely.”

Students participate in “Where We Are From.”

For the highly competitive NEH CARES grant category, NEH received more than 2,300 eligible applications from cultural organizations requesting more than $370 million in funding for projects between June and December 2020. Approximately 14 percent of the applicants were funded. 

To learn more about NEH, click here >>

To learn more about SBTHP’s educational programs, click here >>

SBTHP to Welcome Santa Barbara Junior High School 7th Graders

The History and Relevancy Project is a collaborative effort by California State Parks, UC Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) to bring specialized educational programming exploring the universal themes of migration and immigration to CA State Historic Parks. As a part of this pilot project, we plan to offer a customized field trip to all of Santa Barbara Junior High School’s 400 seventh graders on September 26 and 27, 2019 at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. In preparation, we invited two of SBJHS’s seventh grade teachers for a tour of the Presidio in early August. Here is seventh grade history teacher Kristin Martinez-Pettit’s reflection on the process thus far:

SBJHS 7th grade teachers Kristin Martinez-Pettit (left) and Nicole Neimroozi (right) along with SBTHP’s Director of Programs Danny Tsai during a tour of the Presidio. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

All students should know that their story is relevant and part of Santa Barbara’s history. Through a series of meetings with representatives of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, UC Santa Barbara and CA State Parks, seventh grade English and Social Studies teachers at SBJHS, with the help of our teacher librarian and community liaison, are planning and facilitating a project to help students connect their stories to the city of Santa Barbara. The project will include class visits from CA State Parks and UCSB staff and a field trip for all of our seventh graders to visit the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park in late September, organized by the SBTHP Programs Department. Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.

“Our goal through this project is to build a sense of community amongst our students as well as stoke their interest in the human story while cultivating their own.

In preparation for our trip, we met with SBTHP representatives, educators, and teachers to create the best learning experience for our students. After a series of meetings and our preview of the Presidio grounds and planned activities, teachers began planning the logistics of the trip. Every preparation meeting for our planned field trip has been insightful, informative, and helpful as we attempt to merge the history of Santa Barbara with learning in the classroom.

SBJHS 7th grade teachers Kristin Martinez-Pettit (center) and Nicole Neimroozi (left) with SBTHP’s Associate Director for Public Engagement Kevin McGarry (right) and UCSB History Professor and SBTHP Board Member, Dr. Randy Bergstrom.

Written by Kevin McGarry

The Braille Institute Visits El Presidio SHP!

Valerie answering questions after visitors watched the introductory video in the Northwestern corner of the Presidio. Photo by Danny Tsai.

On Feb 25th, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) welcomed 7 students and 4 volunteers from the Braille Institute for a tour of the Presidio grounds. These adults have varying degrees of vision loss so SBTHP’s docent, Valerie, and I worked together to find ways to diversify our standard tour. Each group that comes on site requires special consideration on behalf of our docents to ensure that visitors are walking away with an equal experience of a tour that is both fun and informational.

The group gathered around outside to talk right in front of the second defense wall on a beautiful sunny day. Photo by Danny Tsai.

This tour started like any other one with a big welcome and brief overview of ourselves and the birthplace of Santa Barbara. Valerie then led the group to the Northwestern wing to listen to our introductory video, build some context, and answer any additional questions. Valerie then brought the group outside to the second defense wall to discuss Spanish colonialism along with ongoing archeological efforts.

Braille Institute students explore the chapel on their own after given some history. Photo by Danny Tsai.

We then transitioned to the chapel where students had a chance to explore a little bit on their own after given some background information, including fascinating tidbits about the invaluable painting of Saint Barbara that is hanging on the chapel wall. Next, we went to an interactive station that Valerie and I prepared in advance that had all sorts of objects that students could touch and feel. Some of the objects included the Presidio A5 branding iron, adobe bricks, clay tiles, and a Spanish adarga, or leather shield.

The tour ended in the Comandancia where Valerie specially prepared a talk on traditional food and how it was prepared. Valerie even brought some champurrado and hominy for everyone to taste. Photo by Danny Tsai.

Our last stop was in the Comandancia where everyone gathered at the big dining room table and got to smell, feel, and learn about the different types of cooking ingredients that the soldiers and their families would have used at that time. Valerie was so thoughtful that she took it one step further and brought traditional champurrado and hominy for everyone to taste. We spent the rest of the time in the comandancia’s dining room chatting about Presidio life and segued into talking about Pearl Chase and the more contemporary history of the Presidio neighborhood.

We prepared a hands-on table for the students to interact with some objects that would have been used during the Presidio time period. Photo by Danny Tsai.

Overall, I believe Valerie’s unique tour showcases the creativity and flexibility our docents have to have in order to ensure that a tour is both educational and memorable. We hope to activate our visitor’s curiosity and develop a connection with this historic site so that they will be interested in coming back. Furthermore, one of SBTHP’s value statements is to strive to be more inclusive and accessible for all of those who visit the Presidio. We are thankful to Brianna and her students from the Braille Institute for visiting and we look forward to their welcoming their next group soon. If you are interested in undergoing training to become one of our volunteer docents, please click here!

Danny Tsai is the director of programs at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

SBTHP Co-Sponsors Chinese New Year with the SB Public Library!

by Danny Tsai


Danny at the welcome table with a breakdown of all the different stations for guests to explore. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

The Santa Barbara Public Library (SBPL) and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation  (SBTHP) broke new ground with a co-sponsored event to commemorate this year’s Chinese New Year, which began on February 5th. The outcome of this partnership was a free public event that took place in the Faulkner Gallery at the Central Library. Chinese New Year, also referred to as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is renowned as today’s largest annual human migration in the world with over three billion trips expected to be made during the entire season. 2019 is the “Year of the Pig” and people with this zodiac symbol are characterized as realistic, energetic, and hard working. To learn more about the Pig Chinese Zodiac, you can click here1.

Kathi Brewster sharing the lesser-known history of Santa Barbara’s local Chinatown to visitors. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

We welcomed over 100 visitors to a lively atmosphere filled with candy, music, cheerful laughter, and the sound of Mahjong tiles being shuffled. Volunteers educated visitors about the Santa Barbara’s Old and New Chinatown, the Chinese Zodiac (and the Year of the Pig), Chinese geography, and Mahjong. Other stations focused on teaching people how to use chopsticks, fold dumplings, write calligraphy, and create dragon puppets.

A girl making a dragon puppet at one of the arts and crafts tables. Photo by Chi Tsai.

One of our most dedicated volunteers, Kathi Brewster, did an outstanding job speaking with guests about the history of the once prominent Chinatown on East Canon Perdido St. She was equipped with captivating photos and stories to share. SBTHP also had a display up in the main hall of the Public Library for the month of February, which showcased photographs and artifacts from the Chinatown that existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Danny Tsai is the director of programs at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

Koji Lau-Ozawa presents on the Archaeology of Japanese Incarceration

by Kevin McGarry

On Wednesday evening, January 30, 2019, Mr. Koji Lau-Ozawa a doctoral candidate from Stanford University’s Anthropology Department offered the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) community a fascinating presentation of his groundbreaking research regarding the use of gardens and gardening at the Gila River Incarceration Camp (a WWII Japanese internment camp that was located in southern Arizona). Gila River held over 13,000 Japanese-Americans, most of whom were from California. The success of Mr. Lau-Ozawa’s extensive research, based on a four-year archaeological survey of the camp’s material remains, has led him to expand his project. He now hopes to connect those material remains he and his team found at Gila River to the pre-War communities where the camp internees came from. Among the pre-War communities is Santa Barbara’s historic Nihonmachi (Japan Town) which was located in the Presidio Neighborhood, and is an important history shared with visitors to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park daily.

Koji Lau-Ozawa mid-lecture. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Presented with a combination of aerial and up-close archaeological photographs, oral history quotes, and individual character portraits, Mr. Lau- Ozawa’s presentation showed why understanding the use of gardens at Gila River tells us so much about the everyday experiences (especially the many hardships) of the Japanese-Americans that were interned there during the war.

Koji with SBTHP Asian American History Committee member Kay Van Horn who had family members who lived in Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi and were interned in Gila River. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Mr. Lau-Ozawa’s lecture brought approximately forty attendees on a very chilly Wednesday evening. His talk took place in the historic Alhecama Theatre, Santa Barbara’s newest City Landmark and was followed by a Q & A session and light reception.

Koji with SBTHP’s Associate Executive Director for Cultural Resources Michael H. Imwalle. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.

Over the next year, Mr. Lau-Ozawa will be working with SBTHP staff, including Associate Executive Director of Cultural Resources Michael H. Imwalle, to study our collection of material remains from Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi. We look forward to welcoming him back to Santa Barbara, and we hope to share his future findings in a forthcoming issue of La Campana and another public lecture.

Kevin McGarry is the associate director for public engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

SBTHP Celebrates Chinese New Year with Santa Barbara Public Library

By Kevin McGarry

To celebrate Chinese New Year and Santa Barbara’s Chinese-American community, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s (SBTHP) is displaying a temporary photo exhibit highlighting the history of Santa Barbara’s Chinatown inside the Santa Barbara Public Library (SBPL) entrance foyer. Up for the month of February, the large shadow box display offers daily library patrons a glimpse into the lesser-known history of the Chinese families that resided in Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood starting in the 1860s.

Our temporary display also coincides with a special Chinese New Year educational program that will be hosted by the Library on Wednesday, February 20 from 3:30 to 6:00pm. At this event, SBTHP staff and volunteers will be collaborating with SBPL staff to offer a family-friendly Chinese New Year celebration in the library’s Faulkner Gallery. This free program will include numerous hands-on, child-friendly activity stations including Chinese arts and crafts, learning the proper way to use chopsticks, learning how to count in Chinese, dumpling rolling lessons, learning the basics of Mah Jong, Chinese and Geography lessons, and more.

Lastly, our display at the library also highlights our upcoming docent training program that will begin on March 14 and go through mid-May. The training will be held every Thursday from 9:30 AM to Noon at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, and the course is a great opportunity for those interested in learning and teaching about local history.

Kevin McGarry is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

1918: WWI-themed Projection Installation Honors Local Veterans and Makes History at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

by Kevin McGarry

1918 installation at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park on November 10. 2018. Photo by Anne Petersen

On Saturday, November 10, 2018, at 6:00pm The Environment Makers, New Grit and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) unveiled 1918, a two-night immersive multimedia installation created to commemorate the armistice of World War I and honor our local veterans, living and deceased. The opening program, led by SBTHP’s Executive Director Anne Petersen, introduced the project to the community. City Councilmen Greg Hartt and Oscar Gutierrez, SBTHP staff and volunteers and many community members gathered together at Santa Barbara’s birthplace El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park to witness the unveiling. Speakers at the opening program included SBTHP Board President Debby Aceves, City Councilman Greg Hartt, and the projection artists who created 1918, Kym Cochran and Jonathan PJ Smith. Over sixty people attended the opening program and afterward enjoyed a reception with delicious food donated by Rudy’s Presidio Restaurant.

The planning for 1918 began over a year ago when, on a sunny afternoon in early November 2017, local projection artist Jonathan PJ Smith (founder of The Environment Makers and co-founder of New Grit) met with SBTHP’s senior staff to discuss his innovative idea to create a WWI centennial anniversary projection display that would cover the front walls the Presidio with dynamic WWI film and imagery for two evenings over Veterans Day weekend, 2018. Jonathan’s hope was to use historic imagery that is now available in the public domain to bring to life the experience of the war and its aftermath through multiple projections on the whitewashed walls of the Presidio. Jonathon explained his vision with such ingenuity and enthusiasm that we (SBTHP staff) started to imagine the impressiveness of his vision. It was clear that Jonathan wanted to create a profound and moving way to mark this very special Veterans Day. We jumped at the opportunity and then a year-long journey began to make his dream a reality.

Jonathan’s creative partner and co-founder of New Grit Kym Cochran came on board and she helped shepherd Jonathan’s artistic vision and worked with SBTHP staff to turn it into what became our 1918 program. Through New Grit, Jon and Kym hope to help others find creativity through education, participation and exploration of arts and technology. 1918 was the first of many community projection art projects New Grit hopes to provide the Santa Barbara community. In fact, they are already working with the staff of the City of Santa Barbara to bring more thematic projection installations to other historic locations in downtown Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is home to over 38,000 veterans. Each year, SBTHP and Los Soldados Real del Presidio de Santa Bárbara host a Veterans Day Ceremony to honor our local veterans for their service. 1918 was another, very special way to do this. We already have discussed ways we hope to collaborate with Jonathan and Kym of New Grit again in the future. We’d like to thank them for their ingenuity and hard work in creating 1918 as well as Rudy’s Presidio Restaurant, the Towbes Foundation and the Outhwaite Foundation—all organizations that continue to support SBTHP’s efforts to activate the power of places of memory to engage the public with a deeper understanding of the past and inspire action to shape a better future.

Kevin McGarry is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation