The Museums for All program launched in 2014 as an equity initiative to serve a broad public. Co-hosted by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), the program requires that participating museums offer free or low-cost admission to visitors who present their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. In California this program is called CalFresh. By removing cost as a barrier to entry, Museums for All intends to encourage more widespread museum attendance and help support the next generation of museumgoers by fostering a culture of welcome and accessibility.
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation became aware of this program a couple of years ago and had participation in mind when creating our 2020-2022 Diversity Equity and Inclusion Plan. While our participation is meaningful on its own, the impact county-wide would be difficult to measure. During the pandemic and related shutdowns and museum closures, the Santa Barbara County Museum Director’s group began meeting frequently online and offering mutual support. I coordinated a presentation about Museums for All earlier this year, and the group embraced the concept and agreed they wanted to create a county-wide initiative for participation.
Museums for All recognizes any city with three or more participants in the program as a “Hub City.” While we hoped to be recognized as a “Hub County,” reflecting our cooperation county-wide, Museums for All does not yet have that designation. Regardless, we have made astounding progress in a short amount of time and are promoting our county-wide efforts as a collective. We currently count eighteen participating Santa Barbara County museums! Museums for All has reported on Santa Barbara’s rapid registration rate in their newsletter and let us know that of the Hub Cities in their program, only the City of Chicago has more participating institutions!
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is committed to following best practices in our field in our ongoing efforts to be responsive to our community. In fact, demonstrating progress towards national standards in the history, museum, preservation and nonprofits fields is one of the goals in our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan. Today, we can announce that we have taken a significant step towards that aim as we present our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Plan (2020 -2022).
The development of this plan was neither quick nor simple. Its origin lies in the planning work conducted in 2018 to develop our strategic plan, including input from the many community members who participated in focus groups and contributed to the direction of the plan. New organizational value statements we developed through that process include, in part:
“SBTHP promotes the diversity of cultures that comprise(d) the Presidio Neighborhood.”
“SBTHP values and celebrates cooperation, partnership, equity, inclusivity, and diversity.”
We recognize that truly living our organizational values is not an inevitable outcome of announcing them. To address this, we included an objective in our strategic plan to develop a DEI Plan in order to create specific and measurable goals and objectives for this work. We also committed to sharing our plan publicly to ensure accountability from the organization.
Our staff and board began diversity, equity and inclusion training with Just Communities and consultant Judy Guillermo-Newton in the Fall of 2019. The Santa Barbara Foundation generously funded this work. The training, completed in March 2020 (days before the statewide shutdown due to COVID-19), provided our staff and board with a common language for the work ahead, and helped identify principle areas of focus and improvement to fulfill the promise of our strategic plan.
The ensuing months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and nationwide antiracism movement as a result of the murder of George Floyd, galvanized our resolve to complete our DEI Plan, even as we, board and staff, struggled with uncertainty in our field, and in our daily lives. Today we present this 2 1/2-year DEI Plan, not as an accomplishment, but as a first step, and a declaration of the important work ahead of us. We also recognize that we will be updating and issuing subsequent versions of this plan as we continue our organizational transformation.
We are learning that to make a DEI initiative stick, and to create real organizational change, requires hard work. It takes time, and a significant amount of discussion, self-reflection and discomfort from within the institution. It cannot belong to one person, and while we have learned from, and been inspired by the work of many others, the path ahead is ours to walk. We commit to continue the hard work and introspection required to make our organization more of service to, and embedded in, our community as we implement this plan.
Visit our website to see our DEI Policy Statement, and Goals, and also a downloadable pdf of the full plan. We have also added a list of free resources from the nonprofit, local history, museum, arts and preservation fields that we will be consulting as we conduct our work, and which we believe will be helpful for others.
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.”
Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, the last Chinese family-owned and operated business in Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, was a longtime favorite for locals and tourists alike before closing its doors in 2006 with the retirement of operator Tommy Chung. Opened in 1947 by Tommy’s father, Jimmy Yee Chung, Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens had been an important part of the diverse community of people who have lived and worked within the Presidio Neighborhood. In March of 2007, SBTHP purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family. Shortly thereafter the building was purchased by the State of California, becoming a part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park and a historic resource that will be preserved and protected in perpetuity.
Following the acquisition of Jimmy’s, SBTHP formed a community advisory committee to help guide us in a series of programs related to Santa Barbara’s Asian American history. The group helped SBTHP begin an oral history project focusing on Chinese and Japanese Americans in Santa Barbara. In addition, through its interpretive planning process, the organization developed a concept for a permanent exhibit inside the historic Jimmy’s building, now home to our tenants Three Pickles Deli and The Pickle Room, owned and operated by Clay Lovejoy and family.
Our new display includes a life-size photo mural of Jimmy Chung and his son Bill serving drinks to local patrons at the bar, as well as multiple oral history quotes and photos that help tell the story of the Chung family and the life they created in Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood. The display includes original artifacts from Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, as well.
The display is dedicated in memory of Thomas Yee Chung and Robert Harry Lovejoy for their efforts to preserve and restore Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, an icon of Santa Barbara’s Chinese-American Community. Special thanks to UCSB graduate student Mika Thornburg, Demachkie Design, SBTHP’s dedicated volunteers, our partners at California State Parks and all community donors that made this special project possible.
Emma John is a second-year PhD student in History at UC Santa Barbara interested in public history and nineteenth-century U.S. history with a particular focus on women. As an IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow, John recently completed an internship at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and has been working with the Casa de la Guerra, a historic house museum maintained by the Trust and former residence of José de la Guerra, the fifth comandante of the Presidio.
As a Public Humanities Graduate Fellow you are interning this summer at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP). What work are you doing in the internship?
This summer I have tackled a few projects. I started the summer designing new programming activities for Casa de la Guerra. These programs are meant to foster new types of engagement with the space—either moving through it differently or, for school groups, connecting the de la Guerra story to what students are learning about in Social Studies classes. At the moment I am helping design a brochure for Casa de la Guerra. This has involved consultation with museum employees, research, and selecting appropriate images from the Presidio Research Center to best represent the museum and the de la Guerra family. When finished, the brochure will provide a brief but informative introduction to the site.
What has your investigation into the history of the De la Guerra family revealed about the historical and continuing significance of the Casa de la Guerra site for the Santa Barbara community?
Learning about the de la Guerra family has been key to answering the larger questions I had about the history of Santa Barbara. Coming from the East Coast, I knew very little about the history of California. Casa de la Guerra is not only significant to Santa Barbara’s history, but to California’s history. When they were first building Casa de la Guerra, Spain ruled Santa Barbara. By the home’s completion, Santa Barbara was part of Mexico. Jose died in 1858 as a citizen of the United States. Casa de la Guerra is representative of the significant cultural changes that have impacted Santa Barbara from the town’s inception.
Additionally, Casa de la Guerra has historically served as a town center. Jose de la Guerra was held in high esteem by Santa Barbara and his home often served as a site of social and civic functions such as weddings or settling legal disputes. Plaza de la Guerra was specifically built where it is and named in honor of the family in 1853. Given that Plaza de la Guerra is back in the news, it is interesting to consider the site’s historical roots and significance.
Your research is helping to shape new interpretive programming at Casa de la Guerra. What might this programming look like?
Something great about the de la Guerra family is that several researchers have already documented their lives. I am utilizing that work to create programming that helps visitors imagine Casa de la Guerra as it existed in the nineteenth century—a bustling hub of activity. For students I am trying to create programming in line with California curriculum standards. This might mean imagining the de la Guerra family in the context of Westward expansion, or considering the civic issues of Plaza de la Guerra.
There are ongoing discussions about revitalizing De La Guerra Plaza, just opposite Casa de la Guerra. Is your work at SBTHP informing any of those discussions?
I have been considering ways of incorporating Plaza de la Guerra into museum programming. While it is important for museums to consider contemporary issues, it is also important to consider the longevity of programming versus current events. The goal is to incorporate contemporary issues such as talks of revitalizing Plaza de la Guerra while also making sure there are other programming ideas that will be relevant even after town discussions have shifted elsewhere.
Your research interests are in New England house museums; has this internship aligned with some of that work and/or pushed you in new directions?
Again, growing up in the Northeast has led to some, *ahem* strong regional biases. However, I have been overcoming those biases while learning about Santa Barbara’s history and the history of California in general. It has been great to get out of my historical comfort zone and imagine how my research interests make sense in California.
What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of the internship so far?
I love learning about local history wherever I am, and this internship has provided an unmatched opportunity to do just that. The trust does so much cool working interpreting and teaching Santa Barbara’s history and I’m thankful to be a small part of it.
How has your work so far in the Public Humanities Graduate Fellows program influenced your understanding of the role of public humanists in their local communities?
We had such a wide variety of guest speakers [in the Skills for the Public Sphere course] and internship opportunities this past spring—things that I had not even considered would fall under the umbrella of public humanities. So I certainly have a greater understanding of what is possible as a public humanist. Additionally, I’ve been learning about the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Historians are really good at solo pursuits such as archival work and writing. We tend to joke about the amount time we spend reading and thinking about dead people (one of my friends once baked a birthday cake for a nineteenth century missionary whose diary she was reading). However, public humanities requires good relationships with the living. As someone who is pursuing public history and humanities I’ve appreciated the opportunity to develop those skills of creating history with others.
Click here to learn more about IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Internships. This article was originally published on the IHC website.
In celebration of the opening of a special temporary exhibit on loan from the UC Santa Barbara Library, The Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School: The Remarkable Antecedent of UC Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) offered the community two free educational programs in early March at Casa de la Guerra.
In 1892, Anna S. C. Blake opened a sloyd school at 814 Santa Barbara St. (near De la Guerra St.) on the site of what is today Anacapa School, located in El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. Sloyd schools emphasized manual training and were closely linked to European folk art traditions and the Arts and Crafts movement. Renamed the Anna Blake Manual Training School after Blake’s death in 1899, the school remained grounded in the Progressive-era belief that all students should have access to a holistic education emphasizing both intellectual and practical knowledge in order to develop educated citizens.
The exhibition focuses on the school’s early years and explores how Santa Barbara reformers thought about the intersection of education, the manual arts, and social mobility in the 1890s, and the implications of those beliefs on higher education today. All exhibit photos are from UCSB Library’s University Archives Photographs collection.
Our first opening event for the exhibition was a free 1st Thursday program (co-sponsored by Downtown Santa Barbara) on March 7th, from 5:00 to 8:00pm. Guests were welcomed in the Casa courtyard by SBTHP staff and volunteers and enjoyed free refreshments and some of the beautiful music of early California performed by local guitarist and vocalist Luis Moreno. Many visitors also had the opportunity to meet and learn from the scholars who researched the history of the School and curated the special exhibition, Dr. Sarah Case (Managing Editor, The Public Historian, and Continuing Lecturer at UCSB) and Nora Kassner (graduate student in History at UCSB).
On Sunday, March 10th at 2:00pm SBTHP staff and UCSB History Associates organized a special lecture by Dr. Sara Case and Nora Kassner at Casa de la Guerra. Approximately 25 people attended the lecture and learned about the history of the Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School. The lecture was followed by a reception and an exhibit showing.
To learn more about the history of the Anna S. C. Blake School and its important ties to the Presidio Neighborhood and to UC Santa Barbara read Sara and Nora’s piece in our Winter 2019 issue of La Campana (available for sale for $5 at our Presidio or Casa de la Guerra gift shops) and/or come visit Casa de la Guerra before the end of May to see the exhibit in person!
Kevin McGarry is the associate director for public engagement at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation‘s exhibit, Building Community: Reginald D. Johnson, Architect was recently installed in the MacBean Library at Cate School in Carpinteria. SBTHP was pleased to partner with Cate School during the preliminary preparation for the exhibit and also grateful to them for the opportunity to have the show displayed at this beautiful campus which was designed by Reginald Johnson in 1927. Curator Rose Thomas gave a brief presentation to board members and staff during a reception hosted by the school.
The exhibit traces the arc of Johnson’s career from his early work, to iconic projects including the Biltmore, Cate School, Bellosguardo (The Clark Estate) and Cuesta Linda (Lotusland). The exhibit also includes several acclaimed small house projects which contributed to Johnson’s evolving sense of architecture’s role in designing a high quality of life for everyone.
We devote an entire gallery to what some believe to be the pinnacle of his career, the Santa Barbara Downtown Post Office, 1937. A Depression-era project for which Johnson took no commission, the Post Office is a triumph of federal institutional character with a mix of Santa Barbara style. The gallery also includes a wall devoted to William Atkinson, who designed the bas reliefs on the interior, and a feedback activity designed to building awareness of the potential sale of the Post Office by the U.S. Postal Service.
The final portion of the exhibit explores Johnson’s late-career middle class and public housing projects through which his ideals about the architecture of community life crystallized. An emphasis on the relationship with the outdoors, and spaces for the community to gather characterize these projects.
We had a wonderful opening reception for the show on Thursday March 10. If you missed it, we will be open during First Thursday next Thursday May 5 from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and during regular museum hours until September 18.
Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
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