Spring On the Ranch

This month has been a busy one on the ranch, with two events in addition to an increase in school programs. The first of these events was Spring Break. This event lasted for an entire week, from Saturday to Saturday (except for the days our park is closed) for the week in which the two local school districts had a holiday break. It also included special events and demonstrations across the park. During Spring Break I split my time between the Davis Mansion and the George Ranch House. I also spent some of the time filling in with a demonstration about plant clipping at the greenhouse on the Davis site because the person originally scheduled to do so was ill.

The second major event that we had was an Easter program that we held on the Saturday before Easter. Much like with the Spring Break event, there were various extra events held across the park. For this day I was stationed at the George Ranch House, mostly giving tours. However, while there I also helped with hiding eggs for the Historic Easter Egg Hunt that was held on the site. For this event we used real hard boiled eggs, several dozen of them.

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In addition to these special events I have continued to help with the historic clothing closet’s inventory and I have worked on my project. For the project this month I was given some research from a long term employee. I have also started to create the website that will be the final form of the collected research and have started putting some basic sources onto it.

This month in collections I did a lot of work for the temporary Visitor Center Exhibit, as part of this I came up with some ideas for objects to add to one of the cases that looked a bit sparse.

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I also continued to work on my project for collections. At this point I have everything in an almost final order with the folders labeled. I still need to go through and scan, photograph and number everything. Today I also worked on making vinyl signs for an upcoming fundraiser for the Fort Bend Museum, which is run by the same organization as George Ranch Historical Park.

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I am also helping with an unusually large school program for the museum this month, called the Texian Time Machine. Normally the Museum runs separately from the ranch. However, when there are big events or unexpected problems, staff will help at the other site. I already worked on the Texian Time Machine once this month, when I ran the land grants rotation. Due to a last minute volunteer cancellation, I am also doing the same program tomorrow, except this time I will be doing the school rotation.

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Gettin’ Around on the Ranch

Earlier this month I finished familiarizing myself with the sites on the Ranch by spending a few days in The George Ranch House. At the beginning of February I also spent a day at the 1860’s site tending the stove and heating water for tea as well as helping with a girl scouts’ program in which the tea was used.

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This month I also spent the day north of Houston at Jesse H. Jones Park. They were having an annual event called Homestead Heritage Day. They needed extra help for the day so George Ranch sent a few people to help. Jesse Jones Park has sent volunteers for big events and George Ranch returns the favor when possible. While there I spent the day at their corn crib helping kids shuck and grind corn.

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Throughout the month I also had an opportunity to learn new things such as spinning and other textile tasks (for which the ranch held a workshop for interested employees and volunteers).

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I have also been working more on my project. I have finished reading a thesis written about the park. While reading I made notes about sections relevant to the project and where I can find information. Next I made a general plan about how to organize the information relating to the 1830’s site and what it the final product will cover. To make the task manageable I am starting with a single site and adding on as time allows. I also worked on reading more sources and adding their information to my framework.

This week I have been spending time at the 1890’s site in the Davis House for an annual event geared towards school children. During the event I have been playing the role of a teenage Mary Elizabeth Davis, often called Mamie. Although I was originally scheduled to work in the house all three days on Saturday, my voice failed. So instead, I ended up working in the office and taking pictures of the event at another site in the afternoon.

In the time I have spent in collections this month I have continued to do general day to day tasks such as condition reports and processing the collection. I have also started working on a object (rather than family) based tour of the 1930’s site. At this point I have mostly done research on this project. I have also continued to work on the upcoming temporary exhibit for the visitor center including measuring and cutting the fabric to recover the case bases. I later helped with the covering too.

I have continued to work on processing the Berry Papers, at this point I have put the first few boxes into an order that is pretty close to final.

Another long term project I have started this month is a pair of General Facilities Reports. By the time I am done I will have completed one for the collections building and another for the visitors center.

Movin’ to a Ranch in Texas

This month I moved to Texas and started working at George Ranch Historical Park. While here I am living in a house provided by the park, together with another intern who works at the Fort Bend Museum in town. I spend three days a week working at the park either in the programs office or on one of the four historic sites. The other two days a week I spend at the collections facility helping to maintain the collections associated with the park.

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The setup of the George Ranch Historical Park is very different from many places. The land and buildings are owned by The George Foundation but operated by the Fort Bend Museum Association.

The Historical Ranch tells the story of one family from the original 300 members of the Austin Colony that first settled Texas. This ranch passed for four generations though the female line of the family until the last generation had no living heirs. The foundation that was created during the last generation took over the land and uses the profits from it for charitable purposes.

The park has four main sites, each of which depicts life during a different time period. The Jones Stock Farm, which has a reconstructed Dogtrot cabin, covers the 1830s. The Ryon Prairie Site represents the 1860s and has a period house that was not owned by the family. The 1890s are depicted by the Davis Victorian Site, a family house that was moved to this site from in town, and the 1930’s by the George Cattle Complex, which has a family house remaining on its original site, which was also the site of the first two houses. There is also a sharecropper’s house from the 1890’s to portray the lives of less privileged persons at the time.

In my first month on the Ranch I have done a number of things on my days with the programs office. I have started work on my long term project (organizing research about the family into one easy to understand location that is accessible to staff and volunteers) and I have also helped out with organizing the period clothing closets.

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Sewing a label in a non visible area onto a piece of clothing

Another task I have been doing is spending time at the different sites to familiarize myself with them and be able to lead tours and help with programs as needed.

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Trying to make sparks with a flint and steel

In the time I have spent at the collections facility I have also had the chance to do a number of things like add objects to the collections database as well as photograph them for the database and write condition reports on objects to go into a temporary exhibit in the visitor center. I have also worked on processing and numbering objects that were not yet accessioned. I have started work on my collections project to process the Clark Berry Papers which have been stored in the archive section for a couple of years without being fully gone through.

In addition to these typical tasks I have attended a board meeting (open to staff) held this month to go over last year’s financial report for the Fort Bend Museum Association. That same day I attended an art exhibit opening at the Fort Bend Museum. The other out of hours activity I participated in was to attend the Southeast Texas Museum Association (SETMA) quarterly meeting which was held on a site off the Gulf of Mexico.

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View from site of meeting

Overall I have had the opportunity to do many different things and learn quite a bit this month.

Month Four: Wrapping Things up on the Western Front

At this point I have wrapped up my internship at the Molly Brown House Museum.

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During my time here I have worked on surveying visitors on various topics including what they expected of the museum and their experience, what they would like to see after changes are made to the museum and what they thought of the free and photography days.

I also spent time practicing and carrying out some of the existing educational programs, as well as attending local events and meetings. I helped out around the house whenever I could and learned about giving tours of the house and surrounding area. I helped with Thirsty Thursday events at the house and played the part of Helen Ring Robinson, the first female state senator in Colorado.

Most of my time, however, was spent creating a new educational program about world cultures. This program uses various places that Margaret Brown traveled to help teach children the differences between those places and the United States in the early 1900s. The program focuses especially on the lives of families and children. There was a lot of research involved to find out what life was like in those countries at the time, and to express it in a way that schoolchildren will understand. When I left I had finished and timed the script from the program and compared the content to Colorado curriculum standards. I also prepared a list of objects that will be used when the program is presented – these are now being ordered. And a few had arrived before I left.

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Now that I am done there I am heading back to the Midwest to look for another place to learn.

Month Three at the Molly Brown House

In the third month of my internship I have continued to work on many of the same things as I have the last few months. I have finished the servant surveys but will continue to survey for other purposes.

I have also been working on my project which has progressed to the point where I have a draft of the script and some options for interactive elements for the program. The script itself is too long for an hour long program, so now comes the point where I need to edit it down. I need to review the content to determine what is most important to meet the program’s educational goals, and remove unneeded details. I also need to work the remaining content into a smooth script.

I have had a couple of experiences outside of the house as well. I attended a local educational fair for social studies teachers along with one of the volunteers who frequently presents education programs. At the fair we talked about the programs that the Molly Brown House offers so that the teachers will be interested in using them in their classrooms.

Earlier this month, I participated in the Thirsty Thursday event, where we discussed notable women in Denver’s history. At the event several people portrayed these notable women and told their stories from a first person point of view. I played Helen Ring Robinson who was the first woman State Senator in Colorado and the second one nationally.

Aside from my personal work there have been a few interesting things going on at the house. The front porch of the house is in need of repairs as the foundation has deteriorated. Another project that will be starting soon is the replacement of the roof on the carriage house. While this work is being carried out there is a board by the entrance of the museum that explains the work being done to visitors.

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While this work is being carried out there are fences around the construction area and a temporary staircase set up (the normal one is behind the fencing). The tours have also been rerouted as they normally start on the now closed front porch.

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These changes are just the beginning however as the museum plans to renovate the basement for use as an education space. This will free up the third floor which is currently used for this purpose. Once the third floor is free it will be restored and used to interpret more about the house including the stories of some of the servants who lived and worked there.

Surveys, Tea Parties and Learning: Month Two at the Molly Brown House Museum

In the second month of my internship I have been building on the work I did in the first month by taking on a few new things.

I have spent another day conducting expectations versus experience surveys. I have also conducted surveys to find out what visitors would like to learn about the servants who worked for Margaret Brown. I’ll continue to do this for the rest of the summer with a goal of surveying 50 visitors per week.

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Surveys ready to be filled out.

Soon the museum will be making some changes, among these is the restoration of the third floor of the house as a place to use for talking about the servants who lived and worked in the house.

In addition to surveys I have started presenting programs oriented at younger audiences. So far I have given one tour and conducted a few programs. One of the programs is meant to teach children manners in the setting of a tea party, while the other uses Lincoln Logs and Legos to teach them the principles of historic preservation.

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Tea party set up on the third floor.

Conducting these programs has been a learning experience for me, as I have no training in elementary education. Despite this, I am using these programs as an opportunity to build the skills I will need over the next few months. I have been trying to find information about how to teach children, and of course ask questions when I run into challenges. However, it is likely that most of the growth will come from practice and becoming more comfortable working with younger kids.

I have also continued working on the education program I am creating. While I am still doing some research, the focus of my work is now on the particulars of the program. I am working on the structure and content of the program. I have also been looking for tangible objects that represent each culture discussed for the children to interact with.

Part of the work for developing the program includes narrowing down the cultures to discuss. Because Margaret Brown visited so many places, and the program is only an hour in length, I chose nine cultures for their importance in Margaret’s life and the variety of the cultures. The program will highlight two US sub-cultures (mining camps and suffragettes) and seven foreign cultures (Egypt, Italy, France, India, Japan, Ireland and Russia).

I am looking forward to learning more as the year progresses.

Workshops, Tours and Research: Early Days of an Internship

I am interning at the Molly Brown House Museum in the Education department.

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When I first arrived I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the house and the educational programs that it offers. I also spent time getting to know the story of Margaret Tobin Brown. While the real story of her life is very different from the popular legend about “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” in many ways she is a more remarkable individual than legend would lead you to believe. A highly educated woman and an activist, Mrs. Brown did far more in her life than become wealthy and survive the sinking of the Titanic.

Soon after I arrived here I attended an evaluation workshop. This summer I will be working on evaluating programs and this workshop helped to prepare me for the task and refresh my past experience. I started the first of these evaluations today; it involved pre and post tour surveys in order to determine expectations versus experience.

Once I had settled in and started to understand the story of Margaret Brown better I began working on my main internship project, an educational program about the different places where she traveled and the cultures of these places. While the list of her travels is extensive it is not comprehensive, as it is likely there are places she traveled that I have not yet found records for.

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My work space mid-list

The next step was researching these places; as part of this I am also trying to track down travel writings of Margaret Brown’s. This is proving difficult as in most cases I only have the article titles and not the dates or publishing newspapers. The information about these articles come from a book on her life Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iversen. Unfortunately, the copies that she accessed appear to have been in a privately held scrapbook and she stated that the publishing information was not included.

Despite these problems I was able to find a online copy of her experience on the Titanic and most of the article she wrote about her first trip to India. This piece was in a newspaper clipping file at the Denver Public Library. The article is mostly complete, but a piece of the paper was torn off and the publishing information was not attached. There were some pencil markings that may help find the whole article.

At this point my research mainly consists of focusing on the cultures in the countries she visited and trying to learn about them before deciding how to teach them to children.

In addition to research I have also been observing tours and educational programs to prepare for when I am running them myself.

These next few months are likely to be busy and hopefully full of more finds in unexpected places.