Thursday, October 31, 2013

Panels are going up!

I have spent the day putting up the panels for A Secret Gift.  It's a huge job, mostly because the panels are actually physically bigger than I am!

In total, I made 32 panels.  Here is an example of what they look like:

You might recall this story from a post a few weeks ago about our Archivist Mark Holland's great uncle Lester Rice -- it's an exhibition exclusive!

All of the panels include either a page of a letter, thank you note, or check.  I included photos of the letter writer and his or her family, wherever possible.  When we didn't have a photo of any of the people, then I used a photo from our collection that related to the story.  For example, after losing their own restaurant, Louise Margo's husband was working as a meat cutter at Bender's.  So that panel features a picture of Bender's.

If the crowd at the Kathleen Howland Theatre at 2nd April Galerie the other night was any indication, this exhibit is going to be very popular!  The dramitization of A Secret Gift, written by Frank Motz, was wonderful.  The actors were gracious enough to agree to do a second performance when the theater rapidly ran out of space for the crowd.  They performed back to back shows at 7:00 and 8:00 PM.

Our exhibit opens on November 15.  The Soup at Six preview on November 14 is already at 60 people!  If you'd like to come, please call 330-455-7043 to make reservations.  The cost is $15 per person, and includes a soup supper, a program by Eric Benjamin who composed a piece for the Canton Symphony Orchestra based on A Secret Gift, and a preview of the exhibit.  The opening reception on November 15 is free and open to all.  It will be from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.

What has struck me most about the community collaboration around A Secret Gift is the different ways we've all seen the book.  I read it and saw it as an exhibition.  Frank Motz read it and saw it as a dramitization.  Eric Benjamin read it and heard music.  It's AWESOME how many ways there are for us to view this story, through the lens of our respective careers or interests.

What did you think of the book?  Leave a comment!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Keller Gallery empty!

One of my favorite ways to use this blog is to share glimpses of what goes on behind-the-scenes with you.

Here is what the Keller Gallery looks like, right this very moment.  We spent the morning clearing out the White House exhibits and the afternoon setting up the space for A Secret Gift.

This will be a re-creation of Sam Stone's office.  (The carpet is upside down to make it lay flat -- it's red on the other side!)

The platform against the wall will hold five mannequins in 1930s dresses.

The case in the front will house copies of A Secret Gift in other languages.  The one in the corner will hold letters.

The cases visible here will be filled with toys made by letter writer Frank Dick and salesman's samples he used when he worked for the Joseph Dick Manufacturing Company before the Great Depression.

This space will be for letter writer Rachel DeHoff's kitchen table and lamp.

This sign, salvaged from a fire at the Fairmount Children's Home, will be hung over two letter writers' panels where the orphanage was a big part of their stories.

This corner will be where we show a video including a short documentary about A Secret Gift (courtesy of Lorie Conway, Boston Film & Video), home movies of Sam Stone and family, and Helen Palm reading her letter at the Palace event held in December 2010.

This case will have 1930s household artifacts from the museum's colleciton.

Another view of where Sam Stone's office re-creation will be.
I cannot tell you how excited I am that we are so close to bring this exhibit to the community!  This is my favorite part of the process -- when the plans in my head start to become reality!

Exhibits come down much faster than they go up!


It's just past noon and the White House exhibits are already down and packed up! 

I've been doing this museum thing for almost 15 years, so you'd think I wouldn't still be shocked when exhibits come down so fast.  But every single time, I'm in awe!  I keep thinking about when we put it up, and how long it took to figure out where each oversized panel would hang.  And how to assemble the free standing part of the exhibit (it came with NO directions). 

But in less than two hours, it's all back in its crates, like it never even happened.

As I enter my 13th year at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, I'm also struck by how small the Keller Gallery looks to me now.  I can remember when I started in October 2001 and how HUGE that space looked!  I wondered how on earth I would ever fill such a big gallery.

And now I'm struggling to squeeze everything in.

It's funny how time and space are constants, and yet, they seem to change on us.

The next few weeks will be busy as we install A Secret Gift.  Join us for the free opening reception on Friday November 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.  Or come for our Soup at Six preview event on November 14.  It is $15 per person and includes a soup dinner and a program by Eric Benjamin, who has composed a piece for the Canton Symphony Orchestra based on A Secret Gift.  Pre-paid reservations are required for the Soup at Six event (call 330-455-7043) but no reservations are necessary for the exhibit opening.

I've got some things left to do to get ready to install, so I better get to it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pulling artifacts together

In Ohio, and maybe in other states too, you used to have to get a new license plate each year.  This is what they looked like in 1933, the year of B. Virdot's anonymous Christmas gifts.

This is the last week before we take down the White House exhibits and install A Secret Gift!

This morning I've pulled together all of the artifacts from various storage areas around the building, so everything is ready to go.  I "visited" each item previously, in order to write its object label, but with no carts available until now, I didn't pull anything.

There are some neat artifacts!  This is a fun stage in the process, when you get to see all of the separate things in your head come together in reality.

Remember -- the exhibit opens November 15!  Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New book release date

I sent in the final edits for my new book Canton Entertainment on Friday.  It should have gone to print yesterday!

The NEW RELEASE DATE is November 18, which is a week earlier than planned.  It is perfect timing for end of the year gifts.

Here's a sneak peek at some of the photos you'll see in the book.  In addition to these three, there are 213 more!

A favorite exhibit at Mother Gooseland was Willie the Whale, constructed by volunteer workers from the Lathing and Plastering Contractors Association of Canton and Massillon. He was 21 feet long, 9 feet high, 9 feet wide, and weighed a whopping 14,000 pounds. Designers created a lagoon around him by damming the Nimishillen Creek. (Courtesy of Joyce Bair.)

The Main Circus came to Canton on May 7, 1904 and paraded up South Market Avenue. Circus founder Walter L. Main was a native of northeast Ohio, growing up in Geneva in Ashtabula County. His circus traveled all over the country, with winter quarters in his hometown. In 1904, the Main Circus visited Salem before Canton, and Cleveland, Akron, and Warren afterwards.

Judy Hively, Barb Nicholson, and Betty McCauley stand by a car decorated for the 1961 Massillon-McKinley game. After the departure of the professional teams, high school football quickly became a major pastime for both communities. Annual matches between the rival teams has attracted large audiences and captured the attention of almost everyone in town for nearly a century. Today the annual Massillon-McKinley game is a nationally-recognized event in high school football. (Courtesy of Linda Todd.)

The Halloween Party is coming up!

Science Director Lynette Reiner and Museum Shoppe Manager Cindy Sober at last year's Halloween Party!

Although I have been extremely focused on my own work on A Secret Gift for the past month or so, the truth is there is something else coming up on the calendar before that!

Our annual Halloween Party at the "Boo-seum" is a week from tomorrow! 

Join us on October 25 at 6:00 PM.  Cost is $5 per person.  Kids can trick-or-treat throughout the building.  A hot dog supper will be available from $3.  There will be free crafts, apple cider samples, and lots more!

The staff is busy preparing.  The Museum was decked out in Halloween decor this week (thank you volunteers!!).  The candy is in the building.  Everything is ready for a fun night!

This is a big fundraiser for us, so please consider attending.  If you want to avoid the lines, you can pre-pay any time by calling 330-455-7043 or stopping in at the Admissions Window.

The best part of the party is seeing all the adorable costumes!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Work continues on A Secret Gift

I am nearing the end of preparations for what has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding exhibitions of my career.  It doesn't get any better than telling a local story to illustrate a national event, and that is exactly what this exhibit is.

Through the letters written to B. Virdot in December 1933, we are able to witness first hand the suffering of families who were truly struggling in the darkest days of the Depression.  Peppered with local businesses and familiar names, we are able to view the world through the context of Canton, Ohio.  What more could a historian and museum curator hope to do?

Yesterday Rachel DeHoff's granddaughter came in with a kitchen table, a lamp, and her business card.  Although it has been difficult to "illustrate" the 1930s in many ways, we have managed to fill the Keller Gallery to nearly capacity!  (On paper, at least -- we can't do anything physical until the White House exhibits close on October 27!)

As we see the first of the One Book, One Community events begin with a dramitization of the book on October 29 (our very own Director of Education Chris Kenney will be playing Frank Dick!), we're almost ready on our end to install one of the most significant locally-rooted exhibitons in the Museum's history. 

I hope you're planning to come to the opening on November 15.  I'm anxious to share my own vision of A Secret Gift with you!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adding a panel!

Our Archivist Mark Holland just discovered that his great uncle, Lester Rice, is one of the letter writers!  Needless to say, he is blown away by this discovery.

Lester's story is not told in the book, so I'm very excited to create a panel about him and his family.  Mark has some photos at home, so I will be able to tell this story visually.  (That's important when creating an exhibit!)

I just went up to the Keller Gallery to see where I could squeeze in one more panel!  I found a spot for it.  My new panels are much larger than what I used to make, which means they take up a lot more room.  I'm glad I was able to add a panel about Lester, especially with our personal connection on staff!

Remember!  A Secret Gift opens on FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15 with a FREE reception from 6:00 to 7:30.

Or, you can get a sneak peek the night before at our Soup at Six event on THURSDAY NOVEMBER 14.  Our special guest is Eric Benjamin, composer of the Canton Symphony Orchestra's piece based on A Secret Gift.  Soup at Six includes a soup dinner, the program, and a special preview of the Keller Gallery exhibit!  Cost is $15 per person and pre-paid reservations are required.  It's filling up fast, so if you're interested, call 330-455-7043 to sign up!