Wednesday, April 9, 2014

OMA Conference

On Monday Chris and I had the honor of presenting a session at the Ohio Museums Association Conference at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio called "Community Collaborations:  How a Single Book United Canton's Cultural Organizations" with Lisa Boyer (Director of Education at the Canton Symphony Orchestra) and Gail Martino (One Book, One Community Selection Committee).

It allowed all of us to relive A Secret Gift one more time!

The presentation was designed to showcase how all of our organizations worked together to make big things happen in Canton around A Secret Gift last fall.  We wanted to inspire other museums to approach other cultural groups in their areas to create something similar.  We had quite a few partners, but what we did could be replicated on a smaller scale almost anywhere.

We decided to organize our presentation chronologically by event during the One Book, One Community celebration.  Each of us spoke on the topic we were most involved in.

I started the program by explaining what the book was about, showing slides of Sam Stone, the ad he placed in the Repository, some of the letters, and the canceled checks.  I explained how Ted Gup discovered the letters and figured out that B. Virdot was actually his grandfather.

Next, Chris talked about the event at the Palace in 2010 when the book first came out, featuring descendants of letter writers reading their family's letters. 

Then Gail spoke about the selection process for One Book, One Community, followed by Chris talking about the workshops he ran for teachers with our Archivist Mark Holland.  Then Gail spoke about the dramatization and the walking tour of downtown Canton.

Chris came back up to talk about the Soup at Six featuring composer Eric Benjamin, who spoke to museum guests about his orchestral composition based on the book.  It was the first time he had shared any of his piece with the public.  Chris also talked about how the Symphony provided our guests with a special coupon code for discount tickets to the concert.  He also talked about the special rates we created for field trips who booked both the Youth Concert and a tour at the Museum.

Next I spoke about the exhibition itself.  I had several slides showing how we re-created Sam Stone's office and included the suitcase and other artifacts relating to his life.  I also showed how we borrowed artifacts connected to some of the letter writers, and then fleshed it out with period artifacts from our collection.  I explained how I found each address on a period map of Canton to show visitors where each letter writer lived, and the chart I made showing what things cost in 1933 so visitors could appreciate the true value of $5 in that time.

My part finished with the program presented by the genealogy department at the Stark County District Library, where staff explained how the helped Ted Gup locate descendants to interview for his book.

Gail talked about the Meet the Author event at Malone, and Ted's trip into the schools to talk to students about his book.

Lisa finished the program with five wonderful clips from the concert itself, showing highlights of how the performance Incorporated Ted as the narrator and volunteers from the community with many speaking parts.  She also explained some of Eric Benjamin's inspiration for the piece.

It was a fantastic experience to get together with these ladies once again to relive our collaboration for OMA!  Our session was well-received, and we hope we inspired Ohio museums to think outside the box to partner with groups they may not have considered in the past.

On a personal note, Cutler's Restaurant at the Ohio University Inn was wonderful!  If you're in Athens, definitely check it out.  I had the portobello mushroom and eggplant Parmesan with a side of risotto that was out of this world!

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