TWITTER FEED

January 3, 2011

Sonoma County Museum shares local bracero stories through SITES exhibition

Juan Villa and friend performing Corridos at the "Free Family Day" at the Sonoma County Museum.

This past November, Sonoma County Museum opened the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s (SITES) Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 and they hoped that their local community would help bring the exhibition alive.  The museum was not disappointed.  Through a busy schedule of public events at the museum, visitors responded to the exhibition in a very personal way.  

When the National Museum of American History (NMAH) began researching the Leonard Nadel photographs that were taken to document the lives of the migrant farm workers, curators realized that they had an enormous asset to learn more about the images: the people who were there.  Many braceros are alive today, never having shared their past stories with anyone other than their immediate families.  In some cases, their children are not even aware of their pasts.  Research focused on collecting oral histories and documenting experiences of the thousands of workers that participated in this government program.  When the traveling exhibition was organized, curators hoped that each stop on its tour would yield more stories from this important chapter in American history.  Sonoma County Museum’s programs did just that.  

Oral history screen in the "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibition.

Eric Stanley, Exhibitions and Collections Curator at the Sonoma County Museum told us how they approached the programming that complemented the exhibition so well.  The museum began with video oral histories of local braceros, filmed several months before the opening.  “The oral history project was sponsored in part by a programming grant from SITES, which helped facilitate the project,” said Eric.  Eric also had the opportunity to see the NMAH installation of the exhibition, while in Washington, D.C. as a Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professional.  He was able to meet with staff who had planned programming for the original show, which inspired some facets of the installation at the Sonoma County Museum, including a hands on table at which visitors could try out some of the tools braceros used.  

The video oral histories became the centerpiece of the opening reception, which drew many of the interviewed braceros and their families.  One guest, Cruz Leon Martinez, worked as a bracero before settling in Sonoma County- where he found work in a winery.  Mr. Martinez attended with several generations of his family and guests, proud to share the video oral history with them. 

Former bracero Cruz Leon Martinez (seated with hat) and his family at the opening reception.

Sonoma County Museum also hosted a “Free Family Day” which featured live performances of corridos and other songs about labor and migration.  The standing-room only event featured a recent documentary on the Bracero Program and was well covered in the media.   Eric told us that the exhibit has been very popular with tour groups and that he has received many thank you’s from students who have visited the exhibition.  One such note says, “I want to thank you because you gave us the opportunity to go see the museum. I learned about how people were living in their past … I’m going to ask my mom to go to the museum with my sister, because I would like to see my little sister learning about our past.”  

Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 is on view at the Sonoma County Museum until January 30, 2011.

All photographs courtesy Sonoma County Museum.

October 26, 2010

coming up in affiliateland in november 2010

November is another busy month in Affiliateland!

ILLINOIS
Sousa and His League of Players: America’s Music and the Golden Age of Baseball opens at the Sousa Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in Champaign, 11.1.

NEW YORK:
The Smithsonian American Art Museum loans a 1966 Charmion von Wiegand painting to the Rubin Museum of Art, in New York, 11.5. 

WASHINGTON:
The Museum of History and Industry will announce their Affiliation at an event with Smithsonian Regent Patty Stonesifer, in Seattle, 11.5. 

NORTH CAROLINA:
David Bohaska, collections manager in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History will participate in the annual Fossil Festival at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in Raleigh, 11.6. 

MISSISSIPPI:
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art will host a Grand Opening of their new museum  and will unveil “Blackberry Woman,” a Richmond Barthe bronze sculpture, on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Biloxi, 11.6.

PENNSYLVANIA:
The National Museum of American Jewish History hosts a Grand Opening Weekend showcasing several Smithsonian loans, in Philadelphia, 11.12-14. 

PUERTO RICO
Three José Campeche paintings travel for the first time from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, in San Juan, 11.18. 

FLORIDA:
Smithsonian Secretary, G. Wayne Clough, will give a public lecture at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, in Miami, 11.19. 

CALIFORNIA:
The SITES’ exhibition, Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 will open at the Sonoma County Museum, in Santa Rosa, 11.20. 

August 11, 2010

eric stanley: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our Summer at the Smithsonian series. Below, Eric Stanley, curator of exhibitions and collections at Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA), describes his spring residency at the Smithsonian. Special thanks to Eric Stanley for this post.

Eric meeting with Peter Liebhold and other curators at NMAH to discuss the "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibition

Seeking insights into the process of creating history exhibitions, I spent two weeks in March at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) through the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program. While I was expecting exposure to a select few elements of the process, it was my great pleasure to be introduced to many facets of creating exhibitions, as well as some other management and collections issues at NMAH. During the course of my program, I met over thirty people at the Smithsonian, mainly at American History, and was able to learn something from each of them. The time I spent with those individuals, each one knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and warmly receptive of my presence, was a tremendous benefit to me and my institution.

Early in my program, I met with Paula Johnson, Curator in the Division of Work and Industry. Our conversation focused mainly on the exhibition On the Water. She shared with me the various stages of exhibition conception and design; fundraising; label writing; artifact selection; which elements were most successful and why; and many other topics. As the Sonoma County Museum moves into the process of creating larger, longer term exhibitions, the exposure to Paula’s approach was useful.

Eric meets with Peter Liebhold and Steve Velasquez at NMAH.

Two particular appointments helped me appreciate the craftsmanship, planning and effort involved in the physical production of exhibition cases, graphics and other components. I met with Omar Wynn, Director of the Office of Exhibits Production at NMAH and toured the museum’s production areas. I also had the opportunity to see Omar and his staff at work in the First Ladies’ gallery in preparation for receiving and installing Michelle Obama’s gown. His outlook on the relationship between his production staff and the curators, and his intense commitment to uphold his standards was thought provoking and inspiring. Similarly, I had the unusual opportunity to tour the Office of Exhibits Central and met with graphic designers, curators, collections managers, and production people associated with the facility.

One of the most relevant and insightful meetings I had was with Nigel Briggs, Exhibit Designer. The core goal of my program was to gain some knowledge of contemporary exhibition design standards and aesthetics, which is a challenging and complex question. History exhibitions throughout the country take a remarkably diverse approach, so defining one standard is nearly impossible. However, Nigel provided me some very practical insights and discussed the “look” of a number of exhibitions and what made them appear dated or contemporary. My only regret was not being able to spend a little more time in conversation with him.

Finally, I had an exceptionally productive meeting with the team who created the Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 exhibition.  Since the Sonoma County Museum is taking this SITES exhibition in November, it was an enormous benefit to be able to interact with the people who actually created the exhibition. I had a chance to discuss their approach to the collection and oral histories from former braceros; we are planning to employ a similar approach to collect bracero oral histories locally. We also recently were awarded a SITES grant to support our programming for Bittersweet Harvest.

Eric was presented with a certificate of award from Affiliations Director Harold Closter and NMAH Affiliations Program Manager Rosemary Phillips.

There were other, very productive meetings that I did not mention here. The broad overview that I was provided through my program was an undeniably valuable experience and afforded me an unusual, insider’s glimpse of one of the finest history museums around. I could not have been more pleased with the support and encouragement I received from Smithsonian Affiliations staff and from the Affiliations Program Managers at NMAH. My participation in the Visiting Professionals Program is an experience I will never forget.

Next in the series: Annette Shumway- Affiliations Intern Partner from the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami, FL).

 

Privacy

site designed by - ivey doyal