When I stood before the membership in June of last year, I had only been in this job six months and was still finding my way, as we began the crawl out of the Covid depths. It has been an amazing year of successes and challenges, which is inevitable in such a big transition. We have had a lot of staff changes and new initiatives over the last year. I thought I would share some of the behind the scenes action to give you insight into the inner workings of this amazing museum.
I will begin with our Curatorial Department. Kylin Cummings became Curator of Collections and Exhibits after long-time Chief Curator Mick Woodcock retired last year, and Registrar Alannah DeBusk took on the added responsibility of Collections Manager. These two young women do an excellent job, which you can see in the quality of the “To the Rodeo, Pardner!” exhibit and the care they take with our collection.
With Mick’s departure, responsibility for the Living History program shifted to our Education Department, led by Jenny Pederson. The Education Department also includes Dani Schulz, volunteer coordinator and programs assistant, and Brie Baker, program assistant. Thanks to a grant we were able to hire program assistant Kylie, and intern Megan joins us this summer from NAU.
We aim to expand our audience to more families and young people, and a key strategy for accomplishing this has been the expansion of monthly Living History Adventures. Between costumed interpreters and hands-on activities, visitors regularly stay for hours, with some families returning every month. The Living History Adventures are a work in progress, as we find new ways to create meaningful visitor experiences.
A Del Webb Foundation grant has enabled our Education Department to expand further programming, including monthly pop-up Hands on History programs and youth camps, which are both a new endeavor. We have enjoyed two very successful camps so far—“Toytastic!” in spring and “The Tales that Lay Before Us” this summer. July will see the return of our “A Day in the Life” program, a camp put on in collaboration with the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe, and this fall will bring a stem-focused camp called “Full Steam Ahead!” We also look forward to our ever-popular holiday events, Frontier Christmas and “A Frontier Christmas Carol.” The Education Department also oversees our tour program and outreach efforts to schools and community groups.
Our volunteers are truly the heart and soul of this museum. Many of our volunteers did not return after Covid and we are rebuilding—another new group of volunteers is nearing completion of our excellent training program. Our docent program alone requires a large core of volunteers, with two shifts a day in four buildings, six days a week. The volunteers’ friendly, knowledgeable engagement makes our visitor experience remarkable.
Our Library and Archives also depends on volunteers. Under the leadership of Librarian/Archivist Brenda Taylor and Reference Desk Coordinator Tom Schmidt, a truly astonishing amount of work was accomplished this year. From Tom’s cataloging of Sharlot Hall’s entire private library to the continued work on digitizing our historic photo collection, our Research Center is an extraordinary resource. Our popular Lecture series is coordinated by Brenda and Jenny, and we hope to expand it next year.
Our Facilities and IT Department is led by Neill Vickers, who filled a sore need for on-campus IT support and wears many hats. On Neill’s team, helping with Facilities, is Jose Gonzales, Tom Bengston, and intern Misty Wood. Finally, we welcomed new Groundskeeper Josh Nomland, who succeeded our much beloved Steve Whitley. This campus wouldn’t be the showplace that it is without the devotion and hard work of our dedicated groundskeeper and grounds volunteers.
Last but not least is our membership and development team. After Development Director Kathryn Joyce joined the staff last fall, we created an external relations team. Reporting to Kathy is Marketing and Communications Manager Laurie Dellinger, Development Associate Shirley Swift, and Admissions and Store Manager Abbey Bromley. There are also our wonderful front end staff at the Admissions Depot and the Store – Sean, Jeannie, Stuart and Whit. The External Relations team is developing new membership and private use platforms that will launch later this year and expand the ways supporters can engage with the Museum.
As we put the pieces into place to create a formal private use plan, Kathy has developed a list of preferred vendors who now join us as corporate partners. Swire Coca-Cola helped sponsor the “To The Rodeo, Pardner!” exhibit and has provided several wonderful banners that you can see around the property. We are excited to welcome as key partners Prescott Resort & Conference Center, Founding Fathers Collective, Sedona Monthly Magazine, Panera of Prescott, Cupcakes by Leanne, and Hensley Beverage Company.
The External Relations Team is putting together Sharlot’s Cellar, our premier wine event and fundraiser, which will take place August 27th. Another new community partner is the Arizona Philharmonic, who will perform with small groups at some of our events, including Sharlot’s Cellar. I was crushed to cancel last year’s Winefest at the last minute due to Covid-related issues, but we are back this year and it’s going to be better than ever. If you held on to your tickets from 2020 or 2021, they will be honored.
Our largest event of the year, the Prescott Indian Art Market, has been run for many years by Dave Lewis under contract to the museum. Dave is assisted by a core group of devoted volunteers and will be retiring after this PIAM so I am hoping 2022 will be the biggest and best Market so far. PIAM is September 17 and 18 at the Museum.
I would also like to introduce our new Finance Manager David Hernandez. David joins us from years as a key community partner with Freeport-McMoRan – we are delighted to welcome him to the team.
I want to say a personal thank you to my wonderful staff. It is amazing how much our small but mighty group accomplishes. I also want to thank the museum’s excellent Board of Trustees for their dedication to this museum, and our Volunteer Advisory Committee, which does a great job acting as liaison between our volunteer corps and the staff. I deeply appreciate the support you all have shown during this year of transition. And, of course, a gigantic thank you to our volunteers.
This has been a whirlwind behind-the-scenes tour of the Sharlot Hall Museum. I invite you to expand your involvement and know that your presence is what keeps the Museum as relevant today as when it first opened in 1928. I close with a few words from our founder, Sharlot Hall:
No generation lives for itself alone
But tomorrow rests upon the shoulders of today
As today rests upon the shoulders of yesterday.