NAAM E-NEWS – April 2016, Volume 18, Issue 2
In This Issue
By: Terry Ernest
Is there a future for Auto Museums?
That was the question I was asked not long ago when I was called for an interview by an East Coast based magazine. At first I was quite taken aback. Of course there is a future for Auto Museums, in fact it seemed initially like a stupid question. But the reality is that sometimes you must ponder difficult questions, and it is reasonable to consider the future of auto museums (or any business) in general. We should also consider what is our particular museum’s motive to stay in business? Are we still “selling” what the public wants to buy? Are we relevant in today’s society? Are visitors still coming through the door?
I hope you nodded your head yes to all of those questions. All of NAAM’s member museums have a unique and compelling story to tell. Stories that need to be told. But beside telling your story, what are you doing to engage your visitors? Keeping visitors engaged and wanting to return is something that all successful museums must do. We all have concepts that work and some that don’t. Why not share your experiences with other NAAM museums. Have a great idea? Or maybe something that didn’t work out? Share it on the NAAM Forum at: www.naam.museum/forums/
Belonging to an association such as NAAM gives me an opportunity to talk to other museums and “pick their brains” about various topics. I had a discussion with a younger curator at a large museum recently about what young people want in their museum experience. I was thinking along the lines of more electronic displays and signage tags that they could scan with their ever-present phones. Things along those lines. The reality, he told me (and he was the age of the demographic we were discussing), was they wanted to see the actual artifact in person. They could certainly Google for whatever they were looking for and find out most, if not all, the information they wanted to know about the subject, but the part that was missing was something that their phone screen could not give them; the actual artifact in person. Their phone could not deliver the actual size, shape, color, or presence of the object. Another display that comes to mind is a hand cranked working cut-away Willys-Knight sleeve valve engine. The visitor can crank the engine to see how it functions and get a better understanding of how all the complex parts work together. And by turning it at their own speed it allows their mind to comprehend and readily understand better than a YouTube video could ever do.
So back to the original question, is there a future for auto museums?
And by being a member of an organization like NAAM gives you a heads up on staying up with the ever changing world of museums. Utilize your membership in NAAM. Be active on the Forum. Ask question and answer the ones you can. Take a moment to chat with a colleague at another museum. It is amazing how these networking opportunities can pay off!
The National Association of Automobile Museums is a professional center of excellence for automobile museums and affiliated organizations that supports, educates and encourages members to operate according to professional standards of the museum industry.
Consulting Curator for the Studebaker National Museum
Our museums have a purpose, that is to “collect, preserve and interpret.” I attribute that simple and succinct phrase to Leslie Kendall, Curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum. Those three words encompass a wide range of activities a museum performs. But what do these words mean for your institution? What are the mechanics behind this phrase?
In the first of my series of Curatorial Spotlights focusing on this phrase I will discuss collecting, because without a collection of objects, there is nothing to preserve or interpret.
Museums, by nature, are prone to hoarding, but we must temper that attitude. It is common for a museum to collect everything or anything that is even remotely related to its mission. But that creates a curatorial conundrum. These objects can create a backlog of registrar work stretching into years. The greater danger is losing focus of a museum’s unique story and mission. By creating and (sticking to!) a collections focus, your museum will use limited resources most efficiently. A specific collections focus lays the foundation for a coordinated interpretation plan that will tell your museum’s unique story.
Here is a real life example which many of my fellow curators will relate to. I once was a volunteer for a historical society. I was involved in auditing their collection that was on display. Once I came upon a corner of the museum that was overflowing with farming tools. I asked if they were significant to the local farming community. I was told there was no local connection – they were just old farming tools. “Bad museum!” is my internal rebuke, because that kind of collecting is neither helpful to the public or the institution. Those tools held no connection to the past of that community, they were not being used to illustrate a sector of the community’s life or economy, they had little to no interpretation and many were rusty and broken. Museums are NOT recycling or dumping grounds, yet we let ourselves be treated that way.
Be honest with a potential donor. You may only need a portion of what they are offering so tell them that is what you will accept. I once worked in a museum that had thirty boxes of magazines that were finally deaccessioned and designated for sale but no one wanted to take the time to deal with them so they consumed an entire closet that was needed for education materials. Of those thirty boxes only a slim eight or nine magazines were deemed appropriate for the archives. For all I know they are still in that closet to this day. So even when you decide to monetize duplicate materials, sorting through them still takes staff and volunteer time, so ask yourself if it is worth taking stuff you just do not need. Don’t ever take a donation you do not want because you believe or have been verbally promised a donation you do want – because you will never get it!
Create a collections focus and plan, in that order. What makes your museum unique, what local transportation history is there to tell? Once you identify the focus, create a plan: what do you need to fulfill your mission and collections focus? Create a wish list of autos and objects that you would love to acquire to help tell that story. Look carefully at your current collection and begin thinking seriously about finding new homes for items that are not contributing to your institution’s story and are taking up valuable museum real estate. Keep in mind it is our duty to care for the objects we take in – so be careful what you take! Don’t be that car museum which accepts the donation of a random car that has no purpose in telling your museum’s story. Because it will end up languishing in the corner of a gallery, or worse, the basement of the storage building. I will say more on that subject in my next article dealing with preservation.
I hope this article spurs discussion at our upcoming NAAM conference which is sure to be a thought-provoking event. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
NEWS FROM MEMBER MUSEUMS
Experience Transportation History!
The Forney Museum of Transportation is a one-of-a-kind collection of over 600 artifacts relating to historical transportation. It began 60 years ago with a single 1921 Kissel, but soon expanded to include vehicles of all kinds. Today it includes not just vehicles, but also buggies, motorcycles, steam locomotives, aircraft, carriages, rail equipment, fire apparatus, public transportation, sleighs, bicycles, toys & diecast models, vintage apparel and much, much more!
Our collection highlights include: Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’ Steam Locomotive #4005, Amelia Earhart’s 1923 Kissel ‘Gold Bug’, Forney Locomotive, Colorado & Southern Caboose, 1923 Hispano-Suiza, 1913-53 Indian Motocycle Collection, Denver & Rio Grande Dining Car, Stutz Fire Engine, 1888 Denver Cable Car, 1923 Case Steam Tractor, 1817 Draisenne Bicycle, 500 Piece Matchbox Collection, and more!
Model A Ford Foundation, Nonantum, Massachusetts
The First Model A Ford
The Model A Ford Museum is proud to have on display the first of the more than five million Model A Fords produced.
As the long-awaited replacement for the Ford Model T automobile, the first Model A Ford rolled off the assembly line on October 20, 1927. This was only about 40 days prior to the official Model A introduction date of December 2, 1927. This car was a Tudor Sedan and has often been seen in Ford promotional photographs showing Henry Ford stamping serial number “1” on its engine block.
Henry presented this car to his best friend, Thomas A. Edison. When Henry later found out that Edison really preferred an open car, he had the Tudor Sedan body removed and replaced with a Phaeton body. This car, which has been slightly modified by Ford Motor Company factory personnel, is on loan from the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn Michigan. Among the more than 25 Model A Fords on display, the Model A Ford Museum is also proud to feature two additional very early Model A Fords – with serial numbers 495 and 1209.
The Model A Ford Museum is located on the campus of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. After many years of planning and fund-raising by the Model A Ford Foundation, Inc. (MAFFI), the long-awaited Museum was opened in May 2013.
The theme of the Museum is “A Stroll throughout the Model A Years.” The Museum exterior is a representation of a 1929 Ford dealership – complete with two tall Gulf gasoline pumps. The Museum interior was designed to display major historical, political and economic events that occurred during the tumultuous years of the Model A Ford. The vehicles used to carry out this theme begin with a Model T Ford and continue, in chronological order, with examples of the various Model A Ford body styles built between 1927 and 1931.
Visit the MAFFI website (www.maffi.org) for more information about MAFFI and the Model A Ford Museum.
We are already pushing ahead with the next exhibit for the summer. Star Cars is already shaping up to be quite a winner! Pandora Paul, Director of Education, has managed to hunt down some spectacular vehicles from many different genres of film and television.
The star of the show will be an actual car (a 1958 red Plymouth Fury) used in the filming of Christine. Based on a book by Stephen King and directed by John Carpenter, Christine is the story of a car gone very, VERY bad!
We plan to have a screening of the film later in the summer. We will have a food truck in the parking lot that night so you can experience a unique version of dinner theatre at the museum. This exhibit will open June 4th.
The Studebaker National Museum proudly announces its 2016 “Champion” — Rebecca J. Bonham. Mrs. Bonham will be honored at the Museum’s Fifteenth Annual Hall of Champions Dinner, on Thursday, April 21, 2016, at the Museum.
The purpose of the Hall of Champions Dinner is to honor an outstanding individual and/or company that has contributed to the success of the Studebaker Corporation, the Studebaker National Museum, the transportation industry or the auto collector hobby in an extraordinary way. The Award may also honor a South Bend area pioneering business which exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of the Studebaker family.
Under Becky’s leadership, the Museum secured funding to design and construct its new Chapin Street facility; she also successfully guided the Museum to become only the third automotive museum to achieve accreditation from the prestigious American Alliance of Museums. During her tenure, the Studebaker National Museum also secured a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Parks Service to conserve its eight “National Treasures” which includes four Presidential carriages. In 2008, Becky worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the City of South Bend to convert the former “Jelly’s Bar” into the new Studebaker National Museum Archives building.
Becky has represented the Museum through several professional industry organizations, including the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum Store Association, the Society of Automotive Historians, as well as the National Association of Automobile Museums. She serves as a professional peer reviewer with the American Alliance of Museum’s accreditation program. She received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Service, was the recipient of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious Athena Award, The Studebaker National Museum is honored to induct Mrs. Rebecca J. Bonham into the 2016 Hall of Champions.
Call for Proposals
Putting Preservation on the Road: Protecting Our Overlooked Automotive Heritage in the Twenty-first Century
Date: October 20-22, 2016
Location: Historic Vehicle Association Research Laboratory, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) and the Historic Preservation & Community Planning Program at the College of Charleston are pleased to announce the following call for papers for an international conference on the preservation of automotive heritage.
For much of the twentieth century heritage preservation primarily focused on sedentary objects (i.e., 1906 Antiquities Act in the United States, 1919 Historic Sites and Monuments Board in Canada, etc.). While some countries have studied and documented vehicles for preservation and/or conservation, their official recognition as landmarks or on registers of official distinction has largely been overlooked. This is most apparent within the field of automotive heritage. For example, within the United States there are over 90,000 separate listings for buildings, sites, structures, districts, and other objects on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Vehicles on the NRHP include historic ships, railroad locomotives and streetcars, equipment related to the space age, and so forth – but not a single automobile or similar vehicle related to this form of transportation. This is also the case for the approximate 12,500 sites on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. Individual automotive vehicles by themselves are not listed as contributing elements – just the stationary buildings and sites. Considering that there is a precedent for both, such as moving ships and trains as well as stationary buildings and places on automotive heritage, the question becomes “why not automobiles?”Hence the newly-created National Historic Vehicle Register (NHVR), which can be used as a tool to carefully and accurately document the most historically significant automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and commercial vehicles, as well as recognize the dynamic relationship between people, culture, and their means of transportation.The NHVR was developed by the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior in March 2013 to explore how vehicles important to American and automotive history could be effectively documented. Using Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) standards, this project is the first of its type to create a permanent archive of significant historic automobiles within the Library of Congress (see historicvehicle.org/national-historic-vehicle-register/).
The issue of overlooking historic vehicle preservation becomes further exasperated when we consider that none of the accredited programs in historic preservation and heritage conservation (more than sixty with the National Council of Preservation Education, a dozen with the National Roundtable of Heritage Education, among others in various countries) offer permanent coursework on the subject, let alone any other form of training or directed study. This is significant when we consider how much of our global economy, landscape, built environment, culture, and way of life across the world has been affected by the automobile. The NHVR is an important starting point in our efforts to study the role of automobiles in the formation of our cultural landscapes, but there is much work that must follow. Automobiles have been designed no less than buildings or furniture to engage with broader cultural phenomena, to answer – and indeed to inspire – human needs and desires that are inseparably intertwined with time and place. Furthermore, cars have been interpreted and re-interpreted by human beings in complex ways that often go beyond the intentions of their designers; they are cultural products not only of broad and powerful impact, but also of great complexity, and as such they must be contextualized in historical research if they are to be understood. Just because automobiles move should not be the disqualifying reason for not studying them. Indeed, we have lost much of our automotive heritage due to this lack of awareness, especially when considering that in the United States alone, prior to 1930, there were over 2,600 different automotive manufacturers. Today we are left primarily with the “Big Three” and a handful of minor manufactures. Not all pre-1930 companies were based in traditional places of manufacture Michigan, Bavaria (Germany), or Turin (Italy). For instance, South Carolina had its own independent companies, such as Anderson, during the 1910s and 1920s. Other countries too, whom we don’t normally think of as having their own homegrown auto industry, at one time did. Among these are the nearly forgotten Canadian manufactures Derby, Gray-Dort Motors, and Russell Motor Car Company. This local and regional heritage has largely been forgotten.
Suggested presentation topics may include, but are not limited to:
- Case studies of regional and local automotive culture and heritage, including those viewed through the lens of ethnic/regional studies (American studies, Women’s studies, material culture studies, studies of nomadic peoples, etc.)
- Considering if there is a world automotive heritage, whether UNESCO or ICOMOS should be encouraged to get involved, and the role of FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) as part of this.
- Innovative ways to add the preservation of automotive heritage to the educational curriculum within colleges/universities, high schools, and technology schools.
- Make better known the NHVR as an appropriate alternative to the NRHP for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles: If “this place matters”, then by extension, there is the argument that “this car matters” too.
- Using HAER/HABS techniques for studying and documenting historic vehicles, as well as exploring innovative techniques and tools through the use of new technologies
- Reevaluating listed historic places and sites, as well as considering new places where buildings and landscapes (etc.) are tied with vehicles and people, in a more comprehensive designation that ties together the NHVR and NRHP, where both building/structure and car/vehicle elements are equally contributing.
- Case studies of best practices related to preservation, conservation, restoration, adaptive reuse, and reconstruction of automobiles and associated material culture.
- Recognizing important designers of automobiles in the same manner as architects.
- Vernacular automotive design and use vs. haute design and auto racing preservation, in order to better understand the cultural meaning of vehicles for ordinary people in their everyday lives.
- The approaches of allied fields in the preservation of automotive heritage, such as public history, archaeology, museum studies, cultural resource management, design/architectural history, etc.
- Automobility and the environment, such as the rehabilitation of historic automobiles, and its relationships with energy efficiency, embodied energy and so forth in transportation (“is the greenest car one that has already been built?”)
- Establishing standards for the proper treatment of historic vehicles so as to define what is appropriate preservation, rehabilitation and restoration. This can include the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, as well as the Standards and Guidelines for Conservation in Canada, among others, as well as qualification standards for the people who work on them. The Turin Charter (2012) can serve as a template for such standards in a similar way to the Athens (1933) and Venice (1964) charters do for buildings.
- Preserving historic vehicle trades, maintenance and materials to prevent them from becoming a dying vocation through the preservation of automobiles in a manner similar to building trades professions. The way we once built and maintained cars is a fading practice, akin to traditional building trades (carpentry, plastering, etc.), especially when you consider that it is now standard for cars to no longer have an oil dipstick, let alone other DIY maintenance accessories.
- Analyzing the contributions of automotive preservation heritage events, auto shows, museums, etc. to the economy and tourism – information that is not always fully included in Main Street programs and other economic development initiatives related to preservation planning.
The program committee invites proposals from people of all backgrounds and professions to participate – from senior professionals to students with innovative ideas –for the following:
1. Paper Session: We prefer to receive proposals for complete three to four paper sessions but will consider individual presentations as well. You are welcome to include a chair and/or moderator or the conference committee will appoint a chair. The entire panel presentation should span no more than 60 minutes.
2. Individual Papers: If accepted, we will place your individual presentation on a panel or roundtable selected by the committee.Paper presentations should span no more than 20 minutes.
3. Roundtables: Discussions facilitated by a moderator with three to five participants about a historical or professional topic or issue. Roundtables should span no more than 60 minutes.
4. Workshops/Demonstrations: Interactive presentations led by facilitators to encourage learning about a professional topic or issue. Workshops/demonstrations should span no more than 60 minutes.
5. Posters/Short Film: Interactive presentations produced and facilitated to encourage learning about a professional topic or issue. Poster presentations and short films should span no more than 10 minutes.
Please submit proposals of no more than 500 words and a brief CV/resume (two pages maximum) in a PDF or MS Word format to Barry L. Stiefel at email@example.com. Deadline for proposals is May 15, 2016. Proposals should include the name(s) of presenters, affiliation/position and contact information. While the Historic Vehicle Association and the College of Charleston are based in the United States, and has influenced our worldview, we desire this to be an international conference and encourage the participation of others from elsewhere. The official language of the conference will be English, though presentations may be conducted in other languages. For people who desire to present in a language other than English,abstracts should be sent in the vernacular of the presenter as well as English to ensure the review committee can adequately evaluate. Decisions on proposals for the conference will be made by June 1, 2016.
From the conference we anticipate publishing an edited volume of scholarship with a distinguished press or journal.
For participants traveling more than 100 miles to Allentown, Pennsylvania (50 miles for students),assistance with travel and accommodations for the conferencewill be considered. Please provide a budget of what you need assistance within your proposal, as well as what other resources from which you anticipate receiving support. A registration fee will be required for the conference (likely around US$25 as part of the RSVP system), which will come with a one-year membership with the HVA.
Conference Organizers: Barry L. Stiefel, Assistant Professor, College of Charleston, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Gessler, President, Historic Vehicle Association
Casey Maxon, Historic Vehicle Association
Nathaniel Walker, College of Charleston
Amalia Leifeste, Clemson University
Nancy Bryk, Eastern Michigan University
Jeremy Wells, Roger Williams University
Amanda Gutierez, McPherson College
Richard O’Connor, Chief for Heritage Documentation Programs, Dept. of Interior
Alex Gares, Canadian Automotive Museum
The Historic Vehicle Association and the College of Charleston also seek to encourage the support of historical/heritage and education-related institutions and organizations on the topic of automotive heritage preservation. Kindly contact Barry L. Stiefel at email@example.com if you should be interested in showing your support, which will be recognized in the conference program and other materials, as appropriate.