Monthly Archives: September 2015

NC Branding

Has your institution been through a branding process in the past few years? Business leaders argue that globalization and web-based information networks require recognizable icons that instantly communicate information and impressions. Like all “best practices” of the business world, branding has transferred quickly to the cultural sector.

NC brandThe North Carolina Department of Commerce recently completed a statewide branding process and began its campaign to spread the new brand icon and slogan earlier this month. According to Commerce’s website, “The logo symbolizes the brand by focusing on the longleaf and other pine trees, a reflection of North Carolina’s strong roots and continued growth. The colors move from green to blue, mirroring the diverse landscape from the mountains to the sea. The tagline ‘Nothing Compares’ captures the excitement of being connected to a place rich in ideas and opportunities.”  Coincidentally, the NC icon has added significance for our own state agency, as the Dept. of Cultural Resources is bringing 5 divisions (previously from DENR) into its fold, transforming into a much larger Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

First-in-freedom-plate-jpgA different, more history-focused branding initiative is NC’s new license plate, which is currently an alternative to “First in Flight.” As of July 2015, car purchasers can choose the older, Wright-brothers-invoking license plate design or a “First in Feedom” plate, illustrated with a quill pen. License plates act as brand ambassadors, as drivers from one state travel far and wide. Perhaps the next license plate will incorporate the longleaf pine motif and “Nothing Compares” slogan. The “First in Freedom” design marks a revival of an older state license plate slogan used from 1975-1985. The two dates on the plate reiterate those commemorated in the state seal—those of protests for independence from Britian in both the Mecklenburg and Halifax areas, respectively.

The freedom license plate design dovetails a new initiative for our new NC Resources Dept.—“It’s Revolutionary.” Now that celebrations of the Civil War Sesquicentennial have simmered down, our department will be emphasizing the revolutionary rebellions and documents that North Carolinians generated 240 years ago. Museums and historic sites are already amplifying the revolutionary theme with special programs and exhibitions. Hopefully, these historically significant local stories will engage audiences across the state.

What North Carolina icons and slogans resonate the most with you and/ or your communities? Have your own branding efforts corresponded with institutional successes?

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Pros & Cons of Fire Recovery Workshops

This week our C2C staff is in Louisville Kentucky for the AASLH conference.  We’ll be discussing one of the big pushes of the CREST grant project—producing fire recovery workshops across the state. We hope to encourage those involved in coordinating professional development workshops in other states to consider whether hands-on fire recovery workshops would be useful to the groups they serve. This type of workshop is fairly unique in that we have partnered with a different fire station or training center to stage a controlled burn of a mock museum that we set up for each one. We’ve done 6 of these and covered the state fairly well geographically. They have all been different in terms of levels of damage to materials and the firefighting staff and procedures involved in each controlled burn. We’ve learned many lessons about working with the first responders, as well as the way materials react to fire, and recovery methods. We want to guide others from around the country to R&D—rip off and duplicate—what we’ve accomplished here in NC.

We’ll be sharing with those who join us the handouts we’ve developed for our participants as well as a supply list for the workshop and pointers for setting up the controlled burn. We’ve also identified some pros and cons for producing this type of workshop to help generate discussion for each attendee (and our blog readers) about whether this would be a viable training in their own areas.

  • Pro: Fire recovery workshops have been a useful hook into increasing disaster preparedness. The off-site, hands-on element is a more exciting topic than disaster planning and appeals to a wider range of participants. These workshops have also functioned as recruiting tools for both regional and statewide response teams here in NC.
  • poolNoodleMount2Con: They’re a lot of work! Controlled burns require regular rounds of accumulating and storing “expendifacts.” We don’t just stockpile junk but rather try to amass a range of materials (and proportions of them) found in typical historical museum collections. Multiples of the same thing are especially useful to test the protective qualities of various storage materials. Tagging and creating storage mounts, as well as taking photos of each object for an inventory, are labor intensive processes. In the final stages of preparation, the heavy lifting kicks in with loading, unloading, and reloading the cargo van.
  • Pro: The workshops have built bridges to emergency responders. By meeting the firefighter in charge of the controlled burn during the workshop, each participant has a contact in their regions. The firefighters we worked with first taught us about pre-plans and we’ve been able to spread the word about this key preparedness step as we travel around the state. Additionally, the triage tags we use for artifact recovery are modeled after FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team triage tags for human victims. By using a similar system, we’ve allowed the firefighters to gain a quick understanding of our goals.
  • Con: Preparations for these workshops requires a great deal of staff time. You need months (and quite a bit of storage space) to accumulate the stuff you’ll burn. If an inventory is part of the workshop (and it has been for ours), the documentation takes roughly a week of full-time work. Another week is necessary for creating storage mounts, packing boxes, loading, and set-up.
  • Pro: These workshops have been a useful deaccessioning outlet for institutions around the state (and even beyond, in one case). 7 museums/ libraries have given us items to burn that could not be sold at auction.
  • TextilesPostburnCon: The controlled burns require regular buying and wasting of supplies. In addition to buying expendifacts from thrift stores and yard sales, storage supplies get used up regularly. Metal shelving has been the toughest supply to replenish cheaply. Tyvek and muslin garment covers and padded hangers need to be re-created before each burn.
  • Pro: Ultimately, these workshops have been effective as active learning events. Participants have worked with key concepts such as the Incident Command System, practiced triage and fire recovery steps for a variety of materials, and witnessed the reactions of various storage materials to fire.

Do you think it would be worth trying one of these workshops in your own area? Please get in touch, if you’d like more information. We’re happy to share!

HH Museum Anarchist Updates

We’ve previously reported on Historic House Museum Anarchist activity here in NC, centering on UNC-Charlotte, where co-anarchist Deborah Ryan is a professor, and Körner’s Folly, one of two primary sites of the Anarchists’ recent study.  The Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums will be published soon (this fall) by Left Coast Press and this spring Ryan and co-authors published a preview article in the Public Historian. That article concentrates Körner’s Folly and another historic house museum in New York. The authors studied both sites according to an assessment chart they’ve developed. Although the anarchists cited room for improvement, they generally gave Körner’s Folly impressive scores in the 5 categories of assessment: community, communication, experience, environment, shelter. Given the anarchists’ fairly radical ambitions for historic house museums to transform themselves and engage audiences, Körner’s Folly’s overall score of 3.02 out of 5 seems pretty good. (Executive Director, Dale Pennington, posted her thoughts on being part of the study several months ago in this forum.)

Recently, the anarchists have orchestrated a controversial project in New York that highlights a collection object from an historic house museum as well as using an historic building in a new way. (left) This makes an even bigger splash than previous projects incorporating artist interpretations of collection objects and is, at least, a creative attempt to connect a wider community with an institution’s collections. Might this be replicated on/ for one of NC’s cultural heritage institutions?  What do you think about bright murals on 18th-century wood siding?

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