The Museum Assessment Program
In 2012, the Western Railway Museum completed the Museum Assessment Program (MAP). This is a program of the American Alliance of Museums (of which we are a member). MAP helps small and mid-sized museums strengthen operations, plan for the future, and meet national standards through self-study and a site visit from a peer reviewer. MAP provides approximately $4,000 in consulting services, but the organization undergoing the assessment pays only a fraction of that, thanks to funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the only agency in the federal government whose specific purpose is to support museums.
Museums participating in MAP undergo a 140-question self-assessment, complete at least 2 self-assessment activities, and host a site-visit by a peer reviewer, i.e., another working professional from the museum field with experience relevant to our focus areas. We chose to focus our MAP Assessment on 3 areas: collections management, interpretation, and preparing for eventual accreditation (or certification of our competency, authority, credibility, and application of best practices).
Our site reviewer was Burt Logan, Executive Director of the Ohio Historical Society, a membership organization that manages 58 historic sites and museums. He gained experience as President of the USS Constitution Museum, a museum (like ours) that collects large artifacts, but he also has experience with smaller museums like the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he managed the operations of a research library, museum, and historic house. Burt was recently elected to the governing council of the American Association for State and Local History (of which we are also a member).
Burt visited the Museum last August and met with 20 different Museum members, volunteers, and staff to get their views on the organization, our strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats, and areas of improvement, paying particular attention to our collection of historic artifacts, how we currently interpret them, and what steps would be required for us to pursue accreditation.
His observations and recommendations are contained in his Organizational Assessment Final Report, which you can download as a .pdf using the link above. The MAP team (Phil Kohlmetz, Stephen Greger, Paul Zaborsky, and John Holt), and many Board members feel that he did a good job listening to us. He complimented us on the strength and focus of our collection, and on the incredible perseverance and dedication of our volunteers. He also heard our concerns about how to connect better the public with the history we preserve, and how to pass on our values to a new generation. He offered candid, honest observations and recommendations.
The Board is seriously committed to tackling these issues, and has appointed three ad hoc committees to address them. If you're a Museum member and would like to participate in the discussion, consider joining our focus group that begins on April 6, 2013 at 2pm. We'll start by talking about the MAP process, reviewing the self assessment, and taking a "gut-check" of where the organization is today. In the 2nd meeting on April 20 at 2pm, we'll review the MAP Final Report and talk about its recommendations and implications.
It took us the better part of year to go through the MAP process. We thought it would be the culmination of our 60-year history. What we're finding is that there's plenty of journey left ahead of us, and that the next trip is just beginning. We hope you'll stick around for the ride!
Main Line Extended to Birds Landing Road
On June 30, 2012 the Western Railway Museum opened a new segment of track for our interpretive ride on the historic Sacramento Northern right-of-way. Visitors can now take a 10-mile round trip ride all the way from the Museum, past the historic Shiloh Church and Gum Grove (site of our annual Pumpkin Festival), over Shiloh Road and all the way to Birds Landing Road.
“The view and the experience for the public will be so much better,” said John Coleman, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Directors. “We used to stop just south of Shiloh Road. With the new track extension, we’ll get around a curve where the views of the Suisun Marsh and Mount Diablo really open up.”
The Museum’s volunteers have been working on refurbishing the track and rebuilding the overhead electric lines for the past 10 years. Over 10,000 volunteer hours and more than $660,000 have gone into the project.
Track Superintendent Joel Cox and Overhead Lines Superintendent Chris Pagni did exceptional work. They used drawings and plans preserved in our own Archives from when the line was first built in 1912 to achieve as much historic accuracy in their work as possible. This is hard physical labor. They did a great job of keeping their volunteers motivated and productive. It’s truly a labor of love, and we’re delighted to share it with the public.
The Museum is also adding a whole series of new interpretive displays at the new loading platform. Panels highlight our area’s natural and human history, from the native Patwin people to the first settlers. In addition, vintage-style ads will highlight local businesses that support the Museum and promote the Museum’s annual events, such as the spring wildflower and wine tasting trains and the Pumpkin Festival.
The celebration on June 30 began with a breakfast for donors of $1000 or more to the project and invited guests. They took an inaugural ride to Birds Landing Road to inspect the new extension. Beginning with the 11am trip, regular interurban runs now all proceed down the newly expanded line all the way to Birds Landing Road.
Click here to see a video of the day’s events, shot by one of our Museum members, Dave Bellici.
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The Western Railway Museum is a project of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, tax-exempt, educational institution. Powered by ShowTel