Membership

Did you know that the Whaley House has a membership program? Like many cultural institutions we gain a lot of support from individuals purchasing museum memberships. This support is, in part, financial, but there is another element to it. By becoming a museum member, we feel our network grow. We like to think that, as a member you love sharing our story, events, and mission with others in the community. If we’re hosting a History happy Hour, we hope you’ll recommend it to friends. If we’re running a fundraiser, we hope that you’ll convince others to donate by expressing the passion that you have for our cause. When issues come to local government that affect historic districts, sites, or arts and culture funding, maybe you’ll think of how that could in turn touch the Whaley House and consider that in your opinion on the matter. Additionally, just knowing that there are people out there who see our organization as worthy of support helps us push through and continue on our path.

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The UM-Flint History Club also hosted events at the Whaley House and helped to volunteer. We hope to bring back institutional memberships so groups like this can benefit from the support they already give us.

In return for the support, members receive special benefits from the museum. There are free and discounted admissions, special members-only events, newsletters to make sure you know EVERYTHING that’s going on at the museum, and passes so you can bring friends. You can see all of the member levels and benefits here. Some of you may be wondering what membership to a closed museum would do for you, but we have a full lineup of programs for 2017 that members will receive discounts on. You’ll save $15 on tickets for the Whaley Dinner Club and additional discounts on our Mother’s Day Tea we are planning with Flint Handmade. There are also other programming ideas starting to form in our creative, history-loving minds. Additionally, your newsletter will keep you up to date during the restoration process and you’ll be invited to our Members Reception in December. And, as I said, membership let’s us know that you are like what we’re doing and that we’re on the proper course. We have done something worthy of earning your support.

This brings me to my final point…

Our Members Reception is coming! This event is one of my favorites, because it allows us to thank our members and unveil our Christmas decorations for the first time. This year, our reception will take place at the McFarlan Home, which was started in the Whaley House by a bequest made by Mary Whaley herself. There will be delicious food and drinks, prepared by Chef Jason Botz, fun activities, and updates on our restoration and 2017 programs. If you are a current member, we hope to see you. If you are interested in becoming a member you can contact the museum at (810) 471-4714 or email director@whaleyhouse.com and I can help you out. Now through December 1 we will be running a special and any membership purchase of $30 or more will receive a $10 discount! Please consider joining like-minded individuals in the preservation of one of our city’s landmarks and our mission to inspire historical inquiry in our community.

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Members Reception 2014

How Do You Like My Scaffolding?

Have you seen it?

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Scaffolding is up and work has finally begun on the house!

Those of you who live in the area or regularly drive past the house may have noticed that since the demolition wrapped up in January, no other work has really happened to the home. I have received many questions as myself and our Board of Directors have struggled to navigate this restoration process. Aside from coordinating the preliminary planning work of contractors, architects, engineers, and the city, we’ve struggled to work through the insurance process.

As most of you know, we didn’t start the fire (I think that’s a song…haha), so it has been the builder’s liability insurance with which we’ve been working. The struggle has been in explaining that the Whaley House isn’t just an old house. We aren’t a hobby of someone who likes old buildings, but an historic site listed on the National Parks Register of Historic Places. Beyond that, as a museum we operate with the trust of the public that we are honestly portraying history. This means, that making the house look old and restoring it in the period appropriate manner are two very different things. The people trust us to be responsible stewards of this local landmark.

Even though we have not yet come to a final agreement with the insurance company we know the agreement will pay for a roof. We need a roof before the poor house suffers through another winter, so we have decided to move forward with that piece of the project. As you drive by today, then, you will see them removing the chimneys, whose structural integrity was compromised by the fire and, after that, virtually the entire roof will need to be removed and rebuilt.

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We still have a VERY long road ahead of us. We were always told that, barring delays after starting, it would probably be a year to complete the entire project from the starting point. So, we kind of have it in our minds that early 2018 will be when you can look for our grand reopening. Our fingers are crossed that the insurance siutation can be settled soon and that work continues on schedule. Until then, we will still be holding offsite programs and trying to engage and enhance the community in that way. I will say that we will miss seeing everyone for Christmas once again!

All of the Things We Would’ve Told You

Moving through October with the museum closed has been hard. With the exception of last December, which was pure chaos to be honest, this has been the first big programming event that we have missed due to the fire. After three years of big Octobers, 2016 has been rough to deal with.

I thought, however, that I would share a taste of the creepy knowledge we usually bring to you in October.

One of my favorite stories regarding nineteenth-century spiritualism is that of the Fox sisters, Leah, Kate, and Maggie. Kate (11) and Maggie (14) lived with their parents in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York. In 1848 they made a bit of a commotion when they showed neighbors that they could communicate with a spirit in their home through a series of knocks, or spirit rappings as they came to be called.

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The Hydesville, NY home of the Fox Sisters. Image Courtesy of Smithsonianmag.com

The daughters were then sent on to live with their older sister, Leah, in Rochester but by then several community leaders had learned of the talents of the sisters and wanted to see more. They even presented their ability in front of a crowd of 400 at a rented hall. Once word got out others wished to see the sisters and they traveled to New York City and held seances, attended by prominent individuals such as Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Lloyd Garrison. After this they took their shows to different cities before marriages pulled them apart.

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The Fox Sisters (from left to right) Leah, Kate, and Maggie. Image courtesy of Smithsonianmag.com

In 1888 Maggie publicly stated that they had been faking the spirit communications, much to the dismay of many followers and members of the larger Spiritualist movement. One year later Maggie recanted her confession, but the movement no longer wished to associate themselves with her.  The sisters all passed and that’s how their story ends.

The Fox sisters helped to push the popularity of nineteenth-century Spiritualism in an age when religious reform movements, questions about the validity of religion and truth of the Bible, and the Civil War caused many to question their own faith and what would happen to them upon their passing. Although they were just a few girls in a sea of many proclaimed mediums, psychics, and spiritualists, their story has been fascinating Americans for decades.

Fundraising

You may have noticed several posts on our Facebook page about fundraisers. Be it our Whaley Dinner Club event or our FarmRaiser. I just wanted to explain what our fundraising needs are at the moment.

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As I have mentioned, I am trying to get the Whaley House out to the community. And by out, I mean physically out. With the museum closed, our programming needs to take place outside and, for the most part, offsite. This means that we need to rethink our events and the ways that we can engage people at them. This, coupled with the fact that we lost some things in the fire and the rest is packed away for storage and cleaning, means that we need to create new programs. That always requires new funds.

We hope you will support us as we try to think of innovative ways to see you all out and about this summer. It’s looking like it will be at least a year before things are finished. I can say that I personally miss inviting people into the Whaley House and sharing its story with everyone, but we will be around! You can see us at Applewood’s 100th Birthday Party, our Victorian Picnic, Family Fun Night at Applewood, and, of course, at various Lumber City Base Ball Club events.

Swing, Batter!

“For it’s one, two, three strikes” …sing it with me… “You’re out at the old ball gaaaaame!”

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Well that was fun!  I hope you were all singing along in front of your computer with me! I also hope you all are ready for another season of vintage ball with the Lumber City Base Ball Club! Our first home game was played on April 30 and you can catch us next Saturday, May 21, starting at noon!

This year, in addition to regular games, the Lumber City Base Ball Club will host two vintage base ball tournaments, the first of which is May 21. The Stockton Cup is named after Colonel Thomas Stockton, who lived right here in Flint. His house, now the Stockton Center (find out more about this site and the history of the Stockton family here!), was built in 1872 and is open for various events today. The tournament, though, will see four teams competing for, what is sure to become, the coveted Stockton Cup. Other prizes will be given out as well, including the Maria Stockton Award for Gentlemanly Conduct.

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A 2015 game in Saginaw against their Old Golds

If you’ve never been to one of our games, I would greatly encourage it. Not only is it a nice reason to be outside on a lovely day (weather permitting, of course), but it’s an interesting look into the history of base ball. Our players are dressed different, they have their own lingo, they don’t wear gloves, and they seem more supportive of one another than a game of ball today. It’s not uncommon for the first baseman to congratulate a runner on the quality of his strike (hit). And you know things are going well when shouts of “Huzzah!” are heard. It’s okay to just clap your hands as well, though.

The Whaley House is also looking forward to having a stronger presence at the games this year. With the museum closed for restoration, the games provide a great opportunity for us to talk to community members about the museum after the fire and to show that we are still around!

We hope to see you all next Saturday! Check out a complete Lumber City schedule, as well as the location of our field, on our website.

Owning Your Visit

How would you describe your last visit to an historic house museum? Was it business as usual? Was there a standard guided tour where the purpose of each room was noted, along with the period of the furniture? That, in my experience, is a standard historic house museum visit. In my recent Charleston visit, that was what happened. Velvet ropes kept me from wandering too far into the rooms. We were ushered from one room to the next, feeling as though lingering or get a perfect picture of the room held up the show.

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It’s important to have time to take in the small details.

Now, I’m not necessarily complaining, I still loved touching the rail of the staircase and hoping that George Washington had also touched it when he stayed at the house (history nerd moment!). But, could there have been more? When visiting the plantations, we opted not to pay extra for the house tours, because wandering the grounds at our leisure, watching the heritage breeds of animals, and taking in the look of the house from the outside was far more intriguing. Obviously a house in the middle of a city can’t have a farm, but what can we learn from these plantation experiences?

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This image is from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. The second floor of the building was used for important city meetings in the eighteenth century. Now you can wander around and just BE there. It also made leaving on my own more difficult. Just five more minutes!

What did I enjoy the most about the plantations? The opportunity to control my visit was like an historical choose your own adventure book. I was presented with a list of activities, the times at which they would take place, and I just got to be there. I could walk the nature trails, take in the sun, and watch the alligators sun themselves mere feet from me. How can we replicate this experience at the Whaley House.

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At Middleton Place I could’ve sat for hours and watched the alligator and turtles in front of an eighteenth-century chapel and ice house on the grounds.

Self-Guided tour days are an option. This allows individuals to enjoy the home at their own pace. We have our docents stationed throughout the house, ready to answer any questions you may have.

Available seating would allow people to sit down and just enjoy the rooms. This, coupled with some activities (board games, letters to read, a sewing activity etc.), might make for an enjoyable time that visitors could customize.

Extended Hours that could include a time for people to explore on their own, but also take part in a scheduled tour may be an ideal combination. This could allow people to explore the home on their own, learn about it in a tour, then revisit some of the things they want to see a bit better once the tour ends.

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We want visitors to have time to feel like they are part of the building’s history, not just a passerby.

Since we have already worked to improve the content of our tours, by adding more historical context to the information we know about the Whaley family, improving the visitor experience to fit the needs, interests, and schedules of every visitor who walks through our doors is of the utmost importance.

What do you think? How would you like something like this? What have been your experiences at various historic sites? We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

The Importance of Preservation

Recently, my husband and I took a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. I had never been and, as an historian specializing in the American Revolution, it was on my bucket list of places to visit. I had a long list of things to do including visiting museums, historic plantations, nature hikes, and more. In the four days we spent there, we only made it though half of the list. Now, I had compiled quite a long list of things to see and do, but we also just spent a lot of time wandering around the city, because we loved being there!

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The Heyward-Washington House

It was beautiful, the weather was lovely, and Charleston was so full of history! Alleys harkened back to the 18th-century city design. We toured dungeons that the British had used to hold treasonous patriots during the Revolution. The steeples of churches that had welcomed centuries of parishioners dotted the city skyline. We even passed by houses that signers of the Declaration of Independence and ratifiers of the Constitution had called home. I was in history heaven, to say the least.

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Charleston was founded in 1670, so it makes sense that they have 96 buildings on the National Parks Register of Historic Places, compared to Flint’s 26. Charleston has a museum, an historical society, and a preservation society; it seemed like every other building had a plaque on it stating the year it was built and who had called it home. Churches in the city (Charleston holds the nickname “The Holy City” for a reason) claimed to have the oldest congregation, the oldest building, cemeteries that held prominent Americans, and more! If they could be the first of something, they would claim it. I found it inspiring.

Although I felt a tinge of jealousy for this rich and illustrious history, it made me appreciate the structures we have here in Flint even more. Some were houses, some were businesses. Some, like the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Headquarters, are national landmarks. The list includes museums, offices, theaters, and more.Today we watch so much history being ripped down around us, that saving those few buildings that can be saved becomes ever more important. I have traveled to Europe (Greece and Italy to be exact) and the history you find there is so incredibly rich and attracts people from all over the world, as does a city like Charleston, or others like Boston (another history-rich city I’ve had the opportunity to explore) and they are able to preserve their history for the future and turn it into an asset for their residents.

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The Durant-Dort Carriage Company Headquarters

Presently, a cohort of public history professionals are working to promote the History Relevance Campaign to help spread the message that history is vitally important to life today. These individuals drafted a Value Statement which can be found here, but it emphasizes the value that history has in our communities. In addition to explaining the ways that history helps to develop critical thinking skills and reinforces civic duty, it explains that preservation can be a “catalyst for economic growth.” People are drawn to cities with a rich heritage and an appreciation for it. Creative and innovative people want to be involved in communities that are unique and have a strong sense of culture and heritage. Additionally, it can help bring in visitors and the money they spend while visiting.

Additionally, history is an important feature of a location’s sense of place. It illuminates who lived here, what they were like, the struggles they endured, and the successes they celebrated. History can help us appreciate the work done by generations before us. We can learn important lessons about how we should and should not act. And we learn about the shared memories, traditions, and responsibilities that unite us as a community. Without these reminders sprinkled throughout the city, it’s so easy to forget the past that unites us all as members of the Flint community. This is why preservation is important to the city and why we work so hard to ensure that the Whaley House continues as an important sentinel of  Flint’s past. If we don’t preserve, then who will?