I sat down with Lorili Ostman, Executive Director of the California Agriculture Museum, to talk about the museum’s current situation and it’s future. This is the second interview with Lorili, the first can be found here. This Thursday, 6/16, the museum is having its Tractors & Brews from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. I’ll share more information about this event tomorrow night!
For now, here is my talk with Lorili.
What projects are happening now?
Our main priority has been the name change to the California Agriculture Museum. All the behind the scenes paperwork is complete. Now we are working on the visual aspect; We have our new sign installed and our new logos is being developed. The building is looking fresh, both inside and outside.
What’s been most exciting is how the community has stepped forward and the number of volunteers who have come forward. It’s a really exciting change and we’re having a hard time keeping up with it. It’s a great problem to have! We’ve run some paper marketing and ads to feature the major tractor collection. People are taking notice and it means our plan of moving in a new direction is working.
What are the major ways funding comes into the museum?
We have our big fundraiser, Tractors & Brews on June 16th. It is a culmination of all the major gifts that have been given to us over the last year. Plus additional monies that will come the day of the event. We also have a special project that will be announced that night. I’m asking the community to support this project, so that’s another way we bring funding in.
The last time we spoke you mentioned grants are a funding source too? Can you tell me what that process is like?
We submitted a grant last winter and won’t know if it’s approved or not until this August. It’s a grueling process; It’s research, fact-finding, and then it’s uncovering that kernel of inspiration and theme that brings it all together. This is a humanities grant that has a scientific innovation category. Tractors are all about innovation and science and so is agriculture. So, we thought about how this all fit with our collection and what growers and pioneers were doing over 100 years ago. And we ran across some new writings at University California, Davis, who has been very helpful, that gave us hints in the direction we should take our grant proposal.
Our grant concept talks about how tractors and horses worked together for around 70 years before tractor technology caught up to the full range of the grower’s needs. One of the most interesting kernels that came up was it wasn’t the industrial revolution that spurred on tractor technology. It was the grower’s need that spurred tractor technology! Through this innovation, more product could be used beyond the local community. California began providing product to the entire world. This advancement spurred other innovations, thus creating an entirely new agricultural industry around fuel, fertilizers, science and education.
This sounds like a big picture story.
Although it’s the story being told in this grant, this is a story that should be told in our museum. And that’s what we are trying to do. It reaches a broader audience and something more of us can relate to. It adds to the tractor lore and adds fact, rather than myth. We want to share with you the connection between the history of the tractor and how it plays a role in your life today. The story of the science and technology is the bridge that will close the gap.
Where do you see the museum in one, five and 10 years from now?
I see the museum developing into more of a hands on type of museum. We’re starting to recognizing that museums are no longer mausoleums but that they are now engagement arenas for people to learn and become fascinated where we were 100 years ago and how far we’ve come.
I also see the museum morphing so that we are engaging a wide range of ages and across genders. I think in five years we will have art exhibits here that are ongoing. The audience has changed, they no longer want to see the same thing over and over again. The evidence of this is by how many times they return. The more rotation we can have of historic photos, exhibits and new items the more we can attract a broader population.
It is going to be a bigger and faster environment for museums in five to 10 years. We have to keep up and we have a collection that is worth making that effort.
All photos by Kelly Newsom