When new museum director Lisa Evans became pregnant with her September child, she became inspired to breathe new life into the museum, a cherished vault of history in serious need of some updates.
“It’s a really big year for us,” Evans said. “It’s the museum’s 50th anniversary. There’s no time like the present.”
But she knew she couldn't do it alone.
Call to Action
Since she took the position as director of the St. Albans Museum, Evans has mandated that the museum belongs first to the people of the community, and should represent and serve them in its capacity.
But most of the museum’s exhibits and offerings, Evans said, haven’t been changed since the 1970’s.
“We want to contemporize the museum,” Evans said. “And what better way to get the community to voice what they want to see here than for us all to get together. We want to know how to reshape the museum, and how the community wants this to become a community focus space, to modernize our displays and make sure what we offer is relevant.”
So Evans decided she would create space for that dialogue, and is reaching out to the community to ask that they come to the museum and walk around, see what the museum currently offers, and give their opinion on what things they would like to see change.
“We would like to get focus groups of all types, including sponsors, large donors, local community members and non-members, and specifically members of the BIPOC community,” Evans said. “We’d like to see representation from accessibility-focused groups, and definitely members of the Abenaki community. We have all of these different angles that we know need to be addressed, and the people working in the museum aren't the ones who can offer perspective. It’s our community.”
Since the museum is officially reopening on July 2, Evans said she’d like for the focus groups to begin in July and run through the summer to make the 50th year of the museum a truly transformative and representative one.
Any member of the community who wants to offer their perspective on what they would like to see as part of the St. Albans Museum can contact the museum directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (802) 527-7933 to reach a volunteer or Evans herself, and be asked between five and ten questions about themselves.
The questions, Evans said, are to better identify the interested volunteer as representative of a demographic group to schedule out visits on specific days.
“We want to schedule them when it is convenient for them,” Evans said. “We will have two to three sessions they can choose from to join. They’ll be given a choice of dates because we want to get the groups together. Participants will be given free time in the museum, a questionnaire, then there will be a debriefing session afterwards.”
Volunteers will be allowed free roam of the museum with clipboards and writing utensils to take down notes and thoughts as they peruse the halls, Evans said.
Group assignments for specific dates will happen a week or two in advance, so that the volunteers will know well in advance when they will be called to give their perspectives on the museum and its pathway forward, Evans said.
When and where
Evans said the focus groups will happen on the days that the museum is closed to the public: Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. beginning around July 18th.
Volunteers will even get a free provided lunch, Evans said.
“We recently realized there’s a lack of returning families to the area,” Evans said. “There’s a lack of kid-friendly, kid-centered places in St Albans. A museum could offer that, to make this a space where families could come again and again. A space that sparks curiosity and encourages connection, to our history and to each other.”