Training designed to help museum directors share history

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pioneer Museum of Alabama director Kari Barley and assistant director Seth Kinard returned Tuesday from a whirlwind training week that extended from Mobile to West Virginia.

Their first stop was in Mobile for the annual Alabama Museum Association Conference and then it was on to the Southeast Regional Meeting of the Association for Living History, Farming and Agriculture (ALFAM) at Jackson’s Mill, Weston, West Virginia.

Barley said the Alabama Museum Association Conference focuses on all museums where the ALFAM meeting was specific to pioneer and folk life museums.

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“Both of the conferences were beneficial in different areas,” Barley said. “The Alabama Museum Association Conference targeted art museums and history museums and everything in between. The greatest benefit of the conference was connecting with other museums in our state and meeting those who operate and work in those museums.”

Barley said those connections are important in knowing where to go for information and support.

“We can learn from and build on those associations,” she said. “We have someone to reach out to if issues arise.”

Representatives from the different museums were interested in the living history programs offered at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.

“We have a museum that is different from many of the museums in Alabama and lot of interest was shown in the programs that we offer,” Barley said.

The ALFAM Southeast Regional Meeting focused on the use of living history techniques in museum programs. Barley said she and Kinard were interested in knowing more about the different techniques that could enhance the pioneer museum’s programs.

“The Pioneer Museum of Alabama hosts several annual events that offer hands-on activities for visitors to the museum,” Barley said. “But I don’t often get to participate in those activities. At the ALFAM meeting, Seth and I got the opportunity to operate a gristmill and to do some blacksmithing.

“It was educational for us to experience what is like to actually grind corn in a large mill. And, I now have a greater appreciation for blacksmiths. They make the work look easy but it’s not. Holding a little ‘s’ hook with those big, heavy tongs is hard. Especially, since you have to hold them with the ‘wrong’ hand while you swing the hammer with the ‘right’ hand.”

Programming and organizational ideas proved to be value for the directors of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.

“We came home with some ideas that we would like to implement, especially those involving adult programming,” Barley said.

“We shared information and photographs with other museums and visited Jackson’s Mill, which is a fantastic place. That’s where we got to operate the grist mill.

“ What made that an even greater experience, was that it was same mill that Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson operated.”

Barley said both conferences were fertile training grounds and the contacts, friendships and experiences will be valuable in the planning and implementation of new program ideas presented.

As for now, it’s spring planting time at the museum. Ground has to be broken for the garden, weeds have to hoed around the cabins and plans have to be finalized for the Spring Plantin’ Day in May.

“As always, volunteers are welcome,” Barley said. “We have plenty to do and another helping hand is very much appreciated.”

Anyone who is interested in volunteering at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, for a day, for special events or year around, is encouraged to call the museum at 334-566-3597 or visit the museum between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.