Thursday, March 16, 2017

Benchmarking

During my time at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, my main job is to design new youth programs that align with the educational standards set forth by the Ohio Department of Education. Though Stan Hywet already offers some youth programming, these new tours will make the museum more marketable towards schools as a field trip destination since they are designed to purposely align with grade level appropriate content. This will also enhance the museum's community impact and outreach, as well as providing it with a broader target audience. 

My first step in designing these new tours was to benchmark the youth programs offered by similar museums around the country. I began by researching other historic house museums and doing an in depth look at their youth programming. After researching the tours the other institutions offered, I paired the tours up with the ODE standards they each addressed. I put all of this information into a spreadsheet, and used it to determine what direction I wanted to go in with the tours I was designing. 

Benchmarking Spreadsheet 
I also contacted the educational directors at most of the institutions I analyzed in an effort to get extra information about specific youth tours, concerning docent training and tour scripting. This information will help in the later stages of tour development when we begin training the manor house interpreters to give the new tours. 

Cleaning the Library

"Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.” - Robin Sloan

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to read. For me, that meant spending absurd amounts of time in the local library when I was growing up. I read anything I could get my hands on; fiction and nonfiction, fairy tale and adventure, classics and new releases. Eventually, I developed favorites (like The Great Gatsby, which I've read twenty-seven times - but who's counting?). When I toured the manor house for the first time and found out the Seiberlings had their own personal library, I was beyond excited, and it quickly became one of my favorite rooms in the house. When I found out that I was going to get to help clean it prior to Stan Hywet reopening for the 2017 season, I was even more delighted. 

The Seiberlings' library is magnificent. It features countless books, as well as a fireplace, plush furniture, and state-of-the-art light amenities - including removable light fixtures along the shelves that can be used to search for books. 


Library // Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

Library // Stan Hywet

I spent most of my time in the library rearranging furniture, moving the rug, dusting, and gently vacuuming the upholstered furniture. Though no one lives in the home, the rooms get surprisingly dirty from the touring foot traffic, which is why it is important to do a thorough cleaning of each room at the end of the season, prior to reopening. 

Everything in the home was planned - right down to where electric outlets would be located. Though the Seiberlings wanted the luxury of modern technology, they also wanted their home to appear as if it was truly built during the Tudor period. This meant that electric outlets and other features that wouldn't have been seen in a Tudor home needed to be hidden. This is illustrated by the wood floor in the library. It has built in electrical outlets which were hidden by ornamental rugs and furniture - allowing the Seiberlings to enjoy all that modern living had to offer whilst also enjoying the look of a centuries old home. 


Outlets in Library Floor // Stan Hywet

 One of the coolest features of the room is undoubtedly the secret passageway. Hidden by bookshelves, it leads into the Great Hall and is entirely concealed when closed. 

Secret Passageway // Stan Hywet
Anyone who believes that libraries are boring clearly hasn't come to Stan Hywet. 



“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”  - Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Office Views

For the duration of my internship, I have my own office on the first floor of the manor in the room that was historically the Seiberlings' sun porch. Though equipped with electronics and very much an office, the room maintains much of its century old charm through the original windows and flooring. 


My office // Stan Hywet

The windows to the right of my desk offer a view of what once served as the drying yard. Today, it is where staff and volunteers each lunch during warm months to enjoy the weather and grounds. 


Window overlooking drying yard // Stan Hywet

The windows placed on the far wall provide views of the gardens and landscaping behind the manor.



Windows // Stan Hywet

I am extremely thankful to have such an attractive, inviting office. Since most of my internship will be focusing on tour development, I will be spending a great deal of time at my desk doing research, formulating the tour, and writing a script. Though I would have enjoyed these tasks regardless, having a comfortable and attractive work environment makes the experience even better. All of the natural light provided by the windows also provides a calming atmosphere, which makes reviewing information for my Tier I training in order to become a manor house interpreter much less stressful. 

Even my office (as an intern) is charming and beautiful in its own ways. Moral of the blog post? There isn't a bad view to be had at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Taking the Plunge

Since I am interning with Stan Hywet's tour services department and working to develop a new tour, it was crucial that I become familiar with the manor. At almost 65,000 square feet with multiple floors, a basement, and a tower, I had (quite literally) a lot of ground to cover. For this reason, my second day in the manor was spent learning about and exploring the home.



Aside from being the home of F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling and their children, Stan Hywet itself has a rich story to tell. Surviving as one of the best examples of Tudor Revival architecture and a model of early 20th century opulence, the home showcases a mixture of centuries old antiques, reproductions of antiques, and period appropriate furnishings - 95% of which are original to the home. Elements of Tudor Revival style can be seen throughout the home, including details such as the tower windows and ornate ceilings. 

Tower Windows // Stan Hywet
Dining Room Ceiling // Stan Hywet
Music Room Chandelier // Stan Hywet



Though very ornate and meticulously detailed, the Seiberling family viewed their home as just that - a place to live in and enjoy. Each member of the family had input on what rooms they wished to see in the manor. For Gertrude Seiberling, this included the music room - one of the grandest in the home. At almost 2000 square feet by itself, the impressive space was utilized for entertaining guests, putting on family plays, and enjoying live entertainment. 
Music Room Alcove // Stan Hywet
Stan Hywet also houses an indoor pool that was regularly used by the family, affectionately known as "The Plunge." Though only eight feet deep, the pool looks much more intimidating when viewed from above. Though it stands empty today, The Plunge still retains much of its 20th century character - and even the original diving board. 
The Plunge from above // Stan Hywet
The Plunge ft. diving board // Stan Hywet
When walking through the manor house, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the grandeur and beauty around you. Every turn, hallway, and staircase in the home has something new to show guests - and the legacy of a family and time long since past to go with it. With centuries old furnishings, state of the art 20th century technology, and minute attention to detail, Stan Hywet brings the past to life and offers an unparalleled view of what living in the lap of luxury meant in the early 1900s. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Clean Home is a Happy Home

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is only to the public April through December, and the staff uses the off months to clean the entire manor house and focus on necessary repairs. My first day on site at the manor house consisted of cleaning F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling's master suite. Prior to handling any objects or entering the suite, I was given a rundown of proper cleaning procedures in order to prevent any damage to the home and artifacts. By ensuring that all those involved with cleaning have a thorough understanding of cleaning techniques the risk of losing a historical artifact due to improper handling is decreased - a very important factor when your main objective is to preserve the objects. 

Once I was made aware of how I should clean each type of surface/object/etc. and what tools I should be using, I was given my task list for the afternoon, consisting mainly of cleaning the inside and outside of the storage cabinets in Gertrude's dressing room. Once this was finished, I helped wash the walls in the dressing room as well as the walls in the sleeping porch. Once the suite was cleaned in its entirety, all of the objects and hanging artwork were placed back inside the rooms and the furniture was covered in sheets to prevent new dust from accumulating. The blinds and curtains were also closed in order to limit the amount of light getting into the rooms since it is damaging to the artifacts.

At 65,000 square feet, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is a massive home. Because of this, it is impossible to clean daily, especially when it is open to the public and tours are being given. Most rooms take a whole day - if not longer - to clean, making the cleaning process very long. Through meticulously cleaning each room during the off season and taking measures to ensure the rooms remain clean, the staff maximizes the impact of its efforts. The extra time spent in each room also gives staff a chance to inspect furniture and other decor more thoroughly so that any damage or necessary repairs will be discovered sooner rather than later, ultimately allowing the home and its contents to be preserved and maintained as if it were still the early 20th century. 

Introduction

Hi everyone!

I'm Liz, and I am currently in my final year of undergrad (yay!! but also - YIKES!) as a history major at The University of Akron. In my time there, I've become involved with numerous campus organizations, worked in an office on campus, and watched my love for this city continue to grow. Coming from a small town in northeast Ohio, moving to Akron for college was a huge change from the life I was used to. It's also been extremely rewarding, in that I've gained a great deal of knowledge about the rich history of Akron and its community and gotten to experience firsthand all that the city has to offer. 

I've been passionate about history my entire life, and I hope to one day have a career pertaining to it. More than anything, I want to work in a museum where the past is brought to life and others can learn and become enthusiastic about our history. Because of this, I chose to enroll in and complete the museum and archives studies certificate program offered by the university, which has allowed me to intern at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio. I am very thankful and excited to have this opportunity, and I will be working throughout the semester on designing a new tour as well as learning the ropes of working in a non-profit museum - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Throughout the semester, I will be tracking my journey working in the manor house here for you all to follow.