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Linking History to Community: How Historic House Museums Can Remain Relevant in the 21st Century

  • Saturday, June 13, 2020
  • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Virtual via Zoom
  • 52


Registration is closed

View a recording of the Linking History to Community webinar for free on YouTube!

Much goes into running a historic house. But how do the collections, operations, education and administrative teams find common ground when their needs and concerns can greatly differ? Important and often practical considerations for historic houses range from policies related to historic building codes to engaging with the community within those walls.

Join us virtually for a moderated discussion with esteemed museum professionals as they speak to the needs of their historic properties, staff, volunteers, and communities. Listen to their stories and ask your questions during round table discussions via breakout rooms.

This event is produced in partnership with Exhibit Envoy, a nonprofit that creates and travels exhibitions for small museums across California and the US.


Holly Alonso, Executive Director of the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park in Oakland
Heather Farquhar, Director of the Shasta Historical Society in Redding
William P. Schroh, Jr., President & CEO of History San Jose in San Jose

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the museum field, we are offering this program free of charge to everyone, and asking participants to pay what they can. Cultural Connections is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by an all-volunteer board, and the funds earned through membership and program admission directly support professional development programs and resources for our colleagues throughout the Bay Area. Thank you for supporting Cultural Connections!

Holly Alonso
has been the Executive Director of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park for 20 years. Her vision for the site: Every Human Being Makes History. Her work began with restoring the 1870 house to its original conditions under municipal funding, assembling an international and local team of artists, designers, historians, city officials and community members to plan the site’s physical features and its programs. Her first gesture after this dynamic planning process was to fill the house with Faces of Fruitvale, an exhibit consisting of first-person photopanels about 55 community members created from audio interviews she did with VISTA volunteers and neighbors, covering every wall of the historic house, and their voices resounding on built-in audio. She went on to develop extensive permanent exhibits indoors and outside about the original land grant family the site is named for, intertwining their history equally with that of the Native Peoples of the East Bay. Working with community members, she has since generated a series of exhibits about cultures in the diverse, low-income community of Fruitvale in which the historic house and site are located. Simultaneously, she planned and has established public programming: School field trips, tours and other stock-in-trade of historic houses along with less conventional fare: a street theater of undocumented day laborers, free food distribution weekly to destitute families, a free environmental education camp serving 300 low-income children of color, extensive community gardens cultivated by Laotian Mien refugee elders, and community dialogues using a humanities approach on pressing local concerns such as sex trafficking of minors on a nearby thoroughfare. The site won the National Museum Medal in 2017 for its “outstanding contribution to the community.”  Holly lives in Berkeley, has two grown daughters, and started out singing and directing a medieval music group and editing educational textbooks, after her education at UC Berkeley and the Guildhall School of Music.

Heather Farquhar is the Director of the Shasta Historical Society, in Redding. Heather has a B.A. in History from CSU Hayward (now East Bay), an M.A. in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University, and a passion for historic properties. Following some internships with the C.E. Smith Museum of Anthropology, The Names Project and the Oakland Museum of California, Heather landed her first museum job with the Hayward Area Historical Society as their Collections Manager in 2005. The organization had a museum and managed two historic house museums, The McConaghy House and Meek Mansion, at the time. They would later add the San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery. Due to her passion for historic properties, Heather’s role would change over a 12.5 year period to Collections and Historic Properties Manager. In 2017, she was offered and accepted the role of Deputy Director at the Los Altos History Museum, where she managed collections, the J. Gilbert Smith House and a variety of other projects. In 2019, Heather was offered the opportunity to become a Director at the Shasta Historical Society and accepted. Currently, the Historical Society operates a downtown museum and a historic school house.

Bill Schroh, Jr. was appointed President and CEO of History San Jose in July 2019. Bill began his museum career in 1991 at Van Cortlandt Manor, a historic house museum property owned by Historic Hudson Valley. Bill started as a volunteer, eventually becoming Museum Site Manager/Education Program Coordinator. In 1998 Bill was recruited by the Liberty Hall Foundation to lead the development team to transfer the private residence of the Kean family into a historic house museum. Over the next 20 years, as Director of Museum Operations, Bill would create the Liberty Hall Museum, which was the home of William Livingston, the first elected governor of New Jersey, as well as the home of the Kean family until 1995, into one of the premiere historic house museums in New Jersey. His professional experience includes more than three decades’ museum experience working in museums and consulting. He is an active member of the Rotary Club of San Jose, and serves on the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation Board, the Sourisseau Academy Board and the Japanese American Museum San Jose Advisory Board. Bill earned his B.S. in Social Studies Education from State University College at Buffalo New York, and a Certificate of Historic Preservation from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. Bill is a member of the American Alliance of Museums, Small Museum Association, American Association for State and Local History, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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