Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society executive director and curator Holly Hoods photo reenactment challenge

RELIVING HISTORY — Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society executive director and curator Holly Hoods participates in the museum’s photo reenactment challenge, which encourages residents to use what they have at home to re create historical photos. Here, Hoods recreates a photo from July 4, 1899 of Healdsburger Nina Luce depicting the "Goddess of Liberty."

The Healdsburg Museum has extended its “Picturing Healdsburg” exhibit for the rest of the year and with a little inspiration from the Getty’s painting reenactment challenge, the museum is encouraging community members to reenact historical photos from their collection.

“I was inspired by the painting reenactment challenge that the Getty Museum started on social media. They invited people to photograph themselves reenacting art in the museum collection from home using props and costumes they could improvise. Since the Healdsburg Museum has over 80,000 digitized historical photos online, we launched a photo version of the Getty challenge,” said Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society executive director and curator Holly Hoods.

So far the museum has posted two rounds of submitted photos for the reenactment challenge. Some people go all out and try to reenact the photo as closely as they can with attention to detail, while others get creative and silly.

One submitted photo shows a portrait of a Healdsburg woman from 1916 wearing an intricately draped shawl with a flower embellishment. To reenact the photo, a resident chose bubble wrap to serve as the shawl and pinned a flower to the wrap.

Hoods said that since the museum announced the challenge it's gained popularity. The creative activity even received a shout out from the California State Office of Preservation

“It totally took off. It’s fun and kids can do it,” Hoods said. “We showed our first five examples of people doing it, and we had over 4,800 views of that and 25 people shared and it got to the state office of preservation and then they shouted it out to the country to suggest that other museums that have photo collections do this as a way to interact with people on social media.”

Hoods said the museum regularly posts on Facebook and Instagram, but recently they’ve made a point to post every day to keep an interest in history alive and to remind people that, “The museum is very much still relevant.”

She said while many museums have turned to virtual exhibits, they wanted to be able to do something where they could connect with the community in a different way.

“Right now the challenge for museums is that generally we like interacting with the public and engaging with the public,” said Hoods.

However with indoor galleries still closed, they can't do that. “This gives us the chance for people to participate with us, and we like that,” she said.

Another way the museum is showing off their exhibit is by posting photos from a special collection in the vacant storefront of the Masonic Building on the corner of Center and Plaza streets.

This group of photos is called the “Enduring Spirit” collection, 10 portraits of Healdsburg pioneers who were born and raised in Healdsburg.

The collection was curated by Gina Riner. Riner had donated the collection to the city and the city donated the collection to the museum, which asked if they could display them in the vacant storefront window.

“We thought that was a great idea,” Hoods said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get our display (Picturing Healdsburg) out in the public, but also get people to be looking around and taking pictures and sharing them with us. We want to keep the conversation going… and we’re trying to be there virtually.”

In addition to the photo challenge and the Masonic Building display, the museum is also working to capture this historical moment in time.

The museum connected with Elena Halvorsen, the local photographer behind “Healdsburg Porch Portraits,” to get photos of people on their porch sheltering in place.

“She went all around the town taking pictures of people, and the goal is to put them on the museum database to document this time in our history,” Hoods said. “We’re really trying to get people to realize that this is history. We are in it, and we are interested in people’s memories, people’s stories and people’s pictures because we want to be documenting this as it’s happening.”

Changes to events

Typically this time of year the museum conducts its family history essay challenge for local students. Students research and write an essay about their family heritage. When they’re done, they normally come to the museum and read them aloud to a group and get prizes and certificates. 

“This year we can’t do that, and we are trying to make it special for the kids, but it’s harder when you can’t do it in person. We are trying to respond to the challenges of our changing world,” Hoods said.

Fundraising events were also cancelled, like the History Lives dinner and the Instant Wine Cellar auction in September, their biggest fundraiser event of the year.

“We felt like it wasn’t the time to be asking wineries to donate bottles of wine for us to auction off,” Hoods said.

While people are welcome to donate to the museum, Hoods said the museum is fairing pretty well in the current economic climate because of aid from the Paycheck Protection program. They’re also continuing to get business partnerships and memberships.

“We are fortunate in that we can reduce expenses … we have an endowment, and we’re not in dire straits,” she said. The organization’s print newsletter and quarterly will likely transition to online-only though since print costs are high.

“We are trying to tighten our budget, backburner some of the fundraising and get through the next few months and see where it goes,” Hoods said.  

In terms of reopening, she said they’ll have to look at it carefully when they get the green light from the county.

“When the time does come to reopen, we are going to be on the most careful edge of reopening,” Hoods said, noting that most of the museum volunteers are retired residents.

She said when the county does reopen indoor galleries, the museum will most likely be open for appointments.

Hoods said, “We really want to keep people safe. We’re really going to focus on our virtual and social media (presence) in the meantime.”

See  more images from the photo reenactment challenge on the museum's facebook page.

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