Every non-profit organization lives and dies by its programming. In fact, the fiscal responsibility of these organizations is commonly evaluated by how much of their funding is spent on programs that benefit the communities or groups that they serve. Museums are no different.
To be quite frank, Riddick's Folly's programming is somewhat lacking. Our annual History & Heritage Weekend is the most visible of our programs, and certainly the most involved. It spans two days, features a cast of more than a dozen reenactors and interpreters, and tells the Civil War story of Riddick's Folly in a more human way than any guided tour or video could. And yet, the other 363 days of the year (364 this Leap Year), we're left to scratch our heads and wonder what we're up to.
We host a series of American Girl events throughout the year. These events feature the characters from the popular American Girl book series (and yes, all of these should have little copyright logos next to them; maybe even a hyperlink... wouldn't that be nice?), and receive modest attendance. However, their relationship to the Riddick family and its history is, at times, a stretch. In June, we'll feature Kit, an American Girl story set during the Great Depression. Sure, some family members lived here during that time period, but our institutional mission limits our scope to the 19th century Riddick family home, and Kit missed that by about thirty years. The Felicity program this fall pre-dates the house by about seventy years, so we're not doing so well with this.
So, um, what is that we do exactly? We do offer guided tours of the museum, five days a week, and we're working to expand our offerings on that tour, but that still leaves a lot of calendar for some public outreach. Here are some ideas we've had.
We'd like to partner with our friends, the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society and the Suffolk Art League, to host a summer camp for young boys and girls. Essentially, we'd each offer a series of one-day camps and the children's parents could choose any or all of them for little Billy or Suzie (please, please, don't name your kids "Suzie"). For example, we could offer tea parties and sewing lessons or Civil War era military drill, while the art museum hosts various art lessons, and the historical society could do a hands-on show-and-tell with some of their unique items. Lots of possibilities here.
During the holidays, we'd offer candlelight tours of the museum and send out carolers in 19th century costumes through the surrounding neighborhoods.
We can host public concerts of period-appropriate music in partnership with the Virginia Symphony or local community music groups.
How about a cook-off using 19th century cooking techniques, tools, and food products? Tell me you wouldn't want to judge that contest.
With some of the rich family stories available to us, why not work with local theater groups to stage them? We could put on monthly or seasonal plays based on factual events and family stories. What was it like for the Riddicks to come back to their home after the Civil War and start life anew?
These are just some of the ideas we're working on, but your suggestions are welcome, too!