Gibson House Property and County Historical Collection
The Gibson House is a historical Yolo County property, including mansion, outbuildings, and grounds, that has been owned by Yolo County since 1975. In 1984, the Yolo County Historical Museum Corporation (YCHM) was formed to operate the Museum on behalf of the County. In doing so, the museum corporation was to collect, record, preserve, and exhibit items that best portray the history of Yolo County. After a review of operations, on December 12, 2017, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop an implementation plan for a new operational model for the Gibson House property and the historical collection. This plan is currently under development and will be brought back to the Board in the coming months for their consideration. The following information is meant to provide the public with background materials regarding the decision and some answers to frequently asked questions as this process continues.
• Staff Report February 21, 2017
• Staff Report December 12, 2017
• YoloArts Operational Plan (Plan #1)
• YCHM Operational (Plan #2)
• Historical Collection Review: Report by Past Matters, LLC
Why is the Board considering a new operational model and what was the process?During 2016, staff conducted a review of the historical collection and operations at the Gibson House due to initial concerns regarding the condition and maintenance of the historical home and collection. These concerns included the discovery in years prior of deteriorating and pest-infested native American baskets stored in the attic, the serious deterioration of the very few Gibson Family pieces in the collection, such as Mrs. Gibson’s ball gown worn to the McKinley inauguration, their family quilt, and Mr. Gibson’s ranch banner for his prized steers used at the State Fair. Additional concern was raised over the dry rot conditions on the mansion’s wood balcony, pillars, and foundation, along with the understanding that the collection had grown to over 11,000 items, of which a large portion is not available for public view but held in storage in facilities on the property.
A report regarding the condition of the collection was conducted by an outside third party in 2016. The contractors found the collection to be in crowded conditions that could result in damage to some pieces and that certain storage facilities on the property were not suited for long term preservation.
Based on the staff and third party review, long-term sustainability concerns emerged regarding proper preservation of the collection, mansion and facility repairs, and the operating budget. At that time the County explored alternative management options and reached out to YoloArts as a potential partner for facility management. The findings of the review were presented to the Board on February 21, 2017, and staff was directed to explore an operational partnership with YoloArts to assist in long term sustainability.
That exploration was conducted by a Gibson House Ad Hoc Committee which included the directors of both YCHM and YoloArts. The exploration resulted in two potential operational models for the future of the Gibson House property and County historical collection. Plan #1 incorporated both YoloArts and YCHM in different operational capacities while Plan #2 was to continue with YCHM exclusively. The County applied no restrictions on the discussion of the proposed plans amongst the boards of the two non-profits.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors reviewed the plan options on December 12, 2017 and expressed concerns over the feasibility of YCHM’s ability to generate an additional $240,000.00 or more in revenue under Plan #2. Ultimately, the Board directed staff to develop an implementation plan for Plan #1 to operate the Gibson House as a cultural center, a venue encompassing the very best of Yolo County’s rich history, art, and diversity. Through this plan it is intended that the community will benefit from increased use of the Gibson House property and improved preservation and display of the historical collection throughout the county.
What will be the new operational model?
If the implementation plan is approved by the Board, then the Gibson House would be operated as a cultural center for the Yolo County community by YoloArts and the historical collection would be managed by a new county museum curator and, ideally, with YCHM. The Gibson House would be operated in a way that promotes and cultivates the diverse culture of Yolo County. Ultimately, YoloArts would seek to incorporate art, history, and the culture of Yolo County into the programming provided throughout the property with the purpose of providing lifelong learning to the community. A portion of the historical collection, as well as historical items on the first floor, would remain onsite to display Yolo County history and support the third grade school tour program. Public programming would be increased with activities such as outdoor live musical and theatrical performances and movie screenings, as well as art and history exhibitions and lectures in the barns and Gibson mansion. Educational tours would be expanded from the current third grade only tour to those for K-12. This educational programming would ideally grow overtime to additional age groups and topics of study.
When it comes to the historical collection, it is envisioned that the pieces currently held in storage at the museum would be shared more broadly across the county in multiple changing exhibits to create greater access. A collections committee and the county museum curator would review, deaccess, and move pieces of the collection, including those most in need of preservation and repair, to an alternative location to improve conservation. Following this effort, it is envisioned that YCHM would agree to assist the museum curator in executing exhibitions and events throughout the county such as at libraries, city buildings, the historic courthouse, etc. This would include the display of items and assistance in historical programming at the Gibson property in consultation with YoloArts. The curator would be placed under Yolo County Archives and be hired full time for two years to oversee the review and deaccession and would then likely move to part-time depending on grant funding assistance.
When will the operational transfer occur and what will be the process?A work group has been formed to develop an implementation plan, which includes a timeline, for the transition. This work group is made up of representatives from County staff, YCHM, and YoloArts. The official dates for a transition are currently in development and once drafted will be shared with stakeholders and presented to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors for review and approval. The implementation plan is anticipated to be drafted and shared in March of 2018. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.
Where will the historical collection be?Currently a portion of the historical collection is on display onsite at the Gibson House and a portion is also held in storage on the property. Given concerns regarding the condition and future preservation needs of the historical collection, if the implementation plan is approved by the Board of Supervisors, then the collection will be reviewed and deaccessed by a collections committee that includes the county museum curator. A portion of the collection would remain on display at the Gibson House property, including items on the first floor of the mansion, while others would be moved to an alternative storage location to improve preservation. It is envisioned that the pieces in storage would be shared more broadly across the county in multiple changing exhibits, with the assistance of YCHM, to create a countywide museum and increase public access, such as at libraries, city buildings, the historic courthouse, etc. This would include the display of items and assistance in historical programming at the Gibson property in consultation with YoloArts.
Will the interior of the Gibson House mansion be stripped?No. The display of historic objects, particularly to the first floor, will continue. There are no plans to make significant changes to the structure as the intent is for the interior to continue to be reflective of a historic home.
What will happen to the school tours?Educational tours for third grade students would continue as key historical pieces, including items on the first floor of the mansion, and the historical facilities would still be onsite for the students to tour. Under this operational plan it is intended that the third grade school tour program would not only continue but would expand over time to additional age groups and topics of study. This includes utilizing one of the barns as classroom space.
What is happening with events at the Gibson House?If the Board approves the implementation plan, then all event reservations currently scheduled at the property (both private events and school tours) will be preserved during the operational transition. No new reservations are being taken for 2017 to allow a period of time for collection review and the operational transfer. New reservations will resume in the fall for the 2018 calendar year.
Why is there a campaign opposing the new operational model?There is interest by some community members to have the Gibson House remain a house museum as it currently is. A house museum is a residential property utilized as a museum with displayed artifacts (furnishings, textiles, etc.) arranged in a way that reflects how that home would have appeared during a particular historical period. Under the new operational model the plan is to operate the property as a cultural center with increased programming that incorporates history, aspects of art and the culture of the community. Ultimately, the plan is to continue to have the property be reflective of a historic home and retain a portion of the historical collection onsite for public display, particularly to the bottom floor of the mansion.
Will this change impact the First Friday Art Walk or Gallery 625?No, this change will not impact the First Friday Art Walk or Gallery 625. YoloArts is a participant, not an operator, of the First Friday Art Walk and would continue to participate if they begin management of the Gibson House property. YoloArts would also continue to curate Gallery 625.
Where do I go for more information?
The “Resource Documents” section on this page provides links to the two staff reports presented to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors (with attachments), the operational plans proposed to the Board of Supervisors, and the historical collection review.
Further additional information on YoloArts, please visit their website at: www.yoloarts.org
For further information from the County, please contact Carolyn West, Senior Management Analyst at the County Administrator’s Office, at Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org