It’s that time of year when everyone wants something, and, in turn, everyone feels obligated to buy, spend, acquire, wrap, send, deliver, bake, host, feed, comfort…WHEW! That’s a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
But, here’s an idea: in lieu of buying useless junk for the people in your life who already have whatever they could possibly need, keep it simple. Take the money you’d normally spend on joke gifts and ugly ties and, instead, donate some of it to your favorite places. Museums and charitable organizations that focus on the human experience are a fantastic place to start!
And, when you need a creative gift for someone who perhaps doesn’t get out much but loves exploring new places, why not offer a gift certificate or membership to a place you already love, and you just know they’d love too?
Museums in particular are often overlooked in charitable giving, but they are exactly the kind of institution where donors can see the good their dollars are doing. When you give to a museum, you see the new coat of paint or the upgraded security system or the climate-controlled display cases that your money helps to buy. But that’s not all. Museums give so much back to their patrons, in the form of unique experiences.
Museums offer respite from stressful daily routines, and provide a calm, go-at-your-own-pace learning environment. Museums allow the visitor to experience incredible art, ideas, and events from our collective past, and frequently offer a window to the potential of our collective future. Museums offer demonstrations of lost skills, and hands-on classes to explore your own artistic ability. Museums bring great thinkers and creators to a wide range of audiences who might otherwise never get the chance to ask a pointed question of an expert in their chosen field. Museums give everyone a chance to discover new things on their own terms and in their own time. But most of all, museums give us so much for so little of our hard-earned money. And they do it with a smile.
Think about it; where else but at a museum can you see priceless artifacts for a little pocket change? Or, in many cases, for free? Where else but in museums can you spend an entire day staring at the same object, painting, or manuscript without anyone disturbing your concentration? Where else can you spend the day or week contemplating the same re-constructed dinosaur or investigating the contents of an original homesteader shanty without anyone questioning your sanity?
You guessed it! At your favorite museum.
So why not take a little time today, on Giving Tuesday, to say thanks to all your favorite venues that welcome you all day, all season (or all year) for just the price of a latte or a single taxi fare?
Most of these beautiful repositories of history and art receive little if any grant funding, and no tax dollars at all. That’s right, NO TAXPAYER SUPPORT. Yet a lot of them let you in the doors for free, or almost free, admission. Most of the employees are working at or just a bit above minimum wage, yet a large percentage of them have a Master’s degree or PhD–or more! These are experts in their field, with a vast wealth of knowledge and skill, yet they work for virtual peanuts. And most museums are also heavily dependent upon the generosity and hard work (for no pay!) of volunteers and interns. Think about it: how much does it cost to have a nice meal out at your favorite restaurant? How much for that entrance fee for ONE DAY at Disney? Can you spare little for your favorite nerdy getaway?
Here are some suggestions:
Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association/ Almanzo Wilder Farm, Burke, NY:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, Walnut Grove, MN:
Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, Kansas:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:
Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum, Spring Valley, MN:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum, (aka Rocky Ridge Farm) Mansfield, MO:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:
Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA:
Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY:
The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE:
Keystone Historical Society, Keystone, SD:
Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene, NH:
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA:
Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT:
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT:
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord, MA:
…Oh, and, let’s not forget the academic organization that honors every aspect of Laura, and brings us together every few years for the one and only LauraPalooza:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association (LIWLRA):
…just to name a few. Feel free to add your suggestions, below!
Thanks for reading, and thanks for keeping the doors of your favorite institutions open with your generous contributions. Together, we can all help these happy places stay alive, and thrive!
Visiting the Little House on the Prairie Museum, near Independence, Kansas, July 2011.
Burial Ground of some of the earliest Ingalls ancestors in America, at North Andover, Massachusetts, 2014. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.
My Dad inspired my love of history from an early age. This was a visit to Nova Scotia in the ’70s; my Mom was the photographer. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.
Almanzo’s parents helped establish this church in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Laura and Almanzo and Rose attended services here when they lived with his family in 1890. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.
Volunteers Jim & Marilyn Lusk have devoted numerous summer seasons donating their time, research, and labor to the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Malone, NY. They also enjoy portraying James and Angeline Wilder, Almanzo’s parents, at special Wilder Farm events. They are most certainly two of my favorite #MuseumVolunteersOfNote!