Remember your favorite museums on Giving Tuesday

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:
http://www.almanzowilderfarm.com/join.htm

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, Walnut Grove, MN:
http://walnutgrove.org/store/page17.html

Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, Kansas:
http://littlehouseontheprairiemuseum.com/Little_House_on_the_Prairie_Museum/Support_LHOPM_This_Winter.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:
http://www.lauraingallswilder.us/membership/

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:
http://lauraingallspepin.com/a-special-message

Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum, Spring Valley, MN:
http://www.springvalleymnmuseum.org/wilderinfo.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum, (aka Rocky Ridge Farm) Mansfield, MO:
http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:
http://www.discoverlaura.org/donation.html

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA:
http://www.osv.org
https://www.osv.org/donations

Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY:
http://www.gcv.org
https://www.gcv.org/Support/Donations

The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE:
http://www.stuhrmuseum.org/give/annual-fund-drive/

Keystone Historical Society, Keystone, SD:
http://www.keystonehistory.com/contactus.html

Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene, NH:
http://hsccnh.org/join-support/donate-now/

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA:
http://www.americanantiquarian.org/support.htm

Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT:
https://www.marktwainhouse.org/support/support_us.php

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT:
https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/support/

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord, MA:
http://www.louisamayalcott.org/contribute.html

…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):
http://beyondlittlehouse.com/about-2/join/

…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!

 

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Visiting the Little House on the Prairie Museum, near Independence, Kansas, July 2011. 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

AmericanAncestors.org and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Announce a Day of Discovery and Learning about Family History in Amherst, Massachusetts

New England Historic Genealogical Society presenting a public all-day Family History workshop Saturday, 2 August 2014 on the UMass-Amherst campus in Amherst, MA. Workshop fee is 50% off if you register by 18 July 2014. Reblogged courtesy of Dick Eastman; full details and registration link follow:

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

The following was written by the folks at the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

NEHGS, the Largest Genealogical Society in America, Brings its Expertise and Scholarship to Western Massachusetts for Family History Day

June 3, 2014 — Boston, Massachusetts — The entire family at AmericanAncestors.org and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is headed to Amherst, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 2, to offer a day of family history discovery and learning.

From their headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, the NEHGS staff of expert genealogists, historians, writers and researchers will bring their knowledge and expertise to the UMass Amherst Campus Center in western Massachusetts — where they invite the public to spend a rewarding day learning about family history.

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Alison Arngrim Rocks!

Alison Arngrim Rocks!

My sister Kate (left) and I met Alison Arngrim in June 2010 at R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut. Alison was touring in support of her book, CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE B*TCH. She shared some great stories of her time on LHOP television show, and also elaborated on her work with PROTECT.org, which endeavors to rescue children from exploitation and abuse, prosecute the criminals, and change laws as needed to better keep these criminals from being allowed to re-offend. My sincerest respect to Alison for her tireless efforts in defending children, and just being an “awesome. massive. decent!” human being… http://www.protect.org

Best in Snow! The 1896 Ulster…and flannels…

Best in Snow!  The 1896 Ulster...and flannels...

Showing off my new 1896 Ulster last March…and the flannels underneath it! With thanks to the eternally patient Gregorio for the photo session, this is possibly the best series of photos in Laura garb to date. Of course, all that wonderful Laura garb is the product of the superbly talented Laurie, who deserves the highest of praise for the fantastic design and reproduction of so many period pieces. The Ulster takes my interpretation a giant leap forward, by offering yet another insight into the weight, scale, restrictiveness, functionality, and sometimes cumbersome nature of 1890s clothing.

“Road Trip!!” Adventures in LauraLand, v2013, about to commence…

2 July 2013

In a few days, I’ll be embarking on yet another cross-country (well, most of the way…) trek from my home in New England to various points West, reaching, at minimum distance, Keystone and Custer State Park in South Dakota. With any luck, and some careful planning, I will be able to add at least a new state or two to the running tally of those I’ve visited in my lifetime. I’d like to get to Wyoming, Colorado, and a new-to-me section of Nebraska so I can finally see parts of the Oregon Trail. Originally, the plan also included some historic sites in the OKC area as well as return visits to 2 primary Laura sites: the Little House on the Prairie Museum (site of the Ingalls family’s “Indian Country” settlement near Independence, Kansas) and Bessie and Manly’s final home at Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri with one of my Laura friends.  But, as is de rigeur for my experience, Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans.

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A little hiccup (okay, a really big one, but I’m trying to be cheerful here) in the health of my baby kibbie, a.k.a. Quinn, has necessitated a delay in my departure.  Quinn is a fighter, and still very kittenish for her 15 or so years, but, as a former stray, the unknowns of her early history make her a bit susceptible to various health problems, and she ended up in surgery on the day of my planned departure for the west.

Just prior to my departure for GCV&M Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, August 2012.

Just prior to my departure for GCV&M Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, August 2012.

Not being one to take pet care lightly, I elected to delay my trip by a week to give her time to get the healing process underway and make sure she’s improving before I hand her off to my very capable family for the next several weeks.  Plus, I like to snuggle her, and since I have the time off from work anyway, why not get a few more hours of QT with kitty while I do some of the reading I would otherwise do in a lonely hotel somewhere in Huskerdoo?

1880 Town, Midland, South Dakota.

1880 Town, Midland, South Dakota.

Price Tower Arts Center (Frank Lloyd Wright design) Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Price Tower Arts Center (Frank Lloyd Wright design) Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Besides, I’ve seen many of the states I’ll be trekking through before, and my mission on each trip is to experience something new and visit places I’ve always wanted to go.  I’ve seen a lot of states over the years, and have racked up a relatively impressive number (…of states visited…get your mind out of the gutter!) by some standards.

Hole in the Mountain, at the border between Minnesota and South Dakota, Highway 14.  This view is looking east, because the sky was prettier and this side of the sign was more legible for some reason.  Strange, I would think this would be the side where all those sweeping winds would scour the lettering flat!

Hole in the Mountain, at the border between Minnesota and South Dakota, Highway 14. This view is looking east, because the sky was prettier and this side of the sign was more legible for some reason. Strange, I would think this would be the side where all those sweeping winds would scour the lettering flat!

How many states have I been to?  Well, I’m not at 50, nor 40, nor even 35.  BUT, I’m working on it.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and take every opportunity to visit somewhere new.  Beginning in early childhood, when my parents took us to visit family in Upstate New York, or friends in Florida, travel has nearly always involved a roadtrip. By the time I had a driver’s license, I was planning when and where I’d go the minute I had my own car (which, in my family, meant when I had saved enough of my own earnings to buy and insure one!).  Almost deliberately, I chose a Toyota with a standard transmission so I would have to learn to drive a stick, which meant that, between classes and shifts at the grocery store, I was taking little Joey out for a lot of practice trips on back country roads through various counties in northern New Hampshire.  Almost immediately, I began to discover just how much I adored exploring rural countryside, and roadtrips of any distance were soon a way of life.

Somewhere near Mansfield, Missouri, 2011.

Somewhere near Mansfield, Missouri, 2011.

Over the years, I found ways to fit travel into my meager budget by combining missions.  A friend wants to go to her nephew’s birthday party 3 states away?  Road Trip!  My new favorite band will put me on the guest list at shows around the northeast if I promote them everywhere I go?  Road Trip!  My boss needs to get something delivered 100 miles away by 5 pm?  Road Trip!!!!!  Any excuse I could find.  Before I knew it, I’d racked up over half a million miles on various old beater cars: the Toyota, two VW Foxes, a Saab, and two Jettas.

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Are You Privy? Just behind the town house, east of De Smet, SD.

These days my mileage total is upwards of 850k, over 6 cars, in some 20 years. The newest car was 4 years old (but I kept it until a cargo van ended its life at age 12); all of the cars were at least a dozen years old when they retired, and all but one of the retirees registered well over 200,000 miles on the odometer.  The record holder for most miles in shortest time was Gretyl, acquired in May 2010 with 119k miles.  Twenty-one months and NINETY THOUSAND MILES later, while attempting to return from a Laura gig a few hours from home during a nasty ice storm, Gretyl, with her superior handling, spared my life but sacrificed her own.  The odometer read just over 209,000.  Something tells me she had a lot more miles in her, but the frame, although intact, would never be quite right again, and I couldn’t risk it. But, I was so impressed with her fortitude in my near-death experience that I went out and bought another Jetta just like her…

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My current Jetta, acquired last year, is a relative youngster, only 11 years old and just crested 150,000 last weekend.

Gretyl, on the LIW Historic Highway, Rt 14 West, Lake Benton, Minnesota. July 2011.

Gretyl, on the LIW Historic Highway, Rt 14 West, Lake Benton, Minnesota. July 2011.

Where have I been in all those miles?  Hmmm…well, some states I have only driven through a corner of, not even stopping to buy gas or eat a meal.  So, I will skip those.  If we count only places where I have at least gotten out of the car, looked around, eaten, or stayed overnight, the tally as of now is 30/50 States. That may not sound like much, but I can tell you I have spent about a year’s worth of days and nights traveling in the U.S., even though I have lived in the same state my entire life.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, May 2011.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, May 2011.

So, where have I done all this roaming?  All of New England, all of the Eastern seaboard, plus…Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri…30 states, plus Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.

Porch of Almanzo Wilder's birthplace, Burke (near Malone), New York, 2011.

Porch of Almanzo Wilder’s birthplace, Burke (near Malone), New York, 2011.

In recent years, I have been visiting LauraLand on an annual basis.  In 2012, I was there twice!  This year, I hope to finally ride the 1880 Train between Keystone and Hill City, South Dakota.

I hope to finally see the Badlands for longer than just the occasional glance out the window as I’m whizzing down the highway in a hurry to get back to Brookings for a gig the next day.

Main Avenue, Brookings!

Main Avenue, Brookings!

I hope to visit Prairie Homestead, and the land Carrie Ingalls homesteaded as a single “spinster” near Philip, South Dakota, prior to her marriage 101 years ago.

West of Pierre, South Dakota.

West of Pierre, South Dakota.

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers…although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

A bison farm along the Missouri River, close to the North Dakota/South Dakota border, October 2009.

A bison farm along the Missouri River, close to the North Dakota/South Dakota border, October 2009.

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers...although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers…although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

But mostly, I hope my keet-ten is feeling better really, really soon (and wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for her to travel comfortably with me, in no fear of over heating or losing her to an amble on the high plains?).  I don’t like to leave her behind, and if I wasn’t already committed to several gigs some 1,700 miles from home, I’d stay put for now.

Quinn, about age 7, October 2005. Back in those days she had to put up with a beagle, a burmese, and a second person in the house!  She's much more spoiled these days, being undisputed Monarch of the Manor.

Quinn, about age 7, October 2005. Back in those days she had to put up with a beagle, a burmese, and a second person in the house! She’s much more spoiled these days, being undisputed Monarch of the Manor.

Just a few necessities for the Meet Laura gigs.  Sometimes I almost forget which are the street clothes and which are "Mrs. Wilder's."

Just a few necessities for the Meet Laura gigs. Sometimes I almost forget which are the street clothes and which are “Mrs. Wilder’s.”

“That’s right, you saw what you saw.  That’s how we roll in the Shire!”

Closed, in observance of Native American Day, De Smet, South Dakota, 12 October 2009.

Closed, in observance of Native American Day, De Smet, South Dakota, 12 October 2009.

What’s New? Re-Reading and Re-Watching Little House on the Prairie.

Just a few pieces of my Laura-related swag.  The book was made by a little girl I met at Almanzo's birthplace, The Wilder Farm in Burke, New York.  She illustrated several scenes from the first 3 books in the series.  Meanwhile, many people who attend my first-person educational history programs, which feature a "visit" with an adult Laura circa 1895, ask questions that are clearly related to television episodes and have nothing to do with the books...

Just a few pieces of my Laura-related swag. The book was made by a little girl I met at Almanzo’s birthplace, The Wilder Farm in Burke, New York. She illustrated several scenes from the first 3 books in the series. Meanwhile, many people who attend my first-person educational history programs, which feature a “visit” with an adult Laura circa 1895, ask questions that are clearly related to television episodes and have nothing to do with the books…

I found this blog entry today:  Stories I’m Reading: Little House On the Prairie  and it got me to thinking just how readily every type of media can lead readers and viewers to hold some false impressions about everything from history in general to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s specific experiences. The blogger, Kim, like many of us Laurati, first knew LIW because of the TV show. Now an adult, she is reading Laura’s classic series for the first time and was shocked to find the Ingalls didn’t spend all of Laura’s childhood in Walnut Grove! On the other hand, many readers fell in love with Laura’s books first and came to the show later, if at all. I am always curious what people think of the many differences…or do they notice?

When I was very, very small, my mother let me stay up late to watch Little House on the Prairie because it was one of the few shows which featured a lot of female characters and was not too “grown-up” for a little girl.  I learned to read when I was given a copy of LHOP, and, holding my finger under each word of the sentence, one-at-a-time, my father helped me parse the syllables into an intelligible story.  He explained the foreign concepts of hunting or making cheese.  He drew pictures to make sense of the parts I couldn’t imagine, like building a door for a log house in Kansas. I knew the books and the show were very different, and my parents often pointed out anachronisms in dialogue or situations of the 70s Hollywood production.  But, they recognized the merits of the attempt at making a period of history and a former way of life accessible to a modern audience.  Sometimes the show succeeded, other times…well, let’s just say it didn’t always feel quite real.  But, it inspired me to dress up, play at living in another time and place, and, most importantly, LEARN about that other time, and place, and the other parts of life that the show–and even The Books–did not.  And, for that, I am grateful.

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My visit to Rocky Ridge Farm, July 2011. Seeing Bessie and Manly’s final home, so lovingly created by their own labor over more than a decade’s time and from materials culled from their own land, brought a new level of meaning to my lifelong attachment to the Ingalls and Wilder families.

What has your Laura Ingalls Wilder experience been?  What caught your attention, and what do you wonder about?

Tell me your story…