Sees Museum as a Vehicle to Help Meet Community Needs
Silver City -- "Find what the community needs and fit the museum to it." That simple yet powerful statement by John Cotton Dana, a 19th Century American librarian and museum director, sums up the philosophy of Silver City's new museum director, Bart Roselli. Roselli has served for eight months as interim director, and was recently named museum director by Town Manager Alex Brown.
Dana, known for his philosophy of making public institutions relevant to people's daily lives, has definitely influenced Roselli's approach to his new position, which has been some 30 years in the making.
"Dana is my hero," says Roselli, whose career began in a recreated, 19th Century village in his hometown of Middletown in New York's Hudson Valley. "A museum is about people, and I want the Silver City Museum to tell the stories about the people living here. History is people, so whatever people are concerned with, their challenges, their biases, the museum can help address them."
As such, Roselli, who first joined the museum staff in May 2018 as education program coordinator, views the museum and its programming as a means of building bridges between the diverse populations in the region, from natives to newcomers; ranchers, miners, hippies, and everything in between. "There are so many amazing stories to be told here, and I'm excited to be leading the museum's efforts to tell them."
Roselli's path to the director's chair was not an easy one. He first had to navigate the organization through an arduous 18-month accreditation process with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in just six months. This marks the first AAM reaccreditation in 15 years, and Roselli credits his staff for their hard work to meet the tight deadline. Just six-percent of municipal museums in the country are accredited, and Roselli notes that the process helped to clarify where he and his seven-member staff will focus their efforts to strengthen the museum's collections and connections to the community.
"Fortunately, we're starting with a very solid base," Roselli says, "and we're going to be working hard to reestablish relationships with area schools and build relationships with teachers so that we can really excite children to learn about their own local history."
Another major emphasis for the foreseeable future will be what Roselli calls a major forensic operation to identify, catalog and organize the 70,000-plus items in the museum's collection, and develop a searchable database that will give the public an opportunity to curate, suggest ideas for collections and perhaps help add items that are missing.
Roselli and staff are also in the midst of a process with SkyWest Media and a WNMU marketing class designed to better understand and improve the visitor's experience of the museum, which is also closely tied with how limited space is used, and the challenge of clarifying the museum's identity. Visitors are sometimes confused upon entering, as it's neither a fully recreated historic home, nor obviously a museum. Limited space makes it difficult to change exhibits frequently A few changes being considered include how to perhaps use the parlor more effectively to showcase the historic, Victorian-era H.B. Ailman House, as well as developing a permanent exhibit of the history of Silver City and the local area.
"We want to create a better orientation experience," explains Roselli, who also plans to develop a five-to-10-year exhibit project plan, based to a large degree on continued community outreach to better understand what local residents value in a museum, and what they would like to see it become.
"The question," he says, "is how can the museum be of the highest and best service to the community? Art, for example, is a big part of the local story, but who are our local artists? What is their story? The center of the bull's eye is Silver City and Grant County."
The Silver City Museum is located at 312 W. Broadway, and is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $5. The current exhibit, Ranching in Grant County, runs through December 29th. For more information about the exhibit and upcoming events, please visit www.silvercitymuseum.org.