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It's A Gray Area: Promote our heritage

September 11, 2010|James P. Gray

My column on July 5, 2009, cited the Heritage Museum of Orange County as being a gem, but one that needed more attention and polishing. Since then, I have accepted a position on its board of directors and have been rolling up my sleeves with polishing rags in hand. It is the purpose of this column to encourage you to join us in that effort.

According to its mission statement, the Heritage Museum is a cultural and natural history center dedicated to preserving, promoting, and restoring the heritage of Orange County and the surrounding region through quality hands-on educational programs for students and visitors of all ages.

And that is what we do.

Our primary function is to educate elementary school children about what life was like in Orange County in the 1890s and early 1900s, and every year about 20,000 children are bused to the museum to spend about four hours with us. During that time, they go on a tour of our Kellogg House, which was built in Santa Ana in 1898, and are shown how to make butter and quilts, and wash clothes with a washboard, observe the setting of a formal dinner table, learn proper table etiquette while eating, play with some of the children's toys of that era and dress up in period clothing.

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In the Gold Rush program, students are also taken on a "trip" from Independence, Mo., to the gold fields of California. But before they leave they have to plan for the trip and buy the essentials they will need. Their journey ends at our stream where they explore our gold mine, pan for gold and are taught to yell, "Eureka!" when they find their own gold nugget.

Since this is a "hands-on" museum, the children are also able to touch and use our pump organ and native "artifacts," participate in a traditional "round" dance and make a ceremonial rattle to take home. They also see our working blacksmith shop and are sometimes given some of its creations, like a nail or a block of wood with a "brand" on it.

But we have so much more potential, because the museum sits on an 11-acre site and only about a third of the property is really being used. So at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, we will have a meeting at the museum for people who might be interested to help us develop the museum's potential. At that time we will walk the grounds, discuss some of the possibilities and form subcommittees for about 12 varied, interesting and challenging projects.

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