The Menokin Foundation and Friends of the Rappahannock recently received a grant of $2,500 from Dominion as part of their Energizing Communities initiative. This grant will go towards improving the experience for school groups and visitors to Menokin through the addition of benches and picnic tables and grounds maintenance. On Tuesday, October 25th, the Dominion team will be on site at Menokin:
building 4 new picnic tables;
building 6 new benches;
re-roofing a shed in need by the Menokin house; and
cleaning up a picnic shelter for visitors to enjoy
In addition to the support from Friends of the Rappahannock and Dominion to make this community project possible, we are grateful for the support of Wood Preservers who will be donating supplies towards the project. Please visit Menokin on October 25th to see this project and community support in action! Hike the trails, enjoy a picnic outdoors, and call ahead to the Menokin Visitor’s Center to schedule a hard hat tour of the house while you’re here!
Energizing Communities is a grassroots effort driven by Dominion volunteers across the many states and communities served by Dominion. Each year, hundreds of employee volunteers put their talent, time and efforts into improving their home towns in many different ways during a fall project blitz. Local employee volunteer councils work with parks, zoos, schools, shelters and other organizations to choose projects.
We can’t wait to share with you these improvements taking place to make your experience at Menokin more enjoyable!
The Menokin Foundation Board President Hullihen Moore is pleased to announce that Samuel McKelvey of Richmond, Virginia, has been chosen to lead Menokin as Executive Director. McKelvey, selected after a comprehensive national search, will begin his appointment on October 24, 2016.
Moore said that McKelvey is particularly well suited to complete Menokin’s innovative Glass House Project and to introduce new programming to the site. “Sam brings to the table an excellent mix of experience, leadership, initiative and enthusiasm,” Moore said; “he has a track record of bringing in diverse and younger audiences and he has shown himself to be a leader in creating new programs and events to engage the public in broad and meaningful ways.”
McKelvey currently serves as Site Manager for Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park, an 1860 living history farm site and museum. During his tenure at Meadow Farm, McKelvey has significantly updated the site’s programs and re-interpreted a number of tours, bringing in new audiences, growing attendance, and making the site relevant to a new generation of students, families, and tourists.
McKelvey also serves as a Recreation Program Coordinator for the 150-acre site, which rests under the purview of Henrico County’s Division of Recreation and Parks. He has managed and developed a wide range of outdoor opportunities and experiences for the park’s thousands of annual visitors, including fishing, hiking and nature trails, picnicking, play areas, seasonal festivals and, most recently, adding more livestock on the farm.
McKelvey is an avid champion of community storytelling and bringing history to life. In 2014, he led the planning and execution of a 3-day re-enactment of the Battle of New Market Heights which brought 5,000 people to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle in which African-American soldiers from the “U.S. Colored Troops” won largely on their own their first significant battle close to the Confederate fortifications of Richmond.
McKelvey received his BA in History and Geography from James Madison University and his MA in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently chairs the Historic Preservation Function Group for Henrico County Recreation and Parks and he has co-chaired or lead numerous other planning committees, including the Henrico Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.
He believes Menokin offers the region and the country an extraordinary opportunity. “The Menokin Foundation has laid the groundwork for a totally new approach to engaging people with ideas and themes in American history,” McKelvey said. “The Glass House Project is like nothing else in historic preservation today – it encourages us to think in new and different ways. I am looking forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers, and local community to accomplish the Foundation’s goals. My wife April and I look forward to actively participating in the Northern Neck community.”
McKelvey succeeds Sarah Dillard Pope, Executive Director from 2005 until December 2015, when she became Dean of College Advancement at Rappahannock Community College. Leslie Rennolds has served ably as Interim Director since January 2016.
The search committee, co-chaired by Penelope Saffer and Ro King, included trustees and stakeholders: Moore, Dudley Percy Olsson, Candy Carden, Nancy Raybin, and past Board President W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.
For the nationwide search, the Menokin Foundation retained Marilyn Hoffman and Connie Rosemont of Museum Search & Reference, an executive search firm in Manchester, NH, and Boston, MA.
ABOUT THE MENOKIN FOUNDATION
The Menokin Foundation is a 500-acre National Historic Landmark site in the Northern Neck of Virginia that includes the collapsed home of Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife Rebecca Tayloe. In 2015, the Menokin Foundation launched a multi-year, $7-million capital campaign to construct a groundbreaking, 21st-century glass structure that will preserve, protect and interpret the original house without reconstructing its 18th-century interior. The grounds and kayak boat launch are open daily 7 am to 7 pm and the Visitors Center is open Wednesday – Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.menokin.org or call 804-333-1776.
Fall is finally (kinda, sorta) in the air in the Northern Neck. A drizzly morning, that has since transformed into a sunny day, offered an extravaganza of autumny images for my itchy shutter finger. Enjoy my walk through the Menokin landscape.
What do you do when a staff member’s father-in-law is coming to Menokin to haul kayaks down to the waterfront? Ask him to bring his weed eater and trim around the picnic table and launch area, of course!
Last Thursday, Richmond County resident Luke French came to the rescue of the Intrepid Ladies of Menokin when he agreed to stack one volunteer opportunity on top of another. It is friends like these that help us keep our grounds trim and tidy.
And they do it for free! Which is a good thing when you are a non-profit raising every dollar that is spent.
Speaking of good deeds and generosity, the Menokin grounds will get another face lift soon through a partnership and volunteer project with the Friends of the Rappahannock and Dominion Energizing Communities, which will result in the addition of benches along the river trail, picnic tables and benches at the education shelter, with a generous donation from Wood Preservers.
The volunteers will also provide assistance with grounds maintenance and restoration of some of the facilities used by Menokin for our programs.
Stephen surmounted the vast store of raw video and audio footage at Menokin and created a wonderful collection of video shorts covering topics from Oral Histories to Glass Project Team interviews. Not only did he do what the staff has never had time to accomplish, he did it very well!
Menokin Foundation Internship
As a student of early American history, the opportunity to work on the house of a signer of the Declaration of Independence was exciting – even if most of that work would be done remotely. Fortunately, it has proven to be an educational experience despite the distance. From documenting artifacts to video editing, my work with the Menokin Foundation this summer has provided me with new and practical experiences in historical preservation, archaeology, and digital history.
Before I started work for Menokin at the end of June, Alice French, the outreach and education coordinator, shared a number of readings from the Center for Digital Storytelling. The readings helped to clarify their expectations. I had not done any video creation or any work for a historical foundation. The Digital Storytelling Cookbook from CDS was a useful guide for the purposes and processes for digital storytelling. Much of the text is focused on telling personal stories, but the focus on using objects in videos, finding important moments, and keeping the audience’s attention were directly applicable to the work I would be doing. It also had step-by-step directions for creating storyboards, writing scripts, and using particular video editing software. Alice also shared an article from Edutopia: “How to Use Digital Storytelling in your Classroom” by Jennifer New. As a teacher, I was particularly interested in this article as it applied to both my internship work for Menokin and my full-time teaching. In her article, New gives a number of good tips for creating videos for educational purposes and encouraging students to create their own videos. The readings gave me a frame of reference when beginning the video editing work for the summer.
The main purpose of my internship is to help the Menokin Foundation produce digital history content for their website and museum. The content will be use to demonstrate the progress being made in restoring the site and highlight the many activities and opportunities available through the foundation. To start, it was encouraged that I practice my video editing skills by creating a promotional video for their annual summer camp. There were a number of pictures and video clips from the previous year’s camp, and I was use them to highlight the activities children would participate in this year. It took a couple days to create the final video, mostly because I was still learning to use the WeVideo software that Menokin is using. The process involved sorting through dozens of photos to find appropriate ones for use, editing down video clips, creating a storyboard, then editing it all together into a single video with captions and a musical track. Since that first one, I have become much more adept at creating short video montages of what is happening at Menokin. I have created a couple of videos on 18th century carpentry practices and techniques using recordings of classes Menokin has provided. I also edited a number of recordings of archeologists examining artifacts into short clips that will be used in longer compilation videos.
Menokin also wanted transcriptions of a variety of audio and video files in their database – transcriptions which I later found very useful when making compilation videos. Some of the more straightforward videos, such as the carpentry lessons, were fairly easy to transcribe. There were also interviews with people who had family connections to Menokin, and these were much more difficult. The interviews, which were audio only, were very informal; they were more similar to conversations than the lectures I had already transcribed. I found it challenging to keep track of who was talking and what they were saying. I wanted to record as much accuracy as possible, since the transcriptions would be used by the Foundation in other projects after I had left. The transcriptions were time consuming, but also very interesting. One interview was done when a visitor to Menokin shared that their great-uncle once owned the house, and she would visit the site as a child in the 1930’s. Another, much longer, interview was with two sisters in their 90’s who may have been descended from slaves who worked at Menokin. They had a great deal to share about growing up in the Northern Neck throughout the 20th century. The interviews told a lot about the history of Menokin and the surrounding area. Once I had the transcriptions, it became very easy to find some of the best quotes to use in videos promoting the history of Menokin.
On my first trip down to Menokin since I began the internship work, the was to gather recordings and pictures of the Archaeologists at work on the site and collect older pictures off the Menokin server that were too large to send by e-mail. It was also an opportunity to get to know more of the staff at Menokin and experience their day-to-day work.
The most fascinating part of the trip was getting to watch and interview the archaeologists. I do not have any experience with archaeology, but I could tell that they were experts who loved what they did. The day I was down there, a small group of four contracted archaeologists were carefully sifting through the rubble of a collapsed corner of the house. They were both cleaning the site for reconstruction, and looking for artifacts. The lead archaeologist, Chris, was very personable and allowed me to interview him about his work. He explained the process of sifting through dirt to find artifacts, described his history with the site, and showed me the glass bottles, buttons, and nails that they were preparing for cleaning and cataloging. I also interviewed Hank Handler with Oak Grove Construction, who has been doing reconstruction planning and work for Menokin for several years. He was very excited to discuss the techniques being used to stabilize the structure at Menokin – techniques pioneered by the English Heritage Society that were just being introduced to the US. As much as I wanted to, I was not dressed to jump in the rubble and join them (honestly, it did seem exciting), but I was able to get some great pictures and audio recordings to use in promotional and educational videos for Menokin.
The rest of the day was a chance to familiarize myself with the practical matters of a historical institution like Menokin. The staff is small, and they seem to work together on both day-to-day and long-term tasks. This particular day, they were hosting a genealogy course for the local community college; I was happy to help out when I was not searching their server for pictures and files. I also met with the acting director, Leslie Rennolds, to discuss my work and upcoming projects. The visit was a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the site and gather material for future videos.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work at Menokin. The experience so far has been incredibly educational. As I work into the second half of the summer, I plan to use the techniques and information I have gathered to create more digital content for the foundation. Right now, I am planning videos about the archaeology and stabilization work I witnessed Monday. There are also more recordings and material from past events at Menokin to examine and turn into media that can be presented to the public – connecting the public to the history. I am excited to continue the work.
Lambert, Joe. The Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkeley: The Center for Digital Storytelling, 2010.