History Center, with help from local groups, launches new programs

Here on the Central Coast, history is a community affair.

“No one organization can make a drastic move without bringing all the other organizations along with them,” said Eva Ulz, curator of the History Center of San Luis Obispo County. “In order to wrap our arms around what exists for county resources we all have to band together.”

That’s why the History Center is teaming up with a variety of local groups to share expertise, equipment, exhibition space and other resources.

On May 30, the History Center organized its first History Museum Mixer, which brought together about 70 representatives from historical societies, museums, archives and private collections around the county.

At the gathering, the History Center officially launched an array of new programs aimed at facilitating collaboration between those groups.

Those efforts include the relaunch of La Vista, a journal of Central Coast history that the History Center will publish in partnership with Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Institute, and the creation of a virtual lending library to share museum-focused books and specialized tools.

A new SLO Museums Institute will offer classes on administration, education, museum theory and collections care, Ulz said, taught by local experts such as Jessica Holada, director for special collections and archives at Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library, and Ruta Saliklis, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art’s exhibition and development director.

The program, offered by the History Center, held its first class last week; more classes will be held in September, October and November.

“It’s designed for people who are completely non-specialists but need to get basic information about museums,” explained Ulz, who anticipates it will take participants one to two years to complete the program and earn a certificate in museum studies. Fees will be nominal, she said, and staffers from the History Center’s nonprofit members will be able to attend for free.

In addition, the History Center is dedicating a gallery to exhibits by outside organizations that will rotate every three months. Past exhibits include “The First 50 Years of Freemasonry in San Luis Obispo” and “The Odd Fellows: 140 Years of Community Service.”

An exhibit about the now-closed Morro Bay Power Plant opens July 7 and runs through September.

Ulz said the new initiative speaks to the History Center’s strength as a centralizing force.

“That’s really our niche,” she said. “We’re here to create that large, countywide picture.”