Gibson House and County Historical Collection
The Gibson House is a historical Yolo County property, including mansion, outbuildings, and grounds, that has been owned by Yolo County since 1975. After a process that included a review of operations, a public meeting, and several presentations to the County Board of Supervisors, the supervisors voted on June 26, 2018 to implement a new operational model for the Gibson House property and the historical collection.
Under this model the property will be operated by the non-profit YoloArts (www.yoloarts.org) as a cultural center, incorporating history, art, and the County culture into activities at the Gibson House. As a cultural center educational programming, private event rentals, public programming, exhibitions, and gardening activities will be provided at the property. This will include the continuation of 3rd grade school tours and the display of the County historical collection.
The following information is meant to provide the public with background materials regarding the decision, information during the transition, and some answers to frequently asked questions.
- Staff Report June 26, 2018 (includes organizational plan and agreement with YoloArts)
The County is currently in the process of transitioning to the new operational model over the course of this Summer and early Fall. This transition includes construction work to increase ADA accessibility, repair the pergola on the side of the mansion, convert one of the barns into a multi-use classroom space, and renovate the administration building. No alterations are being made to the mansion building. Additionally, the transition includes a large review of the historical collection to assess preservation needs, improve documentation, and place items in appropriate storage and display conditions. YoloArts is anticipated to transition onsite in the winter and begin programming in early 2019. Tours have been temporarily placed on hold until the transition is complete.
See photos below of the transition as it progresses:
The County has converted the former garage on the Gibson property into a temperature and humidity controlled collection conservation facility including workspace and new shelving.
The new conservation facility, allows for collection items to be moved to more appropriate storage space. Here is an example of the new collection storage work conducted by the County's interim curator.
What is the new operational model?
The Gibson House will be operated as a cultural center for the Yolo County community by YoloArts and the historical collection will be managed by a new county museum curator. The Gibson House will be operated in a way that promotes and cultivates the diverse culture of Yolo County. Ultimately, YoloArts will incorporate art, history, and the culture of Yolo County into the programming provided throughout the property with the purpose of providing lifelong learning to the community. A substantive portion of the historical collection will remain onsite to display Yolo County history and support the third grade school tour program. Public programming will be increased with activities such as outdoor live musical and theatrical performances and movie screenings, as well as art and history exhibitions, and lectures in the barns and Gibson mansion. Educational programming will be also expanded from the current third grade only tour to those for K-12. This educational programming would ideally grow overtime to additional age groups and topics of study.
When it comes to the historical collection, it is envisioned that the pieces currently held in storage at the museum would be shared both onsite and more broadly across the county in multiple changing exhibits to create greater access. A collections committee and the county museum curator will review, deaccess, and move pieces of the collection, including those most in need of preservation and repair, to a newly established preservation facility on the Gibson House property. Following this effort, it is envisioned that the museum curator will execute exhibitions throughout the county such as at libraries, city buildings, the historic courthouse, etc. This would include the display of items and assistance in historical programming at the Gibson property in consultation with YoloArts. The curator would be placed under Yolo County Archives and be hired to oversee the review and deaccession, guide conservation, and assist in exhibitions.
Why did the operational model change and what was the process?
During 2016, staff conducted a review of the historical collection and operations at the Gibson House due to initial concerns regarding the condition and maintenance of the historical home and collection. These concerns included the discovery in years prior of deteriorating and pest-infested native American baskets stored in the attic, the serious deterioration of the very few Gibson Family pieces in the collection, such as Mrs. Gibson’s ball gown worn to the McKinley inauguration, their family quilt, and Mr. Gibson’s ranch banner for his prized steers used at the State Fair. Additional concern was raised over the dry rot conditions on the mansion’s wood balcony, pillars, and foundation, along with the understanding that the collection had grown to over 11,000 items, of which a large portion is not available for public view but held in storage in facilities on the property.
A report regarding the condition of the collection was conducted by an outside third party in 2016. The contractors found the collection to be in crowded conditions that could result in damage to some pieces and that certain storage facilities on the property were not suited for long term preservation.
Based on the staff and third party review, long-term sustainability concerns emerged regarding proper preservation of the collection, mansion and facility repairs, and the operating budget. At that time the County explored alternative management options and reached out to YoloArts as a potential partner for facility management. The findings of the review were presented to the Board on February 21, 2017, and staff was directed to explore an operational partnership with YoloArts to assist in long term sustainability.
That exploration was conducted by a Gibson House Ad Hoc Committee which included the directors of the Yolo County Historical Museum Corporation (YCHM) and YoloArts. The exploration resulted in two potential operational models for the future of the Gibson House property and County historical collection. Under Plan #1 YoloArts would operate the property as a cultural center while Plan #2 was to continue the property as the County historical museum operated by YCHM. The County applied no restrictions on the discussion of the proposed plans amongst the boards of the two non-profits.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors reviewed the plan options on December 12, 2017 and expressed concerns over the feasibility of YCHM’s ability to generate an additional $240,000.00 or more in revenue under their Plan #2. Ultimately, the Board directed staff to develop an implementation plan for Plan #1 to operate the Gibson House as a cultural center, a venue encompassing the very best of Yolo County’s rich history, art, and diversity. This implementation plan was brought to the Board on June 26, 2018 with a focus on continuing a strong historical component at the property through the display of historical objects onsite, history focused educational programming/activities, and preservation of the historical buildings. Through the operation of the Gibson House as a cultural center it is intended that the community will benefit from increased use of the Gibson House property and improved preservation and display of the historical collection both onsite at the property and throughout the county.
When will YoloArts begin managing the Gibson House as a cultural center?
YoloArts will begin operating the Gibson House property in October of 2018. Prior to that time construction will occur at the property to improve ADA accessibility, fix the pergola on the dance floor, renovate one of the barns to a multi-use classroom space, and conduct tenant improvements to the administration building. Other than the pergola work (which is attached to the mansion), no other construction work is scheduled to occur on the mansion. It is estimated that the cultural center programming/exhibitions will begin in Spring 2019.
Where will the historical collection be displayed?
Currently a portion of the historical collection is on display onsite at the Gibson House and a portion is also held in storage on the property. Given concerns regarding the condition and future preservation needs of the historical collection, the collection will be reviewed and deaccessed by a county museum curator with the assistance of a collections committee. A substantive portion of the collection will remain on display at the Gibson House property, including on the first floor of the mansion, while other items will be moved to a newly established collection and preservation facility on the Gibson House property to improve preservation. It is envisioned that the pieces in storage will be shared more broadly across the county in multiple changing exhibits to create a countywide museum and increase public access, such as at libraries, city buildings, the historic courthouse, etc. This would include the display of items and assistance in historical programming at the Gibson property in consultation with YoloArts.
Is the mansion open for tours?While tours are not currently available during the transition, the mansion will be available to tour in the near future. Once YoloArts begins managing the property, the plan is to have changing exhibitions at the mansion that display different aspects of the historical collection, County culture, and art. The display of historic objects, particularly to the first floor, will continue. The first exhibition is estimated to occur in Spring 2019 and the dates and hours to tour the mansion will be provided by YoloArts at that time.
Is the Gibson House available to reserve for events?
All event reservations currently scheduled at the property will be preserved and handled during the operational transition by YoloArts. No new reservations are being taken for 2018 to allow a period of time for collection review and the operational transfer. New reservations will resume through YoloArts in the fall for the 2019 calendar year.
Will the school tours continue?
Yes. The educational tours for third grade students will continue as a substantive portion of the historical collection will still be on display, including on the first floor of the mansion. It is intended that the third grade school tour program would not only continue but would expand over time to additional age groups and topics of study. This includes utilizing one of the barns as classroom space.
Will this change impact the First Friday Art Walk or Gallery 625?
No, this change will not impact the First Friday Art Walk or Gallery 625. YoloArts is a participant, not an operator, of the First Friday Art Walk and will continue to participate. YoloArts will also continue to curate Gallery 625.
Where do I go for more information?