Behind the Scenes at the GMD, May 11, 2020

Posted on Monday, May 11, 2020

It has been eight weeks since the Grout Museum District last hosted a visitor. In those eight weeks, staff have all learned to do new things, and that learning continues.  

There weren't many showers in April (about 1.6 inches below average, according KWWL), but the May flowers are still beautiful. The five Sullivan crabapple trees in the Grout parking lot are beginning to bloom and the French lilac bush won't be far behind. 

Pat Kinney and Sara Nefzger, the District's Development Department, continue to work on developing funds to support the Museum District. A grant was submitted to the Iowa Arts Council (funding they received from the CARE package passed by Congress), and another to NEH, also a CARE-funded grant opportunity. Both are primarily to support retaining staff. 

Pat also recently talked with Gary Kroger, a Cedar Falls native and former actor who returned to the area to raise his family several years ago. Gary was enthusiastic about helping the Grout (he has fond memories of grade school field trips to the Grout). Here you will find Gary's video asking people to help the Grout financially, if they are able. 

Director of Facilities & Exhibits Al Sweeney & Museum Director Billie Bailey have have been working on plans for the day when the GMD will begin the process of reopening. Since the Grout is in a county with a longer period of shut-down, the District will be able to learn from our colleagues in the counties that are beginning to open this week.  

IT Director, Sam McCombs, continues to edit videos that Jacquie Persson posts on the District's social media platforms. There is something new every day on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok. Director of Marketing and Visitor Services, Collin Heidemann, has been creating Gift Shop promotions that are shared on social media. In the next week or so, the Museum will also begin featuring podcasts and virtual tours.  

Since we all know that things will be different as school starts this fall, Education Director, Brandon Ramirez, and Outreach Coordinator, Carrsan Morrissey, are working on modifying school programming that could be delivered virtually directly to a classroom or a home (in case there is a second wave and schools shut down again). They have also both been caring for the animals at the Imaginarium, making sure they are healthy and ready for their starring roles in the weekly social media posts.

Thanks to a suggestion from Jeanne Allbaugh, Archivist, Catreva Manning, will be working with Brandon and Museum Assistant Shelby Davis on a couple of projects. They will be creating slide shows of the parts of the Museum School trolley tour that can be shared online, and they will also be doing Then and Now photos of buildings and sites around town. Keep on eye out for these features on social media soon!

Al Sweeney discovered that the marker on the Sullivans Carillon has been knocked over and damaged. The Grout has reached out to Museum supporter Mike Magee who has had some experience repairing grave markers in area cemeteries. Mike is a genealogist, a local history buff (especially all things Irish and Sullivan) and he has also been part of a group that repairs gravestones in area cemeteries. He is not able to do the work himself, but has offered to provide the materials that the Museum will need and has contacted two volunteers to help with the work. 

Exhibit Technician, William Bisbee, continues to clean and repair the exhibits the Museum acquired from Dubuque. The "toddler room" at the Imaginarium is getting a makeover and will soon feature a dinosaur dig. William is pictured below with the newly-painted dig box (and a box of Icon donuts).

Aaron Aarhus, Event & Sales Coordinator, continues to update and organize the rental equipment and files. He's shown below, with stacks of old files that he's sorting, organizing and in many cases, discarding. He's also been working with Collin Heidemann to update policies and pricing.   


Nick Erickson, Registrar, has been wearing many hats these days! In the photo below he is working on updating a loan form, but you will also see him and his work on the Grout's social media posts. He has done artifact highlights, "what's this artifact" and "creepiest artifacts". He also continues to maintain the District's collections.

Art Director Jacquie Persson (inspired by the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines) recently created a few free backgrounds that can be downloaded and used in Zoom. If you're missing the Museum District, you might want to give one a try during your next Zoom meeting! They can be downloaded here.

In the photo below, Sam McCombs is recording Rensselaer and Caroline Russell (aka Carrsan Morrissey and Shanna McNamee) as they share their home with virtual visitors. They are working on an Unlock The Russell House project, based on an idea shared by EJ Gallagher. 

Al Sweeney is finalizing work in the Korean War exhibit. Custom Blacksmithing in Waterloo donated a new frame for the reading rail under the shell and powder bags, making it comfortably angled for easier reading. Jacquie Persson will be designing a panel that includes the Iowa's service ribbons and credits those who helped make the exhibit upgrades possible, which Al will install.

Until our next update, please stay healthy and safe!