Q. Why is WHS changing its name?
A. The Board of Directors voted to change the name of the organization back in 2017 after going through a program called StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) which was run by Connecticut Humanities. That program allowed the organization’s total operations to be assessed with the goal of creating a strategic plan. As part of that plan, a name change to incorporate “museum” was recommended. That change is formally taking effect now.
Q. Why did you choose the name Westport Museum for History & Culture?
A. The new name reflects WM award-winning museum work and mission to explore history factually and by recognizing the many different aspects of local and regional culture that contribute to the town and larger area.
Q. Why do you want to become a museum?
A. The quality of work that WM has done in the last two years with respect to exhibits, programming, research and collaboration has put it in the category of respected museums. Formally, pursuing museum status allows WM to apply for better funding opportunities in terms of grants and sponsorships.
Q. What about the period rooms? Why are they gone?
A. The “period” rooms were created by volunteers in the 1980s with the best of intentions and were enjoyed by many throughout the years. However, guidelines from museum accreditation agencies are very clear about what makes a house museum or period room and, unfortunately, the period rooms at WM did not meet that standard. The Board of Directors voted to de-install them as part of its strategic plan.
Q. What else is in the strategic plan?
A. After examining the whole operations with StEPs from 2014 through 2017, the three-year strategic plan that was created addressed modernization and reorganization of the whole organization. This included de-installing the period rooms, digitizing collections; making long overdue repairs to Bradley-Wheeler House and cobblestone barn; digital technology overhaul; public engagement; gift shop overhaul; reorganizing public spaces and much more.
More information about the museums strategic plan can be found in the 2017-18 Annual report.
Q. Who oversees the strategic plan?
A. The Executive Director oversees enacting what is outlined in the strategic plan. To date, the current executive director and staff have enacted over 80% of that plan.
Q. If I want to suggest a program or exhibit or general comment to WMHC who do I speak to? Does the board manage those things?
A. Any general comments, suggestions, or requests to do exhibits need to go the Executive Director who runs the organization. The board does not have any say on these activities outside of general oversight that the organization stays on mission.
For program suggestions please fill-out our online program survey available here.
Q. Is the Museum funded by the town or the state?
A. WM doesn’t receive money from the town or the state. We apply for grants—some of which come from the state or federal government—but these are not regular, dependable income. The Town of Westport did pay to rent storage space in our vault but will no longer do so after January 2020.
Q. Why is the Museum charging fees to use its archives?
A. Beginning in January 2018, the museum adopted a fee structure to use its archives that was similar to other historical societies and museums. It is expensive to maintain the archives and requires special supplies and climactic controls for the vault. Our ongoing digitization program which will make our resources available to the researchers and scholars through a state catalog system, is also costly. Fees offset these necessary expenses.
Those who wish to view the few public collections we maintain—the Westport Library’s History files and (until January 2020) the town’s tax records and voter registration lists, may do so free of charge after making an appointment during hours when the library is open and staffed.