ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: CAITLIN YAGER – DIRECTOR OF HERITAGE PROGRAMS, MISSOURI HUMANITIES
Since 2017, Missouri Humanities has provided Cultural Heritage Workshops in rural communities throughout the state. The goal of these programs is to provide participants the tools and resources necessary to evaluate cultural heritage assets in their communities in an effort to increase programming, tourism, and economic development opportunities. To date, we have hosted day-long workshops in over a dozen communities across the state.
Our 2020 plans included workshops in Savannah, Warrenton, Kirksville, Camdenton, and Poplar Bluff. When COVID-19 hit, we had to pivot from in-person programming to virtual programming, and we risked losing one of the most important aspects of these workshops: creating partnerships with small communities in our state, especially in rural areas.
Still, we knew that engaging with Missourians in whatever way we could was crucial to maintaining an audience during a very complicated time, so we quickly set out to transform these workshops from their hands-on, participation-heavy format to a virtual presentation setting. In the past, topics and presenters during these workshops were chosen in partnership with the host community, and were based on that community’s specific needs. Now that we were presenting these to a wider audience, they couldn’t necessarily be focused on a single community. Instead, we decided that each series of presentations would be based on a theme. A typical Virtual Cultural Heritage workshop this year included three separate Zoom webinars in a day, which maintained the setting of a day-long workshop but allowed for breaks and for participants to come and go based on their availability. So far, the virtual workshops have grown our average attendance from 30 participants to about 50 participants per session.
We hosted three Virtual Cultural Heritage Workshops in 2020. The first, in May, had presentations following the theme of “Place.” The first presentation was “Place and Placemaking” by Arthur Mehrhoff; the second was a presentation about the Missouri Main Street program by Keith Winge of Missouri Main Street Connection; and the third was a panel discussion about Small Town Tourism, focusing on changes due to COVID-19.
The theme of the second workshop, held in June, was “Documenting Your Personal History,” with presentations by Sean Rost (from The State Historical Society of Missouri [SHSMO]) on Documenting Oral Histories, AJ Medlock (also from SHSMO) on Personal Digital Archives, and Marideth Sisco on Storytelling.
The third and final workshop of the year focused on the theme of Historic Preservation and was held in September. Sean Rost returned for an encore of his well-received “Documenting Oral Histories” presentation in addition to presentations by Bill Hart (of Missouri Preservation) on Historic Preservation Advocacy and Kelsey Matson (from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office) on Historic Preservation Strategies for Rural Communities.
We are incredibly thankful to all our partners and presenters who helped us continue to bring Cultural Heritage Workshops to Missourians in 2020, albeit in a different way. While we are thrilled with the growth we’ve seen in the program’s audience, we are excited to get back into Missouri communities to continue building connections and sharing resources. Because of the success of the virtual workshops, we plan to continue to offer workshops both virtually and in person throughout 2021 (pending COVID-19) so we can build off the different benefits each setting offers. We also hope to transfer more of the in-person content to the virtual setting, such as creating downloadable toolkits with handouts and worksheets.
If your community is interested in hosting a workshop in 2021 or 2022, or if you have a topic or presentation suggestion, contact Director of Heritage Programs Caitlin Yager at email@example.com.