News

Summary of our Situation
Yolo County Historical Museum – Gibson House
From the Board of Directors and Executive Director

The Yolo County Historical Museum (YCHM) – Gibson House is dedicated to sharing the Yolo County history in myriad and interesting ways. The decision in December to place YoloArts in this venue is a difficult one for those who have devoted decades of care to this facility. As must be noted, our administrator has not engaged in the public crosstalk about this decision because the level of these discussions has, at times, become counterproductive.

We fully understand the community’s concerns about the apparent lack of transparency in the decision-making process, of which our executive director was a part. We also understand that the Gibson House is owned and governed by the County of Yolo, allowing the Supervisors to do what they deem most appropriate for the house, grounds, and collection. It has become clear that anyone outside of the insular group who developed the proposals had little to no input in this process, including other Supervisors, community members, and those whose work has kept the museum going, and it is for this reason they are speaking out.

Perhaps it is time to take another look at these proposals in a series of public forums before taking a single additional step forward, to provide the community an opportunity for input into the future of Gibson House. YCHM held several gatherings for YCHM Board members and volunteers in creating our proposal. The YCHM executive director also kept the YCHM Board apprised of the contents of our proposal. He understood from the County that he was to keep the content of the YoloArts proposal confidential. The part, we believe, has been missed by the developers of these proposals, is the public’s feelings and concerns about the future of Gibson House. We are unaware whether YoloArts held informational meetings for their community about the contents of the proposal. We know the County did not do this. This contact should have been extended to the community at large, as our executive director suggested in conversations with the County. We were aware, though, that the greatest interest was in making an expedient decision to make whatever changes were ahead as quickly as possible.

Our executive director asked several times whether consideration was possible for our proposal and was carefully told that no final decision had been made, although little to no inquiry, guidance, or work was offered on our specific proposal during this process, other than listening to it during meetings. To be clear, the YCHM-only proposal was outside the scope of the work group investigating the future of the Gibson House.

We are wholly clear that the status quo is no longer possible, and we concur on generally what needs to be done with the property and collection, in both proposals. We had initiated the projects we could toward that end. We were aware, too, the County was willing to help in certain areas; however, they encouraged some of the work to be paid for by the museum itself. As YCHM has a pool of money dedicated to upgrades, that seemed most appropriate.

We see in the YoloArts proposal that the collection will be handled by the Curator and YCHM or another agency. We see the upgrades will be handled by the County of Yolo. We see, too, the education program will include an historical component, as developed with the current YCHM educator-docents. How the grounds will be handled, and what role the Gibson Gardeners will play, is, as yet, undetermined. YoloArts seems interested in very few aspects of the actual house and grounds, outside of where they can place art and provide art education with a history component, so we remain unclear why this particular venue is so important to them.

These questions from our Board and the community have arisen during the process:

  1. Why did Supervisors Rexroad and Provenza, and County Administrator Blacklock stay so focused on YoloArts when a new YCHM administration and Board was developing something hopeful for the museum?
  2. Why was the public excluded so specifically from this process?
  3. Why did Supervisor Rexroad work so hard to expedite the YoloArts proposal through the Board meeting on December 12, instead of encouraging questions and further discussion from the other Supervisors?
  4. How did YoloArts Board of Directors make the decision to move to Gibson House when most of them had never stepped foot on the grounds until after the decision was made in December? It would seem making this change would inspire more personal review and introspection about what that means culturally and societally.
  5. Why hasn’t any action been taken when 4,000+ residents of Yolo County and beyond signed petitions for review?
  6. Is this move to satisfy some promise made by the County to YoloArts to find a venue in which YoloArts is not required to pay rent?
  7. Why is the proposal agreed upon by the Supervisors now changing so dramatically two months after it has been approved, including changing the use of the upstairs and downstairs; making decisions about how to more adequately store, deaccess, and conserve the collection, which clearly had no specifics attached in the original proposal?
  8. What role will YCHM play, if any, in this future of Gibson House, and the collection or history education?

These questions are important to answer in the near future. We are deeply grateful for the support from the community during this challenging time. Again, we acknowledge that we have arrived at this point through a variety of actions and inactions taken by all parties involved, ourselves included. This is not a time for acrimony. It is a time for healing and clarity.


 

YoloArts Will Be New Residents of Gibson House

On December 12, 2017, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors received two proposals regarding the future of Gibson House. One was the original proposal from YoloArts, which would transform the site from a house museum to an arts and cultural center, including historical exhibits and presentations as part of the art offerings. The other was the proposal supported wholly by the YCHM Board of Directors, which would allow YCHM to continue as residents of the Gibson House, while becoming self-sufficient through events, exhibits, grants and fund development.

As owners of the Gibson House house, grounds, and collection, the Board of Supervisors determined in a unanimous vote to remove the Yolo County Historical Museum (YCHM) Board of Directors and staff as stewards and administrators of the Gibson House house and grounds, and instead create the arts and cultural center under the auspices of YoloArts. This was decided with little public input or outreach to the community by the Board of Supervisors, other than that received at the December 12 hearing as most of the negotiations were conducted confidentially.

Upgrades to the house, administrative offices, and some outbuildings, sponsored by the County of Yolo, will provide YoloArts an opportunity to create an environment in which art exhibition and education can be provided within a backdrop of the historical site. Some pieces belonging to the Gibson family will remain on site. Many other donated artifacts will be relegated to storage. YoloArts also plans to eventually convert the upstairs of the mansion to working art studios for artists.

The YCHM Board of Directors will continue as an entity, for the time being, to offer recommendations regarding which pieces in the collection should remain in the house, given that the house will no longer be a traditional house museum. Additional direction will be given by the new county curator, as well as the executive directors of the County Archives and County Library, regarding how to store pieces selected to be removed from the house and grounds.

The County Board of Supervisors has also requested that YCHM assist in developing an educational outreach program, which would bring artifacts from the collection to schools to provide students an opportunity to learn about Yolo County in that manner. YCHM would also coordinate with YoloArts for a combination art/history on-site tour program. The specific roles in YoloArts for the Gibson Gardeners and the docent-educators have yet to be determined.

The County has requested that no new scheduling of weddings, events, or school tours be performed pending the transition to YoloArts, when they can develop their own pricing and activity schedule. All events and tours scheduled prior to January 4, 2018 will be honored based on the agreements identified.

A current member of the YCHM Board of Directors is working as a liaison with the County and YoloArts during the transition. Three Board members will resign their posts, one of which will be appointed to the YoloArts Board of Directors. The current YCHM executive director will resign when the Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the County of Yolo and YoloArts.

We will keep the community updated on this page, as well as in written correspondence to the members, donors, and volunteers. Everyone associated with YCHM is grateful for the outpouring of support for Yolo County history and YCHM’s presence at Gibson House. In response to inquiries we have received, the following information is provided so that anyone interested may contact the Board of Supervisors or County Administrator directly to request information about their reasoning for this decision, or to express your concerns.

Sup. Oscar Villegas, District 1 – (916) 375-6440  

Sup. Don Saylor, District 2 – (530) 666-8622

Sup. Matt Rexroad, District 3 – (530) 666-8621

Sup. Jim Provenza, District 4 – (530) 666-8624

Sup. Duane Chamberlain, District 5 – (530) 666-8627

Patrick Blacklock, County Administrator – (530) 666-8152

Thank you for your interest in Gibson House and the Yolo County Historical Museum organization.