Lakewood Heritage Center, Lakewood, Colorado

Institution Management Questions & Answers with the Administrator Betsy Bowers and Caitlin M. Lewis, Curator.

The Lakewood Heritage Center is located in the suburban city just west of Denver, Colorado.  Incorporated in 1969, it has reached a point where growth has slowed due to a lack of land for continued expansion.  Lakewood has light business and industry with sprawling suburbs but also has access to city parks with great views.  Lakewood is situated on the foothills of the front range of the Colorado Rockies and is a quick drive east of Red Rocks where dinosaur footprints and an outdoor natural amphitheater are just part of the grandeur.  We camped in the city owned Bear Creek Lake Park where people bike, hike, swim, fish, and camp.  The Lakewood Heritage Center is located at Bel Mar Park and has a large outdoor facility (campus) as well as an indoor museum with several exhibits and no cover charge. The campus and museum are part of a hobby farm that belonged to a local, prominent woman, May Bonfil.  A zealous developer who built a business park on its location destroyed her mansion but the estate remains.

  1. What processes fund the institution and at what percentages?

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) of Colorado is responsible for funding this institution with state historic preservation funds.  This is the only source of funding although there is an event venue that could be leveraged into a profit generating facility. 

  1. How involved are the board members with the operation of the institution?

There is no board, per se, but the Lakewood, CO, City Council serves in a board capacity. 

  1. What processes do you have for maintaining a volunteer pool and what level of involvement can they attain?

The Lakewood Heritage Center is heavily invested in their volunteers who are managed at the city level.  This volunteer manager deals with ‘volgisitcs’ balancing more than 100 people shared across the entire city.

  1. What relationship does fundraising have to the mission statement?

Since the Heritage Center develops no income, relying completely on the city of Lakewood and provisions by the SCFD, there is not any direct relationship to the mission statement.

  1. How involved is the institution with social media?

Pokémon Go is across the entire Heritage Center campus although no exact count is available.  The city marketing resources promotes all the social media and is not always institution specific.  There is a Facebook page specific to the institution and has between two and three thousand followers. 

  1. What museum collection software (MCS) is used and where is the data housed?
    1. Is it stored on local servers, the cloud, and is there any backup? e.: M-Disc
    2. Frequency of system back up
    3. What kind of training do you have for staff and volunteers on the MCS?

The Heritage Center uses PastPerfect operating on city servers.  The city provides the necessary IT and backup at regular intervals.  The amount of training provided to staff and qualified volunteers are based on the needs of the individual and their project.  

  1. How often do you update the collection policy if you have one?

The Heritage Center has a collection policy but is admittedly out of date.  The collection policy is one of the topics for the master plan and strategic plan this coming year. 

  1. What do you do with items to be de-accessioned?

Deaccessioning is conducted with quarterly meetings with staff, volunteers, and solicitations of the community.  The City Council approves the deaccessioning policy. 

  1. Does the institution have a long term and or short term strategic management plan?
    1. How often is it updated, and who is involved? (staff, volunteers, the board…)

The Heritage Center has a master plan that is long range and a strategic plan that covers short range planning.  The City Council is the approving authority for both plans.  The center has a professional consultancy for local non-profits that started the Master Plan.  The Lakewood citizens, volunteers, and local businesses that use the facility were all interviewed for the master plan. 

  1. Could your institution operate as a ‘for profit’ business? 

The Lakewood Heritage Center’s expectation is for revenue generating in the near future.  They are partnering with the local associations and businesses approved by the administrator first then approved by the City Council. 



Pottsville Historical Museum

Pam and I chose to take the slow route during the heat of late July in Northern California and Southern Oregon.  We left Weed and drove to Grants Pass, Oregon logging a whole 107 miles, uphill, in the heat pulling a load, and with no timeline whatsoever.  Just north of Grants Pass on I-5 was a beautiful (it had space for us too) K.O.A. park located on “Jump Off Joe” creek and water fall.  We decided to stay for two nights in order to avail ourselves of shopping in G.P. and to soak up the mountain atmosphere.  When getting off the freeway we saw a brown sign for Pottsville Museum and it indicated that it was three miles west and we were camping to the east.  After shopping on the first morning, we grabbed Olivia and headed west to indulge out historic curiosity.  Neither one of us had bothered to do a ubiquitous Google search since we were going to the museum anyway.  It is actually located in Merlin, Oregon and resembled a small rural village with only a huge steel plow blade painted white with blue letters to show we had reached our destination.

This is the entrance to a huge piece of land that is a living museum. There are pieces of machinery that represent the history of industry in Southern Oregon. Many pieces are outside and not covered, some are covered and some have been restored and apparently are demonstrated periodically.

There was a fence line and gate from the road to a big red barn.  The barn had rusty old artifacts laid out in front the main doors where some signage of various ages told us what we were seeing.  Inside the fence-line were all kinds of antique machines, vehicles, and buildings; clearly we were ‘there’.  We could see no formal parking lot and it seemed as if there was often regular vehicular traffic through the ‘museum’.  Since I am (now) such a polite fellow, I parked near the fence and we dismounted the truck thinking that discretion would be best.  It was sunny and hot for Oregon with a light breeze and high temperature in the low 90s.  I convinced Pam and Olivia that we needed the exercise anyway and that there was enough shade that they could scurry from shade to shade.  Olivia does not like to leave my side so we baked in the sun and no one complained.

Exactly How Big is this Place?!
Pam stands (smartly) in the shade peering out into the field at more items off in the distance.

Pottsville is laid out like a small village with a rail line against the highway fence line (southern border) and buildings to the north.  The rails have artifacts on them with a walkway between the rails and a second row of artifacts just to the north.  Just beyond this second line of artifacts, under some lovely shady pine trees were various old buildings, two sets of bleachers and a grandstand.  Clearly, this site did not just serve as a repository for historical artifacts and as I inspected these old treasures, it became apparent that some of them worked.  Several of the buildings also had old artifacts laid out around them and placards festooned the exteriors explaining the building’s purpose and age.  Benches for folks to sit were available along the corridor of buildings and Pam availed herself, patiently waiting for me.

Pottsville Chain Saws
A nice collection of antique chain saws. They are outside but under cover and have some paper markers indicating their origins. Hopefully that information does not get lost but outside environments are unforgiving.
Dragsaw Collection
This collection is also outside but under cover. They do not have their saws attached and like many of the pieces at the museum some may still work.
Stoves and Furnaces
Odd items are scattered around the different displays leaving us all to wonder what they were and what their significance is to Oregon’s history.

We reached the west end of the outdoor gallery where some beautiful old steam engines were sitting in various stages of repair.  I moved my attention to the main road through the village and noticed across from the grandstand, a massive four-cylinder diesel engine with a flywheel to match its size.  Hurriedly I went to get a closer look and Pam followed since it was under a large pole barn roof with no walls (always about the shade).  It was a huge Fairbanks Morse bolted to a massive concrete pedestal poured on top of a bigger concrete pad.  There was fuel oil and grease all over the place with buckets under the dripping areas and the exhaust pipes to catch the drooling fossil fuel.  I was amazed to think that this monster had actually been running in the very recent past.  No mufflers and only three feet of ten to twelve inch diameter exhaust pipe to vent the four massive cylinders led me to believe that even if I was lucky enough to be near this beast while running some expensive hearing protection would be required.

A Dynamo
This Fairbanks Morse Engine runs. I looked at it very carefully imagining I might start it. Pam was not happy with that concept. A quick google search of Fairbanks Morse shows pictures of this think running. AMAZING!
Fairbanks Morse
That flywheel could weigh more than my truck.

Fairbanks Morse

Fairbanks Morse
Which one was the Start switch?

As we finished our tour of this amazing facility, we saw many different tools, machines and workshops that operated for the benefit of an audience.  If only we had thought to plan this excursion, we might have been able to see Pottsville alive.  I took many pictures (not nearly enough because I had no desire to overheat Pam or Olivia) and learned many things that translated so well to my recent adventure at the Weed Lumber Town Museum.  Check out their website  If you can make the opportunity, go see this amazing place and try to schedule when they have their living component open and working.

Fresh Hay on 100 Year Old Equipment
The fresh straw belies the fact this old straw loader has not worked in a very long time. It is a clever prop used to make the living demonstration area more vibrant and alive.
Equipment Borders the Entire Piece of Property
Although Pottsville is set up to look like a town you definitely have an entrance through a gate onto a piece of property that is ringed with historic old equipment.
Belt Driven Table Saw
This entire place has to be an amazing experience when all this stuff is running.
Belt Driven Table Saw
How exposed the operator has to be to the mechanism…SCARY.
Belt Driven Table Saw
Notice the generator outback.
Belt Driven Table Saw
This is a running saw that demonstrates how late 19th and early 20th century equipment was powered. Notice the huge rubber belt coiled on the right side. It rolls out to the flywheel on a generator outside. OSHA would have a conniption.
Steam Powered Tractor
This is another restored although no longer running example of a steam powered tractor. The ability to get up close to these machines is amazing. Some of the ways that people engineered these things shows primitive and brilliant thought.
Aside from the Balloon Logging these machines came in various sizes and were used in multiples to haul timber up from deep ravines as I learned at the Weed Lumber Town Museum.
Balloon Logging!
I wonder how well this worked? This was just attached to a building and had no display with it although there are several ‘yarders’ around the site.
Steam Powered Tractor
This is a beautifully restored example of late 19th century technology for farm and industry. It might have been used to pull one of the towed tilt wheel graders. Notice the chains slung underneath for steering.
Old and New
This is a working piece with a steam engine powering a car with seating for one. Obviously it is more for the demonstration of steam power.
Railroad Mule
This item is special to me since it I saw one of these on a scrap heap at the city yard in Weed, California and it was missing its motor. They would have been used to move the gravity cars around the lumber mill yard. The wheels are the give away and this photo has the second larger set disassociated from its frame and motor.
Tilt Wheel Grader
Another towed tilt wheel grader that has the original hard rubber tires on the old rims.
Tilt Wheel Grader
This is a towed tilt wheel grader that has a newer generation of tires showing it may have been used recently.

Shasta Sisson Museum, Siskiyou, CA

The Shasta Sisson Museum is located in Siskiyou County, California and is part of the State Fish Hatchery located in one of the old hatchery buildings.  The museum represents the collective memory and history of the city of Shasta whose name used to be Sisson.  Justin Sisson was the man responsible for the founding of the hatchery.  It is one of the oldest on the west coast of the United States.  The director of the museum Jean Nels was kind enough to allow about an hour to answer questions about this fascinating museum’s operations.  The end of the interview has some excellent pictures of the museum and its exhibits.


Institution Management Q&A on July 15, 2017

With Jean Nels of the Shasta Sisson Museum

  1. What processes fund the institution and at what percentages?

The museum has no set funding from any single source.  Forty percent comes from donations and store profits.  Twenty-five percent comes from grants, and the rest from memberships and fundraisers. 

  1. How involved are the board members with the operation of the institution?

The board is very involved as all the members are both museum donor members as well as volunteers. Most are also on the exhibit committee.

  1. What processes do you have for maintaining a volunteer pool and what level of involvement can they attain?

The Shasta Sisson Museum’s volunteers are members and on the board.  Sixteen of the thirty work the desk at the gift store and about ten work on specific exhibits.

  1. What relationship does fundraising have to the mission statement?

The mission statement focus comes from fundraising.  This takes the form of sponsorships and presentations where the audience is charged per head.  It is a way to involve the community with the museum and generate revenue.

  1. How involved is the institution with social media?

The Shasta Sisson Museum use a website and Facebook only.  There are no volunteers working on these sites.  None have asked to be involved either.

  1. What museum collection software (MCS) is used and where is the data housed?
    1. Is it stored on local servers, the cloud, and is there any backup? ie: M-Disc
    2. Frequency of system back up
    3. What kind of training do you have for staff and volunteers on the MCS?

Shasta Sisson uses PastPerfect ( on a stand-alone computer.  The system is backed up at the end of each day to an external hard drive.  No volunteers work with PastPerfect and the director is the only person who works on the single computer.  She does attend the PastPerfect training webinars in order to stay current.

  1. How often do you update the collection policy if you have one?

Shasta Sisson’s collection policy was written in 2013 when the director/curator took over.

  1. What do you do with items to be de-accessioned?

It was explained that the museum has not needed to de-accessioned anything so this has not even come up.

  1. Does the institution have a long term and or short term strategic management plan?  How often is it updated, and who is involved? (Staff, volunteers, the board…)

They have a 6-year long-term strategic plan and it is six years old. Shasta Sisson museum intends to update it during this year’s fundraiser about long term plans for the museum. The board will be in attendance with many charitable benefactors who will be able to sit in on this proceeding.

  1. Could your institution operate as a ‘for profit’ business?

Only Shasta Sisson’s director/curator writes grants and sponsorships.  She is a volunteer who works 40 hours a week for the summer fall museum schedule.  She suggested that her tenure may be complete in another 3 years at which point there would be another person taking her place. (Editor’s Note: This does not answer the question but the assumption is that changing the paradigm for Shasta Sisson’s operation to reflect a for-profit style would be more time consuming, from a long term perspective, than she is ready to assume.  Jean did explain the dollar breakdown for structuring the institution into a paid employee operation.  The short answer is that the museum would not be able to operate under its current annual income. 

Multi Use Room
This room serves as the board meeting room, outreach classroom, temporary exhibit hall, seminar room, and research room.
The Gift Shop
Shasta Sisson Museum’s gift shop is where a large portion of the museums operating revenue is generated