New Paltz, NY (April 15, 2020) – Joining other institutions across the country and abroad, Historic Huguenot Street has launched a new online programming initiative that includes engaging videos, hands-on activities, special deals from the museum shop available for delivery, and new ways to participate and explore its exhibitions, archives, and collection. These virtual experiences will be available on the museum’s website and shared through its social-media channels using the hashtag #MuseumsFromHome.
“Historic Huguenot Street is fortunate in that it already had a strong and engaging online presence,” says Liselle LaFrance, HHS’s Executive Director. “As disappointed as we are about not being able to serve people directly on site, the current circumstances have allowed us to test new interpretive approaches.”
Since it started its pivot to online programming March 23, HHS has engaged its audiences through daily posts in a variety of formats and topics. “Our community has always been our top priority, regardless of whether or not people can physically visit the site,” says Director of Public Programming Kara Augustine. “In many ways, this new direction is an opportunity to push our museum to be more accessible, serve an even wider audience, and watch our community grow.”
On Mondays, school programming coordinator Alyssa Bruno reads from one of the many children’s books in the museum shop to keep little ones’ minds busy.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are highlights from the HHS collections and archives—many pieces audiences are seeing for the first time. Wednesdays showcase continued adult education with a series of readings from historical lectures, accounts on the fight for women’s suffrage, and more.
Fridays feature special programs from arts and interpretation manager Amber Neilson, including most recently a video of popular spooky stories from the site. And Saturdays HHS participates in #ShopUlsterSaturday, a county-wide small-business initiative offering deals from its online museum shop available for delivery.
This isn’t the first time Historic Huguenot Street has gone digital: The museum’s free Walking Tour App is available for download and allows visitors practicing social distancing throughout the 10-acre National Historic Landmark district to learn all about the history of Huguenot Street from their phones (https://www.huguenotstreet.org/app). HHS is encouraging visitors to use the app to participate in a new social-media campaign and share their best photos of the site with the hashtag #ViewFromHuguenot for a chance to win museum merchandise.
And even though HHS’s doors are currently closed to the public, that doesn’t mean the community can’t “visit” the museum’s archives online. Historic Huguenot Street’s collections are available 24/7 through New York Heritage Digital Collections (https://nyheritage.org/contributors/historic-huguenot-street), including manuscripts and photographs, and objects such as textiles, kitchenware, and more.
Historic Huguenot Street is looking at how to engage the community online for the foreseeable future. Going forward, HHS’s exhibits will be available entirely online to make information accessible to a wide audience. “Historic Huguenot Street’s curatorial team has been developing a number of exhibits relating to women’s history as part of the celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York State,” says Josephine Bloodgood, Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs. “These were intended to be physical exhibits; instead, starting next month, these stories, told through original documents, collection objects, and text, will be made available online through the HHS website. In this way, our audiences can learn and explore the narratives from their own homes.”s one of the oldest preservation organizations of its kind in the United States, Historic Huguenot Street has encountered many challenges over the course of its 125-plus year history: “I am proud of the way the team has embraced this particular challenge by using it as an opportunity to present the mid-Hudson Valley’s rich and distinct history in innovative and engaging ways,” LaFrance says. “Their enthusiastic response to change bodes well for the organization’s next 125 years.”
Despite the opportunities presented by the pandemic, there has been a real and significant adverse economic impact. Anyone interested in supporting Historic Huguenot Street and its new approach to online programming and digital content can become a member or make a donation on the museum’s website, http://www.huguenotstreet.org/donate.
About Historic Huguenot Street
A National Historic Landmark District, Historic Huguenot Street is a 501(c)3 non-profit that encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres comprising the heart of the original 1678 New Paltz settlement, including seven stone houses dating to the early eighteenth century. Historic Huguenot Street was founded in 1894 as the Huguenot Patriotic, Historical, and Monumental Society to preserve the nationally acclaimed collection of stone houses. Since then, Historic Huguenot Street has grown into an innovative museum, chartered as an educational corporation by the University of the State of New York Department of Education that is dedicated to protecting our historic buildings, preserving an important collection of artifacts and manuscripts, and promoting the stories of the Huguenot Street families from the seventeenth century to today.
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