|On February 21, 2017, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop and return with a plan for an operational partnership for management of the Gibson House and historical collection with YoloArts and the current operators, the Yolo County Historical Museum Corporation (YCHM). This action stemmed from a review of the Gibson House operations and historical collection which resulted in concerns about the sustainability of the operating budget, maintenance of the collection and need for facility repairs. In an effort to address these concerns and promote efficient use and management of the Gibson House, staff recommended that a partnership with an additional non-profit, YoloArts, be explored to assist in long term operational sustainability. That exploration has been underway since February 2017 and has resulted in two potential operational plans for the future of the Gibson House property and County historical collection. The first is an operational partnership between YoloArts and YCHM (Plan #1) and the second is an operational plan with YCHM exclusively (Plan #2).
A Gibson House Ad Hoc Committee was formed to review the operational proposals and provide a recommendation. Under Plan #1 the committee found the vision of incorporating art, history and Yolo County culture into all aspects of programming at the Gibson property under YoloArts compelling in creating a new and expanded purpose for use of the Gibson property for the community. It also saw an opportunity to expand access to the historical collection countywide with YCHM and a County museum curator.
While the committee was in favor of the increased programming proposed under each operational plan, there were concerns over the feasibility of revenue generation under Plan #2. For this reason, the recommendation of the committee is to move forward with implementing the operational partnership, Plan # 1, to ensure expanded operations and strong sustainability for the Gibson House property and proper preservation and countywide display of the historical collection.
The Gibson home, land and outbuildings were acquired by Yolo County in 1975. The non-profit YCHM was formed in 1984 to operate the museum in accordance with an established agreement with Yolo County (County). Under the current agreement (Attachment A), YCHM is tasked to collect, record, preserve and exhibit items that best portray the history of Yolo County as well as appoint a director and conduct activities necessary for its budget. The corporation is to maintain the premises and the museum in accordance with its operating budget while capital improvement costs are to be shared with the County. This MOU may be terminated by either party with a written 30 day notice.
YCHM also operates and receives income from a County-owned rental property onsite. In accordance with the operating agreement, YCHM has license to utilize the property unless a 30 day termination notice is provided by the County and, if the property is sold and receives any proceeds up to their contribution to its original purchase (Attachment B).
The Gibson House Museum functions as a public park, museum, location for fundraising and private events, and a living history education program for local schools as operated by YCHM. Of these functions, the highest number of visitors to the Gibson House property and its largest source of revenue is for private events.
Table 1: Number of Visitors, by Property Function, to Gibson House in FY15-16
In February 2017, staff presented to the Board of Supervisors long term sustainability concerns for the Gibson House property concerning the YCHM operating budget, the museum collection and maintenance of the facility.
Operating Budget: The YCHM operates with a Board of Directors, a small number of part-time staff, including a part time director, and active volunteers. The director’s annual salary is relatively low at $14,400. This has allowed YCHM to continue to operate the Gibson House while maintaining a relatively stable budget (See Attachment C: YCHM Budget). However, the ability of YCHM to continue providing this salary to future potential directors, under current operations, and retain the quality of service necessary for robust and effective management is problematic.
Museum Collection: Since the inception of the museum, the number of collection pieces has grown to an estimated 11,248 items. While some of the collection is on display, a sizable portion of the collection is held in storage, which has resulted in a museum collection that is not fully available for public viewing and has, in effect, turned the Gibson House into an archive building, of which the historical house is not adequately suited for the long term.
The County contracted with Past Matters, LLC in 2016 to review a portion of the collection. In their final report, Past Matters, LLC noted that many items were in overcrowded conditions with improper storage that could result in damage for some pieces. When it comes to the facility, Past Matters, LLC found that, while most of the collection was reasonably stable, the environmental conditions of the museum buildings did not necessarily meet optimum standards for storage and display and that the conditions of many of the buildings, including the barns and attic, were not conducive for long term storage.
Facility Maintenance: The Gibson House and grounds are in need of a number of improvements to ensure its safety and continued preservation for the long term, which would require funding. As shown in Attachment D, a review of some of the capital improvement needs at the mansion and grounds ranged from an estimated $384,000 to $774,000. These facility upgrades do not include improvements to the administration building or outbuildings. ADA improvements are needed at a number of the facilities and on the grounds of the property which would likely be recommended for some County funding regardless of the operational plan chosen by the Board of Supervisors.
Proposed Operational Plans
During the February 21 Board meeting, a Gibson House Ad Hoc Committee was appointed. Since that time, the committee has repeatedly met with staff from YoloArts and YCHM to determine the best model for an operational partnership. In doing so the committee sought to preserve the Gibson House for public use and to retain the educational program.
During these discussions, the former YCHM director retired and a new director was hired for the organization; currently funded by the Yolo County District 3 Supervisor in lieu of a second deputy position. That director has worked with the YCHM Board to develop a new vision and action plan for YCHM. As a result, two operational plans have been developed for the future of the Gibson House and historical collection. Plan #1 is for an operational partnership with YoloArts and YCHM while Plan #2 is for the continued operation of the property by YCHM exclusively.
Operational Plan #1: YoloArts and YCHM
As discussed by both non-profits, space at the Gibson House limits the ability for both parties to operate simultaneously on the property. Therefore, under the proposed operational partnership, the Gibson House would be operated as a cultural center for the Yolo County community by YoloArts and YCHM would manage the historical collection in partnership with a new county museum curator. An organizational chart is provided as Attachment E.
As detailed in YoloArts’ proposed operational plan (Attachment F), the Gibson House would be operated in a way that promotes and cultivates the diverse arts and culture of Yolo County. Ultimately, YoloArts would seek to incorporate art, history and the culture of Yolo County into the programming provided throughout the property with the purpose of providing lifelong learning to the community.
Guided tours would occur based on themes that fit various interests of the public; such as historic, architecture, garden and art tours. Select historic objects would remain onsite for public consumption and historical programming in conjunction with YCHM. Public programming would be increased with activities such as outdoor live musical and theatrical performances and movie screenings, as well as art exhibitions and lectures in the barns and Gibson mansion. Educational tours for K-12 would continue and be expanded with studio art classes in the barns. This educational programming would ideally grow overtime to additional age groups and topics of study. An artistic element would also be added to the current operations of the Gibson House with some temporary and permanent art exhibitions in various buildings on the property.
The County would be responsible for capital improvements and large repairs at the property, but would receive a percentage of event rental revenue from YoloArts to assist in this expense.
When it comes to the historical collection, it is envisioned that the pieces would be shared more broadly across the county in multiple exhibits to create a countywide museum. YCHM and the County museum curator would review, deaccess and move the collection to an alternative location to improve preservation. Following this effort, YCHM would assist the museum curator in executing exhibitions and events throughout the county such as at libraries, city buildings, the Historic courthouse, etc. This would include the display of items and assistance in historical programming at the Gibson property in consultation with YoloArts. The curator would be placed under Yolo County Archives and be hired full time for two years to oversee the review and deaccession and would then likely move to part-time depending on grant funding assistance.
There are on-going and one-time costs to the County associated with this operational plan as shown in Table 2. Ongoing costs would be the continuation of utility, water and sewer payments, space to store the historical collection, as well as contributions to capital improvements in future years. One-time costs would include a 2 year full-time museum curator position and ADA improvements to the Gibson House. After two years, it is intended that the curator would move to part-time and be grant funded.
In order to transition YoloArts onto the property, various construction work would be needed (See Attachment G). YoloArts would utilize $270,500, currently held in the County treasury but pledged to YoloArts, towards this construction to prepare for move in. The County could then provide $200,000 towards ADA improvements at the property. County staff have already submitted a grant application for ADA improvements that, if awarded, would reduce the County contribution.
Table 2: Estimated County Cost for Operational Plan #1
|Annual Utility, Water and Sewer Costs
|Historical Collection Storage
||Use existing space or lease
|Future Capital Improvements
||Contributions to be determined by the Board over the next few years
|Museum Curator (FT)(2 Years)
(2 years x (annual $55,000 salary + $42,336.35 benefits))
|Facility ADA Improvements
||$200,000 towards ADA improvements at the Gibson House property (may be reduced by grant)
This plan helps to address the long term sustainability issues associated with operations and historical collection preservation. YoloArts has administrative overhead that allows for self-sufficient operation of the property and a feasible plan for revenue generation. Under the operation of YoloArts, activity at the Gibson House property would substantially increase with educational programming and a variety of events for the public. For the historical collection, the items would be displayed by YCHM with changing exhibits in partnership with local historical societies which may allow the public access to items that have traditionally been held in storage. In this wa,y the accessibility and role of the museum can be expanded countywide while also preserving the collection in a more suitable environment.
Benefits and Challenges:
This plan does involve a substantial transition in space and duties between YoloArts and YCHM, as well as a notable cost to the County with new staff and facility improvements. Yolo County Archives has also expressed concern over longevity of funding to support the new museum curator position as well as additional support from staff that may be needed within the department. Careful consideration in developing an implementation plan would need to occur to address these concerns and would need the County’s commitment to invest in the facility.
Operational Plan #2: YCHM
Under this operational plan, the Gibson House would continue to be utilized as a museum under the operation of YCHM but with a substantial increase in the programming and services provided (See Attachment H: Gibson House Operation Plan #2: YCHM). The intent is to increase the awareness and footprint of YCHM programs and the historical collection to connect the public (children and adults) with the history of Yolo County.
When it comes to the historical collection, a full review and deaccession would occur and a section of one of the barns turned into a classroom and preservation space for the collection, although an alternative storage space may still be needed. Exhibits would be expanded and diversified to better represent all facets of the Yolo County community and would rotate, rather than be static. This would also include mobile exhibits throughout the county to increase the reach of the museum countywide.
The YCHM would also continue the educational school tours but would begin increasing programming for the public. This programming could include classes such as textiles, ethnic studies, gardening, blacksmithing and olive press; summer genealogy workshops; and a history focused school outreach program. The programming would occur in addition to new events and fundraisers to draw the public to the Gibson House.
Through investments in new revenue streams (classes), grant writing, fundraising, donor outreach and private events, YCHM seeks to increase their revenue generation substantially. With this increased revenue, YCHM would increase their staffing by 4-5 positions to assist in implementing further programming, obtaining funds and monitoring the historical collection.
The YCHM proposal leaves minimal cost to the County for operations. The County would continue to cover the costs of utilities, water and sewer, but YCHM would seek to cover the costs for capital improvements through revenue generation, including grant writing efforts. YCHM has already partnered with the County on a grant to bring ADA capital improvements to the Gibson House.
The operational plan helps to address the sustainability issues associated with operations, historical collection preservation and facility improvements. Through this plan, YCHM would increase revenue generation to operate self-sufficiently and greatly increase the use of the Gibson House property to the benefit of the community. This revenue would also be applied to capital improvements at the property. The collection would be available for public display in a more dynamic way through changing displays and mobile exhibits throughout the county. YCHM would also ensure the preservation of the collection by conducting a full review and deaccession of the collection, and finding appropriate storage locations.
Benefits and Challenges:
Overall, the cost to the County for this proposal is minimal as YCHM would take the lead on financing capital improvements and the lead on managing the collection, thus not requiring a County museum curator position. It would also result in minimal disruption in operations at the Gibson House as a transition between operators would not occur.
The main challenge is the feasibility of revenue generation in the proposed operating budget (Attachment H), which would require substantial increases in grant income, donations and class proceeds. The committee expressed concern regarding the ability of the YCHM to achieve its target revenue goals. Overall, the three year budget projection expands revenue for YCHM from $52,969 in FY16-17 to $295,134.75 by FY19-20. This revenue generation begins sharply in FY18-19 with an increase in grant revenue of $110,000 in grants, $70,000 in donations and $23,320 from classes and workshops. This revenue is needed particularly in FY18-19 to begin hiring the 4-5 additional staffing positions envisioned in the plan. In order to implement and achieve the objectives of the operational plan as proposed, the achievement of this revenue would be paramount.
Recommendation and Next Steps:
Ultimately, the Gibson House Ad Hoc Committee recommends operational partnership Plan # 1. The committee recommends this plan due to the expanded vision of the Gibson property under operation and management by YoloArts, the increased presence of a countywide museum guided by YCHM and feasibility of the operations budget. If the recommendation is approved by the Board of Supervisors, staff suggest that an implementation plan be developed and returned to the Board for approval. This plan would guide the operational transition and explore ways to mitigate any administrative burden on Yolo County Archives.