Gibson House reopens to students

With YoloArts at the helm, there will be some changes to the tours from decades past.

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Iulia Bodeanu, museum curator to the Yolo County History Collection, shows off her favorite hat in the Gibson House collection. Behind her is the lighting rig used to photograph specimens. These pieces will be stored in a climate controlled room when not on display. Photo by Emma Johnson.[/caption] The Gibson House of Woodland has watched the world change. William Byas Gibson built the house in 1857, two years after he led a mule team from Missouri to Yolo County at the age of 19. At that time the house sat on a 320 acre plot of land, just south of Woodland. Since Gibson’s time Woodland has crept up around the house. Today the stately mansion faces the wide and busy Gibson Road. The centuries old oak trees that grow at the manner’s entry cast shade on the residences in the neighboring cul-de-sac. After serving as a private residence until 1963, the house was left in a state of decay. The county purchased the land in 1975 for the purpose of establishing a park and a countywide museum. After the Yolo County Historical Museum incorporated in 1986 they operated a museum out of the building. Stewardship of the Gibson House changed hands once again in 2017, when the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to replace the Yolo County History Museum with Yolo Arts. According to their website, YoloArts is a non-profit dedicated to. “cultivating and enriching people’s lives through the arts.” The change was controversial. A petition to keep the Yolo County History Museum at the Gibson House received over 4,500 signatures. The petition argued that YoloArts had made no commitment to maintaining “the history” of the Gibson House. The relocation continued, despite the petition. YoloArts has made some renovations to reflect the property’s continued use as a site for school tours and private events like weddings. Allison Flory, the executive director of YoloArts, gave a guided tour to media before opening the location to the public. According to Flory the newest incarnation the Gibson House will be a place that will embody all things creative, whether that be through art, gardening or the performing arts. Yolo County Supervisor Gary Sandy, who was also in attendance, shared his support for YoloArts’ vision. He spoke briefly on the benefits of their efforts to bring the grounds up to ADA compliance, which will make the location accessible to more visitors than ever. He also spoke to YoloArts’ continued commitment to preserving the Gibson House’s historical component. “History is a map that shows us where we’ve been,” Supervisor Sandy said, bringing up the diverse cultures that have built Yolo County. He spoke to the importance of including all the peoples of Yolo County while telling its story. Becky Doughterty, spokesperson for the Gibson Gardeners, gave a brief tour of the gardens, which have been maintained on the property since the 1980s. The herb garden, which was started by local historian Joann Larkey, will be expanded through a new partnership with the Yolo County Master Gardeners. Doughterty invited those who are interested in joining the Gibson House gardeners to meet them at the property on Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Education Manager Jenna Harris addressed the continuation of the third grade tours, a program that has been held on the property for two decades. Through these trips students were able to witness what life was like in the late 19th and early 20th century. These tours will return to the Gibson House later this week. Third graders will explore the grounds and participate in historically accurate chores, like husking corn and churning butter. [caption id="attachment_771377" align="alignright" width="300"] Thousands of items from all over Yolo County are being cataloged on the Gibson House grounds. These purses will eventually be stored and displayed.[/caption] With YoloArts at the helm, there will be some changes to the tours from decades past. The dairy building, which houses historic milking equipment and infographics on farming, also has several paintings of farm animals. The antique agriculture display, which once had its own building, has now been combined with the blacksmith’s shop. The agriculture display was relocated to make space for an event center in one of several small barns that stand behind the Gibson House. These buildings were not part of the original Gibson property, but were moved there from other locations in Yolo County. The remodeled barn will serve as a, “multi-use public space” where rotating exhibits, lectures, concerts and readings will be held. The first art installation open to the public will be opening in May. Despite the changes, YoloArts is still committed to preserving the Gibson House’s historical exhibits. They are currently in the process of cataloging over 11,000 items that come from all over Yolo County. “It’s a top priority to keep the collection here on site,” Flory told the group. Many of the smaller items from the collection are being shelved in a climate controlled outbuilding under the care of Iulia Bodeanu, the Yolo County History Collection’s first museum curator. Volunteers and archivists are cataloging the collection in order to ensure proper storage. “We’re reviewing these items for long term preservation as well as exhibitions,” Bodeanu said. At the time of the tour, Bodeanu had a collection of hats and other clothing items on display. She explained the display that they have used to photograph each item for identification and cataloging. Eventually they hope to digitize the collection. This collection was relocated from storage in the upper stories of the Gibson House. Downstairs, in the two front parlors, the house has been maintained as it would have looked in the Gibson family’s era. The walls are papered with a print of twining silver vines on a gold background. Under YoloArts’ stewardship students, citizens and wedding guests will continue to walk through these parlors that were built by Gibson over 160 years ago. As with all of the changes that the Gibson House has seen over the centuries, the stately brick manor continues standing tall.]]>

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