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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 509: Stephanie Brown

WNP is hosting museum studies students from Johns Hopkins University this week, so Nicole talks with Professor Stephanie Brown about the program and her own path.
by Nicole Meldahl - Jul 15, 2023

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 509: Stephanie Brown Outside Lands Podcast Episode 509: Stephanie Brown

Podcast Transcription

WNP509 – Stephanie Brown

Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of Western Neighborhoods Project. Your weekly dose of friendly neighborhood history.

 Hello, Outside Landers. I'm Nicole Meldahl, and it's great to be with you again. This week and next week, WNP's humble clubhouse is hosting a Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies student seminar. And that means, for better or for worse, they're learning the WNP approach to community history. But they're also visiting other museums and archives in the Bay Area to see how many ways there really are to do what we do in this very dysfunctional, I mean, very unique and wonderful profession.

And this is a first for our organization and it's a huge opportunity for us. I mean, Johns Hopkins, the name alone just inspires oohs and aahs. But it also [00:01:00] aligns with our commitment to supporting the next generation. And there are some folks who are from San Francisco who are part of this crew. So, joining me today to talk about the wherefores and the whys of this experience is my friend and colleague, Stephanie Brown, who gratefully got us into this. So welcome, Stephanie.

Stephanie: Thank you, Nicole. It's great to be here. This is my first podcast, everybody.

Nicole: First podcast ever?

Stephanie: First podcast ever.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: First podcast ever.

Nicole: Not as, it's not as magical.

Stephanie: Oh, it's totally magical. It’s totally magical. Don't let her fool you. It's like the magic is real.

Nicole: Let me set, let me set the scene here dear listeners. We're both huddled together at my dining room table staring into the Zoom recording with our notes in front of us. And the video is very murky because my laptop is really gross. Just covered in Cheez-Its dust and who knows what else. But there's a sneak peek into what we do. Which, you know, this whole podcast is kind [00:02:00] of a sneak peek.

Stephanie: It is.

Nicole: Into what we're doing.

Stephanie: It is. That's true.

Nicole: So buckle up.

Stephanie: Buckle up.

Nicole: We're gonna pump up the energy here.

Stephanie: We are.

Nicole: And I think maybe we should start with, with you, Stephanie. Like, you know, what's your background? How did you come to be a museum studies professor?

Stephanie: How did, how indeed? How did I come to be a museum studies professor?

Nicole: Way back.

Stephanie: Many years ago. I set out to be a, a professor of French history.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: I did. And I went to Stanford, which, you know, those of you who care about things like that will care about things like that. And I wrote a dissertation all about women's experience of political justice during the terror. Which is a long way of saying that I wrote a dissertation about Marie Antoinette and Madame Defarge. You know, the knitting woman in, in the Tale of Two Cities for those of you who are farther from 10th grade English than, than others. So, I wrote that dissertation, and when I [00:03:00] was, I, I was forced to go to Paris to do research in the French National Archives. And when I got there, and let me back up and say that, when I was in graduate school there was a, it was what was called the linguistic turn. Which means that a lot of people really enjoyed talking about the language of how things may or may not have happened. And they weren't actually all that interested in whether anything had actually happened. And they definitely were not interested in the people who had made things happen or to whom things had happened. And I was really kind of in it for the gossip. And so, I got to Paris and I, and I, you know, got into the National Archives, which is in itself kind of an adventure. And then, I got my archival records out and they were all these trial records. And what happened was when somebody was arrested, the police would [00:04:00] just go in and clean out their desk. And so, whatever was in their desk. that they had like tucked away, hidden away, if it was even more or less not a three-dimensional object, then they would put it in the files. So, like decks of cards that prisoners had used when they were in, in the, in prisons in Paris during the terror. One day I opened the folder and there was a big, white, silk, grosgrain ribbon. What do you call those things that are like ribbon? It's a, it's called a coquette in French. Again, which helps I know.

Nicole: Well, this is a first on the WNP podcast.

Stephanie: It's like a big ribbon.

Nicole: Like a blue ribbon? Like a metal…

Stephanie: Like a blue ribbon.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, but without the tails.

Nicole: Okay.

Stephanie: Like just the top of the blue ribbon.

Nicole: A rosette?

Stephanie: A rosette!

Nicole: I did it.

Stephanie: It's a rosette. This is why we're a good team.

Nicole: I only know that because I had to catalog military ribbons and awards at the [00:05:00] GGNRA.

Stephanie: That's, that’s the practical knowledge that you get.

Nicole: Absolutely.

Stephanie: So, I open the box and here's this, here’s this 200-year-old white silk ribbon.

Nicole: Oh my god.

Stephanie: That got the person whose desk it was in killed.

Nicole: Oh!

Stephanie: Because the white was the color of the monarchy and the monarchy that was, you know, spoiler alert, not good in the French Revolution in 1789.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: So, I suddenly had this object right that, that was, and it was, and it's France and it's the, and the French archives. In American archives, you go in and everybody's like, oh my god, put on your gloves, put on your gloves, don't get too close. And the French archives are like, touch whatever, just try not to look at, you know, put your red wine to the side.

Nicole: I love it. I love the French so much.

Stephanie: So, so, you know, here I am with this 200-year-old object that has this incredible story behind it. And I thought, oh, I totally want to talk about objects and people and stuff and their stories. I totally do not want to talk about. the linguistic turn [00:06:00] ever. So, I went to work in museums.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And after I worked in museums for a while, a long time, I found myself in a museum gig that was not a great fit. And that happens to all of us. And…

Nicole: Well, not me, because Western Neighborhoods Project would die.

Stephanie: Yeah, except for Nicole.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: But it, I, and a friend said, hey, Johns Hopkins is looking for somebody to teach a class on being a curator. And I was like, I'm not actually a curator. I just work as a curator. But I wasn't trained as a curator. You know, I was trained as a French historian, but now I work as a curator. But that doesn't mean that I was, and my husband, whose role in life is to say, yes, you are.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: That's hard. Yes, you can.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, and that's a really important role. So, so I started to teach this class and then I kept teaching it. And then, in other news, we moved back to San Francisco and I was able to go work with the fabulous people at the University of San Francisco. And then, Johns Hopkins asked [00:07:00] me if I would come back and hang out with them some more and I could do that without having a commute, because, spoiler, another spoiler, the Johns Hopkins Museum Studies Master's Degree Program is 90% online.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: So, I teach from my study in Redwood City. And that is how I became Professor of Museum Studies, Nicole.

Nicole: And we met because, Stephanie, you were my professor.

Stephanie: I was.

Nicole: At the University of San Francisco. I did my Master's Degree in Museum Studies there. And she had, she had the long-suffering job of reading my thesis statement. And we just told the, the students about this too. She was like, Oh, Nietzsche.

Stephanie: Nietzsche. Great.

Nicole: Nietzsche is in this essay or this tomb, this tome. This tome.

Stephanie: There were a lot of words.

Nicole: About civic art management.

Stephanie: I remember, I remember going and meeting you at the old [00:08:00] Western Neighborhoods place.

Nicole: On Geary.

Stephanie: And realizing that, and I think I said this to you, I said, I feel like you have wanted to work this stuff out on paper for about 10 years.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And this is your opportunity to do that. And so that's fine with me. We can just do that. And, and you did.

Nicole: I did.

Stephanie: And you did. And, you know, years later, I mean, I am still kind of thinking about, oh, that's the, she was talking about exactly this. She was talking about the way, the way that we have artificially divided sort of the humanities into these different camps and things can either be art or they can be history or they can be, you know…

Nicole: Science or whatever, yeah.

Stephanie: But in, in fact, it's just all in the, you know, it's all a great big casserole.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: Soup. I call it soup, but I like casserole better because I tend to like casseroles better.

Stephanie: Yeah, casseroles are good.

Nicole: Yeah, no, and you know, weirdly I like, [00:09:00] mostly for most folks, I mean, email us if this isn't true, but you do whatever you do in college and you're like, great, I survived that. Now I'm on with my life. But like, I actually I have given, like, people have asked me to read this and every time I'm like, just here it is, it's called History and Collaboration Equalizing the Arts and the Humanities in San Francisco.

Stephanie: There’s a colon. There’s a colon.

Nicole: So many words for this title. But it's, I need, it needed to say everything I needed to say, but I, yeah, people in my daily WNP life have asked me for copies of this and I'm always like, please keep in mind I was working three jobs and going to school, most, you know, part time-ish. So, like, there's probably some typos and some, like, hanging chads of an idea in there. But, like, you know, the core concept is solid. I even interviewed Woody for that.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: Because y'all were like, you need to go interview people for this. And I was like, who has time for that? And so, I was like, Woody.

Stephanie: Yeah, I can remember that.

Nicole: I'm gonna ask you, I still have it on my phone. It's saved in my, like, you [00:10:00] know, notes or whatever. And he was like, sure. Which is actually appropriate because everything I have learned about doing this job and like this approach of like just being normal human beings doing history instead of trying to be academics or whatever came from Woody and David.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: So, it made sense. But yeah, and we, well, we instantly got along.

Stephanie: Yep.

Nicole: We understood each other immediately.

Stephanie: Yep.

Nicole: I also grew up in a house that was all about French things.

Stephanie: Yep.

Nicole: And so like, you know, students, if you're listening, I have no idea what the age range of this podcast is. If you're listening and you…

Stephanie: Lifelong learners.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: Lifelong learners.

Nicole: Like always befriend your professors because one, they’re usually really cool. Some aren’t.

Stephanie: But that's another podcast.

Nicole: Yeah, that is another podcast about academia. But like, they're really cool. And like, if you're trying to advance your career, like learning and theory, is great. But it's more like if people like you and are [00:11:00] willing to like help you seek out and find new opportunities and like Stephanie has always been great at that for me.

Stephanie: But, you know, it's also mean from my perspective, I am so aware of how absurd the price. How much money my students have to pay.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, for the privilege of having me read their papers and say, I think you should go a little bit more in this direction. And I didn't understand what you were saying here. And so, I always feel like, you know, please come and talk to me. Come and ask me questions. Let me ask you questions. Let me get to know you. Let me figure out how, you know, if there's something that I know that might be able to help you.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: Because, because that's what students are there for, and especially at the graduate level. So, so, so what is a master's in museum studies?

Nicole: What’s the honest answer?

Stephanie: No. No. So the, so, let me talk about the [00:12:00] Johns Hopkins program. Okay, so our program is 10-course masters. We are 15 years old. I'm gonna use lots of numbers. You’re gonna get confused. 10 courses, nine of them are online and one of them, if the students are able, is an in-person two-week intensive seminar. And that is what we are doing right now.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: Here in our fair City.

Nicole: And you didn’t pick us just because you're like, Nicole's great and we get to hang out for two weeks.

Stephanie: Well…

Nicole: You picked us for a reason, though, like, what is it about?

Stephanie: Aside from that, I wanted to hang out with Nicole for 2 weeks.

Nicole: And she paid for the pleasure.

Stephanie: Aside from that, we, we vary the location of our seminars geographically, so that, like, if you're, we have one in D.C. every year because D.C. is where our campus is. Johns Hopkins is in Baltimore, but the Johns Hopkins campus that houses us is in D.C. So, we always have one in D.C. and we do big, fancy Smithsonian things and it's great. And then, we do the other two. [00:13:00] We have a one in in the center of the country, broadly defined, and we have with them, have one on the West Coast. And so West Coast was up and I wanted to do San Francisco because there's really exciting stuff happening in San Francisco around museums, figuring out how to collaborate with each other and how to, how to create community between the museums so that museums can kind of serve the community in broader and in creative ways. So that's how we came here.

Nicole: Yeah. And like, as we just discussed, I've been focused on that for a long time.

Stephanie: Right.

Nicole: But like, that's always been WNP. We're just the friendly neighborhood history group who, you know, we're always up for a dance. And it's, so much of what we do at WNP, it's just like every day, we're like, oh, I got to do all these emails, I got to do this and deadlines and yada yada. And one of the things I really missed about a museum study is sitting around and thinking critically about like why we do what we do. [00:14:00] And like talking about other approaches and what folks across the country are trying to do to like, you know, teach history, share science, meet the needs of different communities.

Stephanie: Right.

Nicole: And how the fields evolving. So, it's so fun with students who are just coming into this field or just learning what this field is about. It is hard though, because you want to be, you want to be inspirational. You want to, you know, talk about all the like amazing theory behind, oh, cat incoming! Sorry. Every time here on the WNP podcast. But like, you also don't want to lie to them.

Stephanie: Right.

Nicole: Cause it's a, it's a problematic field, right? None of us are paid well enough. It's not equitable or diverse enough. She's just now getting up in Stephanie's backpack. She has no boundaries. I'm so sorry. But, but yeah, there's like very real issues that we encounter daily at WNP. You know, it's not easy running this organization. It's actually quite hard. [00:15:00] And so I'm still trying. It's our first day. We've clocked our first day of the seminar. And I'm still trying to figure out what to share and what to hold back.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because so, so what you learn when you get a master's in museum studies. For my program, for our program at Hopkins, about three quarters of our students are already working in a museum and they are doing this master's so that they can move up in their career.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: So then, what do people do who work in museums? What are museum jobs? People work in development. That means they raise money. People work in programming. That means they have, they, you know, that, the thing that they do with the flowers at the DeYoung?

Nicole: Yeah. Bouquet d’Arts.

Stephanie: Yeah. That like that's programming and fundraising. People have exhibitions, but how, but lots and lots of people make an exhibition like the…

Nicole: Unless you're WNP. Unless you're WNP. I do everything that was just listed so far.

Stephanie: Right, right, that's right. [00:16:00] So it really varies. And so, an exhibition, you might have a curator, you might have somebody who's the content expert. That would be Nicole. And then you might have the, the person who writes the text. And that would also be Nicole. And then you know, you have somebody who chooses the objects. And I mean, I think you can see where this is going. And but in, in some museums, different people do all those kinds of jobs.

Nicole: In most museums.

Stephanie: And then there's a whole other program, a whole other part of the museum that is about education.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And about interpretation and about working with kids and working with school groups and working with people of all ages and working with people who are visiting from somewhere else and people who have a particular interest in, I don't know, Romanian crystal or...

Nicole: That's a weird one. You know, you really pulled that out.

Stephanie: Well, you've got all this class work.

Nicole: Oh, I do a lot of weird stuff.

Stephanie: And so, so they're organizing, they're figuring out how do we make the, make our collection be interesting for these, for all of these different [00:17:00] kinds of people. And how do we find a way museums are intended now to be, to serve the public. So, they have to figure out how do we serve the public and it can be really hard to do that if you've got a collection of, and let's just stick with the, with Romanian glassware. Let's say that you have, your family for, a hundred years has been building this incredibly, you have the finest collection in the whole world of glassware from Romania. Which I don't know if they make glass in Romania, but let's say.

Nicole: Don't fact check it. Don’t fact check it.

Stephanie: This is hypothetical.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And but, but, and, you know, 50 years ago, everybody who lived in your neighborhood, they had immigrated from Romania. And they knew people who had worked in those factories. And they knew people who had designed that glassware. And their grandmother and their grandfather had that glassware that they brought it out on special occasions, right? And they loved coming to see your [00:18:00] glassware. And they loved coming to your museum and they brought all their friends and said, look, my grandmother had a cup just like that. But, since then, in the last 50 years, the neighborhood has turned over. And all of those Romanian folks, their kids grew up and they moved away. And the Romanian parents don't live there any longer. And now there's a whole new community. And they, like me, are not sure if Romania is actually a nation.

Nicole: Yes. The Princess of Genovia.

Stephanie: The princess of Genovia. And they're like, well, why would we want to come see this glassware? In our tradition, we have these really cool statues that we make. And we would love to go to a museum and see pictures of statues and learn how to make these little statues and talk about the stories that they, but this glass stuff leaves us cold. And so then, I mean, and I'm being a little bit silly, but it's true. I mean, what do you do when [00:19:00] your community changes?

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And then, so there are people in the museum who are going to be sitting there thinking, okay, how are we going to get these folks in here? How do we, how do we serve the community? How are we, how do we do useful work?

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: With these folks.

Nicole: Relevance.

Stephanie: Relevance.

Nicole: Like that's like, that's the biggest point. And it's weird if you haven't nerd studied museums. Museums didn't used to exist for the public. Like, yes, it was open to the public, but it was mostly like, insert rich old white guy likes t,o collect, insert weird collection of things that are probably problematic now and like for a tax write off or maybe not even that. Maybe he just wants to put it in a building because it'd be cool to see all his stuff in a building and then hire an expert who helps them collect more things and talk about the stuff and like, it was never intended to serve the community. It was just there and people came and great. But like…

Stephanie: I mean, and the right people had to come.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: I mean, there were also, there could be rules.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: About what kind of people. Can I? [00:20:00]

Nicole: Go for it.

Stephanie: So, Grace McCann Morley, unless her name was Grace Morley McCann, from SFMOMA.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: So SFMOMA used to be called the Museum, the San Francisco Museum.

Nicole: San Francisco…

Stephanie: Or something.

Nicole: Museum of Modern Art, I think.

Stephanie: I think it's still called the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Nicole: Oh, look at that.

Stephanie: Yeah. I know.

Nicole: Oh, look at that.

Stephanie: Anyway, but, but the woman who was its first director in the 1930s, she was all about we got to make this museum more open for more people.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And so, she changed the museum's hours. The museum's used, were, the museum and it was it was down by civic center. It was in the opera house building, wasn't it?

Nicole: Yeah. One of those.

Stephanie: It was very small. It was very small. But it was open like, you know, Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 2 and closed for an hour at lunch, something like that. So, what she did was she made it open at night. She made it open on the weekends. She changed the admission [00:21:00] structure so that all sorts of people could come.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And, and all sorts of people came. And they suddenly had this sense of ownership that this was their museum and this was their art.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And it was, and they, it was a, an important thing in San Francisco, and it was important as a San Franciscan that they had this collection.

Nicole: Yeah. And not to constantly bring it back to WNP, but that is what the podcast is about, that's what we aspire to do too.

Stephanie: Right.

Nicole: Like, we want to make sure everybody feels good here. They all want to contribute their stories. It's no matter how like, minute that they think it is. And we, yeah, one of the things that we talked about with the students today is that, you know, our name, well, we are branding nightmare, but we are called Western Neighborhoods Project. And we would never change that because project feels so much more right for what we do and how we do it, than society or museum or things like [00:22:00] that. Like, it's always evolving. There's, there's constantly work to be done. It's not a white, cube kind of gallery, you know, situation. So.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: Well, my cat's just, there we go. Okay. Now she's just in my lap. But yeah, and it's, it is really fun to get, so, what we did with the students today is we all got to know each other. We sat around and talked about well, readings and things like that, museology readings, but also just about WNP and who we are. We all introduced ourselves. And then we went on a pub crawl.

Stephanie: Which we're calling a walking tour.

Nicole: A history walk.

Stephanie: A history walk.

Nicole: Yes, which could be modified, if one was not on Johns Hopkins time, into a pub crawl.

Stephanie: And Johns not the, I mean, it's, I just, I just, I mean, a pub crawl can be very serious work. I mean, this is serious, serious academic work that we're doing here. It is not just…

Nicole: [00:23:00] But we, you know, it's a history walk.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: And we do lots of history walks.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: John Martini joined us and…

Stephanie: He's fabulous.

Nicole: Well, I mean, everyone here knows John is the best. Yeah.

Stephanie: Right, right, right.

Nicole: And what we did was we gave the tour, but it was like, it was lighter on the history and we explained why we told what stories we were telling. How we tried to sort of deftly move 30 human beings, who may or may not be drinking, around a commercial quarter in a safe and loving way.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: And like how, what the history that we do, even outside the tour informs the stories that we can tell. Like working with the Chinese Historical Society of America for Chinese in the Richmond. Now we know even more stories. How every time we do a new project, it adds to the layers of what we understand about the neighborhood. And how bringing people out into this kind of a environment. You know, new residents are meeting lifelong residents and there are, which are sometimes two [00:24:00] combative communities if we're being honest, right? It's, they don't always mesh. But they can all join around the fact that, hey, we all live in the neighborhood and came out to this history walk. Not pub crawl. And have a beverage together and learn a little something about the tour. But we also, or about the neighborhood. But and I, because it's just my brand.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: And I hope it's okay, but it's not going to change now, you know, we're, I'm honest. I'm like, I used to do this badly.

Stephanie: Oh, it's great.

Nicole: And here's what I learned.

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, but that is, it is so important. I think, I mean, I think as professional practice.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: When you're working with students, when you're working with students, you know, you don't, you don't want to, I mean, I, when I work with students, I do [00:25:00] not need for them to think that I am the world's finest expert on whatever it is we're talking about. Because I'm not. And because that means that they're learning is not about them.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, I want their learning to be what they need. To what they care about. What they are struck by. And by, by stripping away the mystique of the tour guide and the mystique of the museum expert, the mystique of the professor, you can have a much more human connection and they can see that it's okay. They can, they can learn. They can start out not having a clue what they're doing. Which, I mean, we all have had things that we had no idea what we were doing and we just kept doing them and then and slowly you get a little bit better and, you know, and tomorrow is a little bit easier. Right? So, I think it's really important to be clear about your own process.

Nicole: Yeah. And we, I, it's, the [00:26:00] WNP has always been so small and inconsequential under the radar that we can just sort of try new things and sort of fail a little bit along the way, but improve it next time. And like, I remember when I took on this job, I got really nervous because like, this is a full-fledged nonprofit that's very important to people. And David and Woody, you know, they got a chance to grow for 20 years into the positions that they had. Whereas I just had to hit the ground running. Having never managed a nonprofit and I was really nervous about it. I'm still nervous about it every day, but like what's, our community is so great. Like the WNP are folks that, who are part of our family. You know, they're so supportive and wonderful. There's some weird outliers. But that's just a public facing job, you know. And like, it's, they're totally with you and they're totally with me. And like, they get it and they're here for it. And it's just been, it's been wonderful. I've learned probably more in the last three years about what the field can [00:27:00] do, what WNP can do, what I want to do, how I should be doing it, just because every day it's like a new, it's something new. It's new history I learn, or it's a new environment that we're doing something in, or we're like, hey, let's open up a pop-up museum in the Cliff House.

Stephanie: That's right.

Nicole: Okay.

Stephanie: Let's raise 100,000 dollars.

Nicole: Yeah. Let's just do that. I wish I could do that again.

Stephanie: Well, I mean, it's never say never.

Nicole: Right.

Stephanie: But, I mean, the talking about being transparent about your own process is also, I think, what we're seeing now in museums.

Nicole: Yeah. Slowly.

Stephanie: Slowly.

Nicole: But we're getting there.

Stephanie: Slowly, but in, in different ways and different places. But, you know, I imagine that we have all had the experience of going to the temple museum, right? To, not, to a museum that's like a temple.

Nicole: Oh, there it is.

Stephanie: Not the temple museum. It's like, no.

Nicole: We've all been there.

Stephanie: Oh, not the museum. I mean, the museum that's like a temple.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: That, you know, you approach it and [00:28:00] you enter the sacred halls of knowledge, and you are an empty vessel that the experts fill and, you know, and you emerge a, a more refined and thoughtful and intellectual citizens, right?

Nicole: That's not WNP.

Stephanie: It’s not the WNP model, but, and I think museums now are realizing that, oh my god, I mean, that is, that there is every reason to step away from that model. From who gets to be the authority. From who, where the stuff came from. From how the stuff is talked about. From who gets let in and who doesn't get let in.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: So, how do we take this model and turn it, as one of the students said today, from a temple into a forum.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: Isn't that awesome?

Nicole: Absolutely. This has been a wild experience. I had a student quote me back to me. Which is very, it's very weird.

Stephanie: It’s a little meta.

Nicole: It's very sweet. I like, I was like, oh, you know, I still struggle with being someone who's worth [00:29:00] listening to, but that's another podcast. But yeah, so the big takeaways, the students, I think got, and correct me if I'm wrong or out if I miss anything, because we're now running into half an hour. If you're still with us, thank you. This is a deeply nerdy museum theory podcast.

Stephanie: But, we’re so funny.

Nicole: Oh. We do entertain each other.

Stephanie: We do entertain each other.

Nicole: I hope it translates.

Stephanie: I don't know.

Nicole: But so, the main takeaways were…

Stephanie: What were the main takeaways for today, Nicole?

Nicole: If you're going to reach a younger audience, you have to get outside your normal box, right? So, if we want to reach younger people, then we have to incorporate the arts and drinking.

Stephanie: Or it could be like pastries or bookstores.

Nicole: Yes. Get outside and into the neighborhood. That history in place, placemaking is super powerful. You know, like the, our history walks are some of our most popular things. A lot of what we're doing now is collaborative work and we're supporting local businesses. Because it's fun, but also because [00:30:00] that's where city funding is going, so it's strategic. And it's the neighborly thing to do. And everything we do builds our history knowledge and supports, like it shouldn't just be something we do for us. It should be something we're doing that has broader impact.

Stephanie: Right. Right.

Nicole: We also talked about the other main takeaways. Oh, our bathroom is not clean.

Stephanie: Which is really bothering, Nicole.

Nicole: I meant to clean it this morning and my morning just didn't go the same way. But I was like, you know, you know, when you have guests over to your house and you're like, oh, so the thing with the garbage disposal is it doesn't work. And, you know, don't, that doorknob don't lock that door the whole way. Cause then you'll not get out of it again. It's kind of what the clubhouse is like, you know, we're like to turn the light on, you got to give the light switch a flip.

Stephanie: But I tell you what. None of the students are going to remember anything about the bathroom. What the students are and I are so excited about is this bear. I [00:31:00] can't believe you never told me about the bear.

Nicole: Sorry.

Stephanie: I mean, it's just this fabulous carved wooden grizzly bear that's like waist high.

Nicole: Monarch. Yeah, from the Cliff House.

Stephanie: He’s awesome. He's so awesome.

Nicole: It’s great and we let you touch him.

Stephanie: Yeah, that's right. And you can touch him, which, as a museum person, you know, you're like, like, going back to my experience in the French archives many years ago, you know, that I could touch this rosette.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, it was a very big deal, because in America is like, oh my god, do not touch that. Do not touch that. But I was like I leaned against the bear today. I, yeah, so it was exciting for me.

Nicole: Touching the bear is really cool. I, his face is getting cuddlier and cuddlier the more I look at him too. Yeah. They, yeah. So, they're at the clubhouse, which is moderately cleaned up. And sort of getting there for folks. We've shoehorned them in and we're just like, what a fun thing.

Stephanie: Just so happy.

Nicole: Johns Hopkins is paying WNP [00:32:00] a facility rental fee, which is so nice and hilarious. And they're also paying me for my time with the students, which is such a gift to us in so many ways. And it really is, what a great way to spend two weeks.

Stephanie: Well, yeah, I mean, and it's really fun. It's really fun. You know, you spend a lot of time as a faculty member, you spend a lot of time going to meetings and talking to people who are, you know, doing the sort of behind the scenes work that gets you to the point where you get to hang out with the students. And so, for me, when I get to come and I get to be with these students who have traveled to a city that most of them have never been to before and they are having this intense educational and cultural experience that, that is, is singular in their lives. And we get to be there. [00:33:00]

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And we get to, you know, help them, help them have that experience. There's some serious cat drama going on here while I'm saying these profound things.

Nicole: She's got her head in Stephanie's backpack and is trying to pull things out of it. So, I threw a pen at her. I'm sorry.

Stephanie: So, there are 11 students. Yeah, there are 11 students. They're all, we've got Texas, Minnesota, Vermont. You got to think good thoughts about Vermont because her town is like flooding right now. New York. North Carolina, Virginia, Texas. Did I say Texas?

Nicole: I think you said Texas. California.

Stephanie: California.  Got a couple texts about somebody who's sort of Oklahoma.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah. So, all over. And a lot of them, this is their first time in San Francisco. So, if you see us walking around in the next few weeks, you got to make a good impression.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: Be a nice San Franciscan for our students.

Nicole: We're in the Western neighborhoods. There's going to be no problem with that.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: But yeah. And yeah, we're so excited. Follow us along. I'll be sharing [00:34:00] stuff on social media of all the cool places we get to go and what we get to, you know, outsidelandz with a Z on Instagram and Twitter. We'll be sharing updates. And Stephanie, before we transition into our next section, I, I have to ask you maybe the most important question, which is, are you a WNP member?

Stephanie: Nicole, I am a WNP member. I believe that we are a family member.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: In fact. And, and I love getting my little notice every month that, you know, the PayPal still works. And I love looking at the, at the newsletter.

Nicole: The membership magazine.

Stephanie: Yeah. The thing. I like looking at the thing. And I think we joined during the pandemic, right?

Nicole: You did. She's a monthly member at the highest monthly level, monthly member level I've ever seen.

Stephanie: It’s not super high.  It’s not super high.

Nicole: I told her that…

Stephanie: You too could be like, it would take very little for you to surpass, surpass the amount that I'm giving to these people.

Nicole: I told her that yesterday and she, I was like, I think you might be one of our [00:35:00] largest financial backers. And she was like, not good. We're a down home organization,

Stephanie: But listen, the reason that we joined was, you know, at the depths of the pandemic, I mean, when things were just not great. Nicole is up here, I'm in my little house in Redwood City with my children and our puzzles and my dogs and my husband. And we're like, baking and doing puzzles and watching the Great British Bake Off and watching the Dubs and, you know, doing the whole thing. And Nicole was up here having a freaking fundraiser to buy stuff from the Cliff House. And I'm like, oh my god, look at you. And then she installs it at the Cliff House. So, I came up and I volunteered one day.

Nicole: You did.

Stephanie: And I had great thoughts, I'm going to be a regular volunteer. I can help you out with examples.

Nicole: So did a lot of people.

Stephanie: One time, I came one time. And I'm with this student, this college student or graduate student. And we're on the, we're [00:36:00] in the, what used to be the gift shop, right? And, you know, Nicole has shown us what to do, and then she went to do what she had to do. And this other person and I were here. And I'm like, hi, how are you? Oh, yeah, you're doing okay. Yeah. But I didn't like, at any point say to her I, I am a professor of museum studies.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And this is kind of what I know about, right? And so, so after we were there for an hour or so, this family came in with 3 little kids. Like seven, five, three. And the five and the seven-year-old were like, I have questions about this. I have a question about this. They were just like those fabulous seven, seven, five-year-old kind of energy.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: Where they've just like, why is that? I know about, you know, I know about trains, right? And so, I started, I engaged with them, and we were having this fabulous conversation for like 20 minutes. And then, the, my co-volunteer comes over [00:37:00] and she stands next to me, she says, are you okay? Do you need me to help you with this? And I was like, oh, sweetie, I am doing great.

Nicole: I'm in my element.

Stephanie: I am in my element. I am remembering why it is I do what I do.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: So, and then we joined up WNP.

Nicole: Amazing.

Stephanie: Amazing.

Nicole: Couldn't believe it. Support from folks like you just makes me, one of my history professors from S.F. State joined too. And I was like, oh my god, Professor Issel. So unprofessional. But like anybody who's like a longtime San Franciscan, Bill Issel, like incredible, has written a bunch about, you know, the Irish Mission, you know, like German-Irish Mission District. Just like very cool dude. And he was like, oh, I know, of course I remember you. Which there's no way he did. Bless him for saying that. But he was like, oh, I'm very impressed with what you're doing. And I was like, oh my god. So, like, you know, like this really helps my fragile shattered ego in this job.

Stephanie: It’s important.

Nicole: It is. Now, we should move [00:38:00] this podcast along. Now it's time for the extremely intense, hard hitting Barbara Walters section. RIP.

Stephanie: All right.

Nicole: Okay. We're going to move through this. This is going to be the longest podcast ever. Okay, number one, what is the best meal you've ever eaten in San Francisco?

Stephanie: Okay. So, one time I was doing internship visits, I was doing site visits, and I happened to be near the Ferry Building at lunch. And it was like a spring day and I went into what's the name of the oyster place at the Ferry Building? Hog Island. I went into Hog Island. And I was by myself, and it was like a Wednesday, and I sat down at the bar at Hog Island. And I had a view of the Bay Bridge, and it was this beautiful day. All blue sky, light wind, and I had a bowl of like crab soup or something, and a glass of rosé, and some, and some sourdough. And it was just [00:39:00] awesome. I was like, I live here.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, and I'm having this fabulous soup and this nice glass of wine and looking at the Bay Bridge.

Nicole: Yeah. We also had killer shawarma today.

Stephanie: We did. We had some excellent shawarma today.

Nicole: Hummus bodega.

Stephanie: Hummus bodega, man.

Nicole: Amazing. Okay. What's your favorite place in San Francisco? The one place you return to again and again?

Stephanie: I mean, that's a really, that, that's a hard thing to say, because there are, because I have like, I have my all my sort of patterns.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: But I think that this is a little non-specific, but it's also very specific.

Nicole: Okay.

Stephanie: Which is that every time I see the Golden Gate Bridge, I am like, oh, there's the Golden Gate Bridge. You know, I used to say to my kids, it's good luck to see the Golden Gate Bridge. And they would be like, why is it good luck? [00:40:00] It would be like, it’s funny you should ask. It is good luck because you're, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. That's the luck that you're seeing it, right? I'm a great parent.

Nicole: My dad always said, because I say so. Like that was an answer to kid questions, right? Like why is the sky blue? Well, it's just is because I said so. Okay. I like that. So, number three, what's the one thing out of towners shouldn't miss besides the Golden Gate Bridge?

Stephanie: Besides seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and you have to stop and notice it.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: The thing, so this is my, our like, favorite San Francisco outing afternoon is we, we load up the car in Redwood City, climate best by government test. We put all of our warm clothes in the trunk.

Nicole: Yes.

Stephanie: And we load up our dogs and we load up our, our house guest or our family, whoever is visiting, and we drive up to Fort Funston.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: And we take a big, long walk on, at the, on the beach. [00:41:00] Or sometimes we stay up and we walk around. And there was one memorable occasion when we, I, we were almost hit by a hang glider and I hid behind my 23-year-old child, which I'm not proud of, and I don't want to go into that, but I'm still not proud of it.

Nicole: She's all right, though.

Stephanie: She’s turned out fine.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: She's trained out fine.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And then, after we've taken this fabulous walk at Fort Funston, we go to the Java Beach.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: On Sloat.

Nicole: The Zoo Java Beach.

Stephanie: The Zoo Java Beach.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And, and it never disappoints.

Nicole: Yeah, I agree.

Stephanie: And we sit on the sidewalk and you can sit on the windy side or you can sit on the warm side and there's usually a little bit of discussion in my family, because I want to sit in the sun and my husband is like, oh my god, no, we can't sit in the sun, I will burn. And so, we work that out. And then like, if I'm, if it's a really good day, the people we’re with get the soft serve and I can taste the soft serve. I am, I can't eat a whole soft serve by myself, because I won't feel good.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: But, but a bite of somebody else's soft serve is really [00:42:00] perfect. And I recommend the, the hot cider.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: I recommend hot cider. I have also occasionally had a glass of red wine, which is pretty nice. So that is, that's like my ideal here in San Francisco thing.

Nicole: Love it. We didn't even tell her to pick a west side location. Amazing. So, what's one thing about San Francisco that you would bring back if you could, and this question sometimes confuses folks, but one of the best answers I heard was they used to have like rides and stuff on the top of the Emporium.

Stephanie: Oh, cool.

Nicole: Yeah. Super not, you know, liability. Okay.

Stephanie: Right.

Nicole: But very cool.

Stephanie: You know what? When, when they first built the Metreon, which is like, I don't even know what Metreon is now, but when they first built it in like 1996 or ’97.

Nicole: Feels right.

Stephanie: My children were, I have identical twins, and they were like two or something, and there was this Maurice [00:43:00] Sendak installation.

Nicole: Oh, I remember that!

Stephanie: You remember that?

Nicole: I do, because we came up to visit my grandpa and my uncle, and like, yeah, it was hard.

Stephanie: And it was this whole like, like, Where the Wild Things Are experience. Except it wasn't like, there was no light and sound. It was just like…

Nicole: It was the ‘90s.

Stephanie: It was the ‘90s.

Nicole: Couldn't do it.

Stephanie: But you, like, there were slides.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And you went on all the and that was just, even now. I mean, it was, truth to tell, it was probably cooler for me than it was for my children.

Nicole: No. Me too.

Stephanie: But, but that was a thing that if I put the, many years later, when I realized it was gone, I was sad.

Nicole: I mean, the Metreon is still there, but I think it's looking for some programming concepts. So, if anybody who owns the Metreon, listens to this podcast…

Stephanie: Bring me back Where the Wild Things Are.

Nicole: Bring it back.

Stephanie: Bring it back.

Nicole: Or just turn it into Oppen, Oppenheimer-Barbie mashup.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Nicole: Just make it like a weird kid…

Stephanie: Slides. There need to be slides.

Nicole: So, you know, like the atomic…

Stephanie: Yeah,

Nicole: I think it works. Our Barbie's fun house is actually a much better anyways. Moving on. [00:44:00] This is the real one. This is the real, you know, important question. Why is history important?

Stephanie: You know, I thought more about my favorite meal. In some cases, I got these questions yesterday, I spent more time thinking about what my favorite meal was and there is this good one. I think history, I'm gonna I might wax a little here.

Nicole: Bring it.

Stephanie: I think history tells us who we are. And it also tells us who we might be. Who we could be.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: I think that, you know, I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And those of you of a certain age will remember Winston Cigarettes and Salem Cigarettes.

Nicole: Oh.

Stephanie: Yeah, that's where I grew up. I went to R. J. Reynolds High School. So, it was a tobacco town. It was a tobacco town and it was a textiles town. And Hanes, Hanes, you may be familiar with Hanes brand t-shirts.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: My hometown. [00:45:00] So the thing is, the thing is this. We had this large working class. People who worked on the, made cigarettes. Who made, who wove white cotton stuff, knitted white, you get it?

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And they were never unionized, right? So, and that was something that, as a child, you'll be relieved to know, that I did not think a lot about how odd it was that they had never been unionized.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: But one day, this dear family friend took me to see Reds. You remember Reds? Who can remember Reds? It was with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

Nicole: Oh.

Stephanie: Yeah. And it was about the Russian, sort of about the Russian Revolution.

Nicole: Okay. All right.

Stephanie: It, I mean, it wasn't really, but it was.

Nicole: That kind of red.

Stephanie: That kind of red.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And afterwards she was like, well, you know, there's all this labor history in Winston-Salem. And she took me to the cemetery over on the other side of town.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: And [00:46:00] like walked me through and said, this person and this person, and here's this story. And here's that story. And, and it gave me a whole new sense of the place where I was from.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: And I think that, that is what history can do for you. You know, it can give you this broader and deeper sense of where you came from and what you might be able to do with where you started.

Nicole: That's a great answer.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Nicole: Well done.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Nicole: And on that extremely profound note, I'm going to move into a less profound section we call a listener mail. So first of all, I'm going to try to run through this as fast as possible, but you can send us a listener mail, you already know this if you've listened to us, podcast@outsidelands.org. Or take advantage of our social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Are we going to get on Threads? I don't know. We're going to wait that out. Will we have a Tik Tok soon? [00:47:00] Maybe. We've got volunteer Drew, who may or may not work on that. We'll see. So, you can post a comment there and it'll get back to us.

Our dear friend and podcast guest, Kevin Brady listened to episode 507 on The Ave Bar and remembered a couple other businesses that were owned and or operated by former San Francisco 49ers. So, there was Dick Bassi, a teammate of Johnny Schmiechl's on the 1947 49ers, and who was connected to Club Sirocco, oh boy, at 29th Avenue and Judah. And then there's the legend. Bob St. Clair, who had St. Clair's Liquors at 24th Street and Sanchez. St. Clair, of course, was connected to the famous 1951 Dons. See episode 282 on that. And he was also a graduate of Polytechnic High School in the class of 1948. So, some other deep West side connections. And you know, in general, folks were excited to see us cover [00:48:00] subjects in Ingleside. And we would love to cover more as well. So let us know if there's something in your neighborhood that you'd like to see us do the deep history dive on. Arnold lives in the Richmond, I live in the Sunset. So, we tend to gravitate towards subjects that are things we walk by every day. But, you know, we're trying to expand our horizons a little bit. So do write in and let us know if there's something in the Ingleside or Sunnyside or beyond that you would love to know more about.

And now I'm going to hard sell you on the benefits of membership and donating. Stephanie's a member, a monthly member, and that gets her all kinds of crazy perks like the quarterly membership magazine discounts on events and other things. You can clickety, clickety clack the big orange buttons on any page of both websites, outsidelands.org or OpenSFHistory.org and you can make a donation or become a member.

And you know, those donations, they support [00:49:00] all the good history work that we do and we make for free, you know, we, or we don't make it for free. We all cost money theoretically. But, you know, we make it available to you for free. OpenSFHistory, you know, we're relaunching our new scans and getting things on the website slowly, but surely. The Cliff House Collection, its care and exhibition is not easy for us, but you know, we're here for it. And we'll never let those things part from our, part from our stewardship ever again. Things are not for sale from the Cliff House Collection. Several people have been asking, so I'm going to put that out. WNP does not sell artifacts from its collection. But we would love to sell you some beautiful Cliff House barware. Email to ask me how. And, of course, this podcast, right? We don't make you pay for this podcast. So thank you so much for everybody who is a member. And we hope you'll consider joining today as well.

And what is that membership support? Well, I have some [00:50:00] announcements. I'm going to breeze through a lot of these. I'm working as fast as I can to get our office presentable and our new OpenSFHistory gallery up and going. This was a course all inspired by Ansel Adams and the de Young's current exhibition. And we will, for the first time, start selling curated sets of prints from OpenSFHistory. So, this is a big move for us. I've been researching copyright and all kinds of stuff to make sure we're in the clear on selling these images. And Arnold Woods and Chelsea Sullen have been working really hard to get new photos on OpenSFHistory as well. You know, this collections management work is time consuming and it's hard to get going again, but we're doing it. Things are happening.

And, by the way, if you haven't been by our office, Lindsey Hanson's incredible exhibition of the Golden Gate Park windmills are live. And I mean that, I mean that truly. There, there are animated aspects of this exhibition and just today, [00:51:00] Lindsey has recorded audio, so you, you can listen to all the didactic panels and texts that we have in the window. So, if you're hard of, if you're not great at, oh god, it's been a long day, if your vision is impaired, we totally got you. You can just QR code your way to the audio.

We've got some events coming up. You can go to our event listing to hear about that because we're coming up on a full hour. But I do want to say July 25th, we're hosting another live podcast recording via Zoom. And this time it's going to be in memory of Pat Cunneen, a long time WNP member who shared his story with us and so much more. Such a wonderful guy. We were so devastated to lose him. And a big part of our Kelly's Cove oral history project that was spearheaded by Woody LaBounty some years ago. So please join us. It's a free event. Bring your memories of Pat or Kelly's Cove. It's also a big member, a big contributor to the South End Rowing Club and coauthored a huge [00:52:00] book on it. We want you to be there to remember him with us.

And we got walks, we got other things you know, just go to our website for that. And you can also follow us on Eventbrite, which means every time we put an event online, you get a direct email, so you can be the first in the room, whatever we're doing. Or, of course, you can sign up for our email by going to our newsletter section of the website.

So, okay, thank you for those who stuck with us through this podcast. I know it was some deep nerd stuff. Appreciate you all. Next week, we'll get back on the history train. I always do train metaphors and not always accurately, but it feels right. It feels like we've got to get up steam. It's okay. I think it works.

Stephanie: It’s okay. I think it works. I think that's good. Get steam.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: I mean, you've got to chug, chug, chugging along.

Nicole: Yeah.

Stephanie: We're chugging along here.

Nicole: Yep. A little calm and sustained. Well, Stephanie, thank you.

Stephanie: Oh, this has been a pleasure. This has been great. Thank you everybody for listening and [00:53:00] thank you for having me.

Nicole: Thank you for having me. My cat just looked at both of us like, you too. So, preview for next week, my trusty co-host Arnold Woods has been researching an odd group that buried their dead in the Western neighborhoods for many years. What could that be? You'll have to tune in to find out. Until next time I'm Nicole Meldahl and this has been another episode of Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of Western Neighborhoods Project. Thanks for being with us history friends.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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