Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986

THE WINEDALE MUSEUM SEMINAR

By Kit Neumann
In November 1986 the Winedale Museum
Seminar on Administration and Interpretation
for Museums celebrates its
fifteenth anniversary, a remarkable record,
since the program has been funded
continuously by grants, mostly from
the National Endowment for the
Humanities.
Throughout those fifteen years the
Winedale seminar, sponsored by the
Texas Historical Commission and the
Winedale Historical Center, has evolved
and changed, while retaining its focus
on interpretation. In the beginning the
three- to five-day seminar was designed to
serve Texas museums. However, an increase
of attendance requests indicated
a broader audience; therefore, the states
of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New
Mexico, and Arizona were added. In
1982 the Mountain Plains Museum Association
region became eligible, and in
1986 the Southeastern Museums Conference
was included.
Traditionally held in November and
March, the Winedale seminar is now a
twelve-day course designed to improve
the quality and promote the continuing
development of community and regional
museums, primarily history museums.
Applicants must be staff members or experienced
volunteers from the designated
regions.
The unique setting for the seminar
contributes to the overall success of the
program. The Winedale Historical Center,
seminar headquarters, is located approximately
ninety miles southeast of
Austin, between Austin and Houston,
near the very small town of Round Top.
The 190-acre farmstead consists of a visitor
center and historical areas open to the
public, including several restored, furnished
buildings, one of which is a barn/
theatre where University of Texas students
perform Shakespearean plays annually.
Near the visitor center is the conference
facility-a large restored building
with classroom, dining room, and dormitory
facilities. Large covered porches
and a nearby picnic area with a beautiful
view of the small lake contribute to the
serene, pastoral ambience. The isolation
of the setting, the lack of TV, radio,
newspapers, all but emergency phone
calls, and the outside world in general
26

Mary Fredrickson, Chief Conservator, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, demonstrates
encapsulating a document during her presentation at Winedale. Photo couresy of the Museum Services
Department, Texas Historical Commission.

may seem extreme at first, but after a few
days the advantages become obvious. Participants
are free to spend twelve days "in
another dimension," as stated by a recent
graduate. Location in an actual historic
site subconsciously suggests the business
at hand.
Since its donation to the University of
Texas in 1967 by the late Miss Ima Hogg,
the Winedale Historical Center has been
used for the study and interpretation of
ethnic cultures, historical architecture,
and English literature. It also serves as an
intellectual study center for both the university
and regional programs in the humanities.
The site is very capably administered
by Gloria Jaster and her staff of
local residents.
Seminar faculty members are chosen
carefully. Expertise in a subject is a high
priority, but the ability to communicate
that knowledge is critical to being invited
to participate in the Winedale seminars.
Faculty members prepare their presentations
carefully, partly because of the
evaluation procedures, and many have
prepared special materials, bibliographies,
and informational handouts specifically
for use at Winedale. They come
eager to share their expertise and equally

eager to learn from participants. In addition
to specific sessions, they provide
many hours of individual consultation
unselfishly and demonstrate sincere loyalty
and dedication to the program. Some
of the current faculty members are themselves
program graduates, and although
there has been a large turnover through
the years, a few key people have been involved
with the seminar almost continuously,
ensuring continuity while remaining
flexible.
The Field and Museum Services department
of the Texas Historical Commission
provides the staff who administer
the program. It is a time-consuming, almost
year-round task. Cindy SherrellLeo,
director of Field and Museum Services,
has been instrumental in the
success and continuation of the program.
Without her efforts in obtaining funding,
constantly seeking quality faculty members,
and devoting countless hours of
planning, the seminar would not exist.
The Winedale seminars have helped
generate more professionalism among
museums in the region. Graduates number
around 300; these people not only
work to improve their own museums but
willingly assist other institutions. This

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed April 19, 2014.