Published December 15, 2015
Volume 23, Number 12

Blackhawk Museums Seeks Donors for Program to Bring

Students to Exhibits

Blackhawk Museums

By Jay Hipps

From its start in 1991 through June, 2015, over 179,000 students from kindergarten through high school have visited the Blackhawk Museums to take in its renowned classic auto exhibit as well as traveling exhibitions from the Smithsonian Institution. The museum unveiled a new permanent collection in February, The Spirit of the Old West Gallery, and the success of this new feature is creating the best sort of challenge for the organization: the need to grow. Not only has the museum started two new docent and gallery guide training programs but also a fundraising drive is underway to reimburse schools for any transportation costs incurred in bringing students to the exhibits, as been the museum’s standard procedure to date.
“The driving motivation of the introduction of the Spirit of the Old West Gallery to the Blackhawk Museums for (museum co-founder Ken) Behring was education,” says Tim McGrane, the museums’ executive director. “When he first saw the artifact collection and the historically themed topographical, he immediately saw its potential for visitor and student education.”
With the introduction of the new exhibit, McGrane says, “the response from the schools and from teachers has been wonderful. The Native American and Westward Expansion experiences in the exhibition have direct ties to the school curriculum, particularly for third through fifth grades. The public response has also been very good.”
The Spirit of the Old West Gallery is described by the museum’s literature as “dedicated to presenting a balanced narrative of the history of the American Westward Expansion from the mid 1700’s through the early 1900’s.” It depicts the ways of life, including challenges, successes, and failures, of both the Native American Plains Indian tribes and American pioneers and settlers. “The design of the gallery was handled by Doug Dahlin and (Hacienda architecture firm) Dahlin & Associates,” says McGrane. “Doug did the design for the Blackhawk Museum when it was built 27+ years ago, and he has also worked on a number of museum projects in China for Mr. Behring.”
The popularity of the new exhibit is reflected directly in the need for a fundraising drive for the museum’s Education & Transportation Fund, which has reimbursed all schools for the cost of school bus transportation since 1991. Now, to continue the tradition of allowing free access to students and , the Blackhawk Museums are seeking contributions to the fund, with a target of $80,000.  A one-to-one matching grant of $25,000 has already been pledged. “All these funds go directly to the educational program reimbursements,” McGrane says. “Nothing is allocated to administration.”
The Blackhawk Museums Transportations Program is available to all schools in Contra Costa and Alameda counties as well as underserved schools in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley. Locally, schools that have participated include Harvest Park Middle School and Village High School of Pleasanton, Valley Montessori School of Livermore, Dublin’s Wells Middle School and St. Philips Lutheran School, and San Ramon schools including Bollinger Canyon Elementary, Live Oak Elementary, Gale Ranch Middle School, Twin Creeks Elementary, and Golden View Elementary.
For additional information on the fundraising drive and donor recognition programs, contact McGrane at (925) 736-2280. The web site for the museums is available at www.blackhawkmuseum.org.


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