A joint project between:
Historic House Trust of New York City
1772 Foundation
Chipstone Foundation

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New York, March 18, 2015: The Historic House Trust of New York City (HHT) has been awarded an “INNOVATION GRANT” from the 1772 Foundation, in partnership with The Chipstone Foundation, to aggressively study and implement new methods of historic house museum stewardship in pilot projects. Quickly becoming a national leader in historic house museum innovation, HHT has selected four of its 23 New York City historic house sites: Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum (the Bronx); Dyckman Farmhouse Museum (Manhattan); Old Stone House (Brooklyn); and Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum (Brooklyn) to participate in this six month process resulting in measurable pilot projects.

shatterCABINET comes on the heels of LatimerNOW, HHT’s interpretive re-evaluation at Lewis H. Latimer House in Queens funded by The New York Community Trust. Its format, developed from the Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums attracted funding from the 1772 Foundation to test these ideas and find solutions. The Chipstone Foundation, which focuses on innovative practice in decorative arts and historic house practice, is underwriting a two-day creative Think Tank in Fox Point, Wisconsin, to kick-start the shatterCABINET project.

shatterCABINET will develop and launch dramatic pilot initiatives in response to deep-rooted issues at historic houses. Following the mantra that no house museum tenet is too precious to be challenged, the six month shatterCABINET process will validate the unknown, encourage participants to take risks and pilot new ideas.  With shatterCABINET, HHT is uniquely poised to lead the field in developing reinvigorating strategies that can be implemented at historic house museums across the country.

Premise:  shatterCABINET: The collaborative project will involve the House Executive Director and House Board Member (“House Teams”), as well as one HHT Edward I. Koch Fellow per House Team (assigned and funded by HHT). House Teams and Koch Fellows will engage in several actions throughout this project: completing pre-think tank assignments and investigations, including the creation of four short videos; participating in a think tank with the Chipstone Foundation (House Teams only); developing and launching a pilot initiative at their site; and documenting and evaluating the project through illustrated blog posts and conversations with HHT and Chipstone. As part of this project, House Teams will travel to Milwaukee, WI to participate in a two day think tank with the Chipstone Foundation, concentrating on creative ways to curate collections. The Chipstone Foundation will challenge participants to think about collections items from differing viewpoints and to tease out alternative uses for common objects. The think tank will culminate in a concept for each participating site that House Teams will fully develop and pilot at their site for approximately six months. With the help of their Koch Fellows, House Teams will launch these pilot projects in Summer 2015.


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Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum (BPMM): BPMM has been investigating several strategic opportunities:

  1. An extensive demographic study of areas close to the house museum have revealed large populations of, as yet, un-tapped potential visitors. One in particular is Co-op City with a population of over 50,000 residents.  Innovative ideas are targeting these multi-ethnic, economically diverse populations.
  2. BPMM is investigating the expansion of their interpretation to better reveal periods of occupation that include the use of the house as NYC Mayoral residence of LaGuardia, and its use as the “Sunshine School for the Blind.” This wider interpretive narrative will engage a wider spectrum of audiences than visit today.
  3. The pilot project will include the use of a recently discovered letter that describes what it was like living at the Mansion – by producing both short site-specific theater elements as well audio insertions into the rooms so that the sounds of everyday activity will resound in the house.  Visitors will begin to see the overlap of history with everyday activities and sounds.


Dyckman Farmhouse Museum (DFM): Following the Chipstone retreat, the DFM organized a series of internal meetings to discuss the potential changes to the visitor experience and interpretation.  There are several aspects of the shatterCABINET process that are being investigated:

  1. Presently the interpretation of the DFM is narrowly defined as Dutch Colonial with a small discussion of the slavery issue. Complete re-assessment of the historic interpretation to include a much wider spectrum of inhabitants’ stories. After an extensive demographic study of the community surrounding the DFM, all text and publications are to be translated into Spanish and other forms of communication (social media and printed press) will move toward Spanish language inclusion.
  2. The physical environment of the DFM is presently a series of traditional period rooms with barriers at the doors, which limits the visitor to “stage set” experiences. The barriers are to be removed; the rooms and contents are to become a mixture of reproductions and originals, which will allow for a total tactile, immersive experience.
  3. The DFM staff has been expanded to include Spanish-speaking educators.
  4. The DFM is initiating a Contemporary Art Program that will seek community-based artists to re-interpret the stories of the inhabitants. The goal is to implement strong contemporary connections to the primarily Dominican Immigrant populations that surround the DFM.


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Old Stone House (OSH): OSH rests in a dramatically changing urban environment.  The historic site is a reconstruction with no collections.  The Chipstone retreat, particularly the presentations from the Hull House and 6018 NORTH, revealed their intense interest in social issues and the changing demographics of the community. Based upon a series of internal conversations, OSH has targeted several actions:

  1. Demographic study of the fluctuations of immigrant populations surrounding the historic site. Using this data, OSH is planning a series of community-based efforts, which will lead to a naturalization ceremony hosted on its site.
  2. OSH has actively pursued contemporary immigrant oral histories from area residents and will document them in a resulting theater piece presented on the site.
  3. OSH is also expanding their programing to include contemporary art happenings that will overlap the historic narrative of the site with relevant current events.

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Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum (WFM): WFM is the oldest historic house site in NYC and contains a moderate amount of collections items.  It is located about 2 hours away from Times Square, thus making it difficult as a tourist attraction.  It, however, is booked solid with school children visits throughout the school year.  The Chipstone retreat revealed their interest in re-imagining the visitor experience in a more tactile and immersive manner. Several areas of investigation are occurring:

  1. Demographic research into the surrounding community, which is revealing a large Jamaican immigrant population. This knowledge is helping to guide interpretation and experience changes.
  2. WFM has investigated the return of any loaned collections items that are housed in the historic structure so that they might be able to create an immersive, tactile experience for the school visits (rather than the traditional period room layout at present).
  3. WFM is also investigating the expansion of the historic narrative to include marginalized populations and draw strong connections to the diverse student visitors now attending.

Edward I. Koch Fellow Team Members

Monica PJ MR RW

Monica O. Montgomery (Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum).  Monica is a cultural entrepreneur and champion of community engagement. She curates media, museums and memory to enhance creative inspiration.  She is the Action Director of LatimerNOW headquartered at the Lewis Latimer Historic House Museum. As a Museum Anarchist, she is remixing the museum experience, interpreting diversity, creativity and community, to bridge past and present through the lens of Latimer’s legacy. Her thought leadership converges at the intersection of public affairs, event production, arts marketing and cultural policy; She believes museums should be in service to society, and she speaks and consults with institutions along the eastern seaboard. She is an alumna of Temple University with a Bachelor of Broadcast Communication, in Broadcast Journalism, and a candidate for LaSalle University’s, Master of Corporate Communication, in Public Relations. Monica is a Creative Community Fellow with National Arts Strategies, We Are All Brooklyn Fellow with the Center for Community Leadership and the Co Founder of Museum Hue, a platform for cultural diversity advancing people of color via arts, culture and museums.​

PJ Gubatina Policarpio (The Old Stone House). As a community engager, educator and curator PJ brings creativity and passion to making art and history accessible for everyone, creating opportunities to make meaningful connections between communities and institutions, addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse audience.  With a unique combination of art and museum education, critical cultural awareness, and innovative interdisciplinary thought, he designs and implements accessible, engaging, and informative curriculum and programming dedicated to a broad range of audiences, from students, teens, families and communities promoting diversity, inclusivity and cultural understanding. His expertise in museum education, curatorial, project management, artist relations, and event production has advanced a dynamic roster of artists and institutions such as the de Young Museum, Queens Museum, and Brooklyn Museum. Born in the Philippines and raised in San Francisco, CA, PJ is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

Naiomy Rodriguez (Dyckman Farmhouse Museum). Naiomy studied history at St John’s University and has over seven years of experience in the historic house museum field. Through her work at the Morris-Jumel Mansion and Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, she has been able to gather a vast amount of knowledge in museum education and collections. While at the Morris-Jumel Mansion she focused on expanding the educational curriculum to include elements of Native American history. She will continue this at the Dyckman Farmhouse with the help of the local Native American community. As a native New Yorker who is fluent in Spanish, she is able to engage the community on a unique level.

Ryan Walsh (Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum). Ryan’s academic background and professional experience in historic preservation and architecture have shaped his understanding of the relationship that exists between environment and culture.  He advocates for the importance of immersive education and believes that only through a seamless experience of adventure and reflection can real understanding be attained. He sees many of the historic resources that we treasure as underutilized pedagogical tools and looks for cross-disciplinary approaches to create site-specific interpretations capitalizing on historic sites’ full potential. Ryan Walsh is a Landmarks Preservationist currently working at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. He holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University and an MS in Historic Preservation from Columbia University.  He is proficient in both written and spoken Spanish.

Historic House Trust Team Leader:

Caroline Drabik. Director of Curatorial Affairs, Historic House Trust of New York

shatterCABINET mid-project update:  shatterCABINET update 6.4.15 (1)

shatterCABINET press announcement: shatterCABINET press release


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