September 21, 2012
The Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village, part of the Mayborn Museum Complex, reopened in May after a two-year revitalization project. The renovation focused on areas that make the Village more accessible and user-friendly for today's learning environment, while maintaining the essence and original intent of the educational component.
The Village returned to action this summer with "Way Back Wednesdays." Visitors explored the Village and participated in activities of the 1890s, such as churning butter, shelling corn, pumping water, wringing laundry, grinding herbs and playing games of the time period.
"Learners of today require a different approach than when the Village first arrived at Baylor 26 years ago," said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex. "They want a more focused and user-friendly Village."
In 1986, the Village trekked 236 miles from its original site in Liberty, Texas, to its Baylor home on the banks of the Brazos River. (The Jeanes Center and Mayborn Complex were built a few years later.) The Village, donated by Gov. Bill Daniel and his family, served as a learning tool for school children, students and families, providing a gateway to life at the turn of the 19th century.
The revitalization project particularly sought to integrate the Village into the overall Mayborn Museum Complex experience. An entrance now leads from the Gov. Daniel exhibit inside the Jeanes Center to the Village. The outdoor exhibits include the Bill Daniel Law Office, a church, a school, a commissary, a tenant farmer's house, a planter's house with adjacent cook's house, a barn and a blacksmith shop. The renovations for each building included climate controls to protect the items on display.
"This is a huge step forward in that we will be able to more fully interpret the story of how people lived in the 1890s through the use of artifacts that will now be protected from the elements," said Trey Crumpton, Village manager.
Visitors have access to cell phone tours allowing them to hear first-person audio enactments that provide descriptions of village life. The audio should enhance the experience and encourage visitors to engage in discussions about the time period.
"By blending some new features with the original Village buildings, many more visitors will be able to participate," Caston said. "A new pavilion with picnic tables will be of great service to the thousands of school children who have lunch before or after their school program in the Historic Village. And for the first time, some of the horse-drawn, wheeled vehicles from the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village Collection will be safely displayed year-round in the new carriage house."
"It has been wonderful working with Gov. Bill and Miss Vara's daughters - Ann Daniel Rogers, Susan Daniel and Dani Daniel Brister - to reach our common goals of revitalization of the Village and making it more accessible to all visitors," said Dr. Karla Leeper, Baylor chief of staff. "The University's substantial financial commitment has made this possible and demonstrates how important the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village is to the Mayborn Museum Complex and the University."