BENICIA HISTORICAL MUSEUM AT THE CAMEL BARNS
2019 ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2019
BENICIA HISTORICAL MUSEUM

 

CALL TO ORDER: Bob Rozett, BHM Board President, called the meeting to order at 4:00 PM.

ROLL CALL: The President asked the Secretary to call the roll for current BHM Board members and Reg Page recorded that, in addition to Bob and himself, present were Treasurer Sam Chohan, Dee Case, Penny Stell, Deb Machado and John Halliday.  Larry Lauber joined the meeting shortly thereafter.  Mike Caplin was out of town and excused as were nominated new board members Judy Furlong and Elizabeth Murphy; Lou Alfeld, another nominated member, remained in the Hall downstairs assisting in the Potluck set-up.  There were a number of Museum members in attendance as well, including Jim Lessenger, Julie Rozett, Sarah Rozett, Mary Frances Kelly Poh, Beng Poh and Allan Gandy.  Executive Director Elizabeth D’Huart was in attendance along with Beverly Phelan, the Museum’s Archives Curator.

MINUTES OF THE 2018 ANNUAL MEETING: Distributed prior to the meeting, they were approved in a motion by Jim Lessenger and seconded by John Halliday.  There were no abstentions or negative votes.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT: Bob Rozett reported that we had a very good year, with a new Early California exhibit along with progress toward the opening of the “Birth of Benicia” exhibit on October 30.   The White Camel sale was very successful and we have a number of new fundraising events planned for the coming year.  He noted that he, Dee Case and Reg Page would be rotating off the board and that Lou Alfeld, Elizabeth Murphy and Judy Furlong would be joining the board at its next meeting.  He added that a lot of work was done by the Exhibits Committee and that Larry Lauber had done much to improve the facilities in the Museum.  He expressed thanks to all of the volunteers and paid staff who make the Museum a success.

TREASURER’S REPORT: Sam Chohan reviewed the results for the prior fiscal year, commencing on July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2019.  It showed contributions totaling $80,571 and earned revenues of $79,658, for a total income of $160,229.  Expenses, including personnel and benefits, contracts exhibits, fundraising and gift shop totaled $168,546 for a net income of -$8,316.  Depreciation expense was $11,981.  Sam noted that plans were moving forward to increase the number of events such as live performances.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT: “As always in reviewing the past year’s activities here, I am astonished as to how much we are able to accomplish considering our dearth of staff, both paid and volunteer, combined with the incredible number of areas and acreage we are required to address.  I am commencing my eighth year at the museum, and it is gratifying to look back and see what changes have occurred and our many successes and improvements, but I will limit myself to the last 12 months.

Most significantly, with the help of our community sponsorship partner, the local and district Benicia rotary organization, we have been able to continue our renovation of the permanent exhibit area, opening up the wonderfully composed “Early Exploration, Colonization and Immigration” gallery.  Our next exhibit opening, “The Birth of Benicia”, is scheduled for October 30th of this year with several other gallery units to follow, including those on Benicia-centric transportation, communication, industry, and our town as the early “Athens of the west”.  As always, our primary task is mission driven.  Our new mission statement, adopted this year reads: “To engage the community and the greater public in the evolving history of Benicia and its contributions to the development of our state and country.  Dedicated to our children and future generations, our work fosters understanding, connectivity, identity, and pride.  The museum complex is at the heart of Benicia’s historic preservation and heritage promotion programs through its exhibits, educational outreach, events and activities, and online archives”. This new mission statement is inspired, in part, by the museum vision statement we adopted 2 years ago, “The history of California is written in the story of Benicia”.  When our Benicia students, residents, and visitors arrive here, I believe that we are providing them now with the high quality, mission-driven exhibits they deserve.  We owe our thanks to the Rotary and to our very skilled exhibits committee  members which include myself,  Jim Lessenger, as chair, Bob Rozett, Reg Page, Larry Lauber,  Bev Phelan, and Elizabeth Murphy.  I am very proud of our team.  We have also been able to introduce an exciting new component to our museum, a documentary written and produced by Sam Chohan, titled ‘A City Named Benicia’, which provides the Early California history so necessary to understand our city’s heritage vis a vis the Spanish and Native Americans.  This project was the work of several years and Sam’s hard work and funding and we are very grateful to Sam for supplying us with this valuable educational tool.  Thank you Sam!

We have initiated several other community partnerships this year.  Chief among them is one with the Benicia Performing Arts Foundation under the direction of Bart Sullivan, which group will be sponsoring a student youth musical performance as a part of the upcoming Peppino and Carlos Reyes concert.  We will be doing more of these kinds of events, which I know will bring a greater and varied audience here while mentoring talented students.  The BPAF is, in turn, funded by the Benicia Arts & Culture Commission, which is also working with the museum and a local Benicia artist on a public art piece which will be an additional draw to the museum and which will incorporate a camel theme. For this, we have Terry Scott, a local mover and shaker who has already been the driver behind a number of public art works in Benicia.  I am very proud and pleased that so many important community groups want to work with us – it validates what we do and how we do it; and our thanks to Bart and Terry for their vision.  I might add that, in addition to our regular concert schedule from previous years, which included Golden Bough, The Black Irish, and Peppino, we added several other concerts, including an additional concert by Golden Bough, a December holiday program from Legends of The Celtic Harp, Keith Little, and a russian folk singer program with Nikolai Massenkoff incorporating the Rezanov and Concepcion love story as its theme.   Next week, we will also be presenting a drama which focuses on the woman suffrage movement in their successful fight for the right to vote.  We have the museum’s multi-talented office manager, Maureen Williams, to thank for bringing this, first, to my attention, and then for her organizing this additional performance here as a fundraiser for the museum.

With our two new board members, Deb Machado and Penny Stell, we were able to put on 2 additional fundraisers, with the help of our other volunteers:  another mid-summer White Camel Sale and a December Holiday Faire to augment our annual Christmas Tree Lot sale.  These fundraisers garnered much-needed monies that we are able to use to replace obsolete office technology and to do so much needed improvements to our private rental offerings.  Deb and Penny our inspiring and hardworking dynamos who organizational skills are second to none, and we are grateful to them for their energy, their commitment, and their results, aided and abetted by our museum board members, docents, and friends and family, who include those already mentioned plus some additional players: once again, Bob Rozett, Mike Caplin, Reg Page, Sam Chohan, Dee Case, John Halliday, Larry Lauber, Bev Phelan, Lou Alfeld, Judy Furlong, Jim Lessenger, Elizabeth Murphy, Susan Sullivan, Cathy Christo, Randi Scott, Bill Venturelli, Allan Gandy, Suzanne Awalt and many others.

These folks keep the museum open from Wednesday through Sunday, 1 – 4 pm, and also conduct our student tours, senior tours and student hands-on activities.  Simply put, the museum could not operate without these wonderful people who put in thousands of hours every year and who also contribute their sweat equity in helping with electrical work, maintenance, and gardening.  Larry Lauber has been wearing his farmer john clothes here this last week, weed whacking in preparation for our first school tour of the fall term.  Thank you Larry.

These museum exhibits and events are the visible part of the iceberg above the waterline – however, there is a vast amount of backroom work without which we would have neither the research nor material with which to conduct our business.  This falls to Beverly Phelan and her dedicated team of registrars, Bob Kvasnicka and Roberta Garrett, assisted by Leslie Kvasnicka in the textiles room, and Jim Lessenger, our newly installed Museum Research Historian.  (and, by the way, we congratulate Jim on his new book, to be published by arcadia press, titled “The Benicia State Capital”, with photography by Reg Page. This event is scheduled for November 7).  The archives department is the place where items are collected, assessed, accessioned, preserved, and then brought forth to compose our permanent and temporary exhibits.  These items are also photographed and downloaded onto our online collection database with free access to these images on our website archives.  This necessary and important work also includes responding to city and private inquiries relating to historic documents and research.  We are the “go to” people for research requests from private, government, and corporations and authors and news entities all over the country.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the museum would not be able to function without Beverly and her team, who are also aided and abetted by Fred Paine whom I call “the doctor” for his expertise in maintaining the health of our many computers and software programs and who comes on the run when they are ailing.  Thank you Beverly, Bob, Leslie, Roberta, Jim, and Fred.

This coming year, we are also looking forward to interior improvements to our hall and restrooms with dedicated city funds.  We are grateful to the city and to their acknowledgement of the importance of our historic buildings and our valuable work.  This concludes my brief overview of the year’s highlights.  I thank you all for your enormous contributions.”

During this presentation, Elizabeth also noted the following: the Museum increased their contributions from Valero by $10,000; the “Here Comes the Guide” promotion and the renovations taking place in March and April 2020 should increase our rental income; and when the permanent exhibits are completely renovated the Museum will add an audio tour.

ARCHIVES CURATOR’S REPORT: “The Archives Department at the museum is where the work is done on the museum’s collection on a daily basis.  Our photo archivist and registrar Bob Kvasnicka and registrar Roberta Garrett have continued to work diligently on our growing collection.  We have received many items this past year including a detailed drawing of San Francisco during the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition where it shows the wharves for the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. and the Exposition itself, history books, letter from a student at Young Ladies Seminary to her cousin at the California Military Academy in Oakland, dental tools, doctor’s medical kit, maps of the strait and bays in the Bay Area, a funeral list 1914-1972 from Passalacqua Funeral Home, photos from a former resident of Benicia, a reproduction muzzle rifle, a landscape photo of the plan of the ship Galilee, a photo of Robert Semple’s grave, a WWII shirt with badges and many more.

We are working on the storage area to put our furniture collection in one location.  Roberta Garrett and I are cleaning, polishing, documenting, photographing and covering all items.  Bob Kvasnicka uploads our archives at the end of every month, continues to work on the Wassmann Estate and does in depth research when needed.  I have worked on quite a number of requests for information and photos by the City of Benicia as well as individuals and authors.”

LOUISE MARTIN VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD: Bob Rozett and Elizabeth D’Huart announced that Sam Chohan was named as this year’s recipient.  He was recognized for his hard work and financial support for his film “A City Named Benicia”.

Bob Rozett adjourned the meeting at 4:38 PM and the members moved downstairs to the annual potluck buffet and a showing of Sam’s movie.

s, Reg Page, Secretary.