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In 1984 at a conference on the straw arts a concept was born to create a center to preserve and promote the history,
technique and folklore of straw craft. By the end of that year it was decided that a museum should be eventually established to
create an exhibition space to showcase the straw arts. Additionally, it would house a library of information and research into
the history, culture and folklore connected with some aspects of this art medium.
Prior to 1987 the general scope of interest for the project had been in the specific area of wheat weaving or straw plait
and its relationship to various cultures that created this work which was connected historically to harvest customs.
Also by 1987 a regiment of programs had been established to educate the public about both the culture, folklore and
techniques related to this field of interest. From the period of 1984 to 1994 an estimated 15,000 children and adults
participated in some aspects of these programs on the straw arts.
After 1987 the museum organization began to increase
its knowledge and interest in a deeper understanding of what might be meant by the "straw arts". As a result, by 1992 it
became clear that a larger category had begun to immerge. An ever increasing selection of categories would make it more
difficult to confine the definition into a few exhibition divisions. As a result, five major categories were determined to be the
essential core of exhibition pieces that would form the future museum. Straw Hats and Bonnets; Woven Straw Elements;
Straw Applique; Swiss Straw Lace; and Coiled Straw Technique were to become the cornerstones of an exhibition
collection that would serve as a priority role of the museum activity.
Beginning in as early as 1984 the future museum organization began its ten year acquisition of exhibition objects that
were to become the basis of the museum collection as it was known at the opening of its facilities in Long Beach, California.
Objects dating from as early as the 18th century were obtained in an effort to showcase both the five categories of straw art
as well as the culture that created them. The culmination of this ten year collection period, along with ten years of research
and program operations, were to be supported in the 1994 opening of the American Museum of Straw Art in downtown
Long Beach, California.
The museum facilities in Long Beach were at first a humble endeavor created through the direct efforts of volunteers
and the Board of Directions responsible for the management of the museum. Housed in the historic Bradley building at 7th and
Pine the original detail encompassed a collection viewed in four rooms with an additional room for administrative and archival
American Museum of Straw Art: Past, Present and Future
2324 Snowden Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90815
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By 1995 an additional section of the museum was added that was to showcase the culture of the various straw arts. In
the original exhibition rooms the five major categories of straw were exhibited in separate sections according to their kind. The
culture wing showcased exhibitions from around the world and allowed a view of the duplicity of categories within each
Christmas at the Museum
Housed within the wing was a large classroom facility that was to host the programs that began to increase after the
museum opened. The Board of Directors had always asserted the concept that this museum was to be both an art and cultural
display of the straw arts. This new facility was to play an important part in increasing the space for the "Festival Days" at the
museum, which were to showcase a particular culture and its seasonal customs.
In addition to the new facilities and exhibition space in the culture wing the museum saw the final establishment of both a
library and research center housed in one of the sections of the original boundaries of the museum.
Bringing Back the Dream
On December 9, 1995 an event occurred that was to enter the museum into another phase far more difficult than it was to
open the new facility. On that day early in the morning two firebombs were set in the lower floors of the Baker Building
intended for another occupant. The fire quickly spread to the entire building. Luckily the museum was located at one end of
the second floor. If it had been located in another section it would have been likely nothing would have survived. Still there
was extensive smoke and water damaged. Soon it was determined that over 65% of the collection had been destroyed or
damaged. An estimate of $300,000.00 was projected to restore the objects that were not beyond current conservation
methods. A time period of ten years was determined for the length of this operation.
Much of 1996 was spent in accessing the total damage to the museum. With the collection stable a plan of action was
created to allow a volunteer staff to do the work of restoration. Little work was completed in 1996 on this project as the
museum began a lengthy period of decline. Much of the volunteer staff that had been so instrumental in opening the museum
had become disillusioned by the fire. In addition, much of the annual budget was spent in the acquisition of materials and
equipment necessary for the restoration process. Some items that were earmarked for immediate work were photographed to
allow for a future study and paper on straw conservation. All programs that were scheduled or operated at the museum or
through its direction were cancelled, making 1996 the first year in twelve to lack such activities.
Coiled Straw basket before the Fire
Same basket showing extensive Smoke Damage
In 1997 life began to come back to the museum. A new policy for exhibitions was created in an effort to have a straw
"museum without walls". This policy was meant to maintain the responsibility to exhibit works of art in straw as well as to
garner public response in an effort to rebuild the museum. The program was called Bring Back the Dream which was
created in the fall of 1997. This phase of operation brought back educational programs as well as an aggressive exhibition
schedule. A local exhibition was created in September and October as the museum sought to participate in "October is Arts
Month" promoted by the National Cultural Alliance in its "Campaign for Arts and Humanities". This was followed by a
landmark exhibition at the San Francisco Craft & Folk Art Museum called Straw Trails. This show was created as a cultural
view of the straw arts designed in much the same manner as it was at the straw museum. A record number of people viewed
this show, making it the largest number of people to see the straw arts any city in America.
1998 Plans for Bring Back the Dream
With 1998 the Board of Directors of the museum will place an indefinite hold on the restoration process. This is a new
policy that is directed at channeling funds toward programs and acquisition rather than to conservation.
In the Spring of 1998, the museum will re-introduced a lectures series that was originally meant to premiere in January of 1996,
A Walk Through the Straw Arts. This presentation will take the audience through the museum collection and showcase
the five major categories of straw art. Additionally, demonstrations and classes will resume in the techniques, culture and
history of straw craft.
In the Fall of 1998 the museum will host a web site which will be an Internet virtual museum. This will
allow interested parties around the world to come into this site and see some examples of the museum's collection. In
addition, it allows the museum to place some educational material that will further support the activities of the museum within its mission statement.
The year 1998 will also see a planned effort to reinstitute an aggressive campaign for acquisition of objects and
educational material. This will occur through efforts in grants funding, private donations, and facilities revenue created through
its 1998 programs.
The American Museum of Straw Art will continue to research and record information about the history, culture and
folklore of this art form as a means to preserve its history and technique. In addition, the information and research garnered
will be place in museum publications, from time to time, as well as to be placed in an archive for educational and scholarly
research. A new program - SALC (Straw Arts Library in Cyberspace), will record photos and information in a cross
reference data that will eventually be made available through the Internet.
The final phase of this several year master plan will be in the re-opening of the museum facilities. This is tentatively
scheduled to occur in Spring of the year 2000. In addition, the new facility will include a Research Center that will include an
Internet link-up with the SALC program and allow a full range or international research.
Festival Days as well as other programs will be returned to this on-site facility. An emphasis will resume on programs for
children at the museum.
An exhibition schedule as well as a permanent collection will give host to the new museum site. New attendees to the
museum will see a larger view of the straw arts with new categories brought in to accompany the traditional five.
Video film will also showcase some demonstrations as to how some of the straw arts are created, which will help to
make the new site the best presentation yet of the straw arts, bringing in new 21st century technology with old world
To be part of the Present and Future of The American Museum of Straw Art, please visit our "You can Help!" section.
The American Museum of Straw Art. Reproduction of any material is prohibited without
prior written permission.