Our Methodology

Many historic house museum organizations struggle to stay vital and relevant, existing as fixed entities within an increasingly fluid and dynamic broader culture.

But Historic Hudson Valley embraces these dramatic shifts and welcomes the variety of options we have to deliver our subject matter, including a traditional tour, a digital program, or a popular special event. 

We are also proud to seek inspiration externally, motivated not only by our industry peers, but by what cultural organizations outside of the historic house museum field are accomplishing through innovative programming, digital acumen, and outside-the-box thinking.

School Programs

School programs

Though hugely committed to the highest standards of preservation, Historic Hudson Valley nonetheless embraces education as its central raison d’etre.

In the era of Common Core learning standards, our hands-on, curriculum-based school programs are increasingly valuable. They give children a level of understanding that cannot be conveyed through the pages of a history book.

Cognizant of the time and resource pressures many schools face, we launched Runaway Art: Interpreting Colonial Slave Ads, in New York City classrooms. A transformational program, Runaway Art expands Historic Hudson Valley’s geographic reach and brings our curriculum directly to students.

 

Runaway Art Teacher

Scholarly engagement

Historic Hudson Valley successfully competes with prestigious academic and cultural organizations to earn program grants from the country’s most rigorous peer-reviewed funding agencies, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS).

In doing so, we routinely engage and partner with top academics, including Leslie Harris, professor at Emory University; Jacqueline Simmons, faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University; Laura Chmielewski, professor at SUNY Purchase; and Elizabeth Bradley, published author, historian, and Washington Irving authority. All are tops in their fields and experts on subjects at the heart of HHV’s educational mission.

Dr. Simmons helped develop curriculum for our Runaway Art project and trained New York City teachers on corresponding lesson plans. Dr. Harris is collaborating with us on developing a website dedicated to the history of slavery in the Colonial North. Dr. Chmielewski is consulting on HHV digital programs that will teach students about 18th-century piracy and international trade. Dr. Bradley, who has worked extensively on HHV’s NEH grant applications, is project director for HHV’s program to re-imagine Sunnyside as a center for storytelling.

 

Lightscapes

Popular Events

Special events like The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Horseman’s Hollow, and Sheep-to-Shawl draw nearly 200,000 visitors each year and represent by far our largest share of visitation. Over the past 10 years, Historic Hudson Valley grew to embrace this new shift in audience patterns.

Using audience input and feedback as a starting point, Historic Hudson Valley uses a senior level Research & Innovation Team to conceptualize, create, and direct our special event roster.

The events are not only a boon for Historic Hudson Valley, they are a major driver in the regional economy: showcasing local artistic talent, creating seasonal jobs, filling restaurant tables and hotel rooms, and boosting the region’s visibility as a welcoming, exciting, engaging place for heritage tourism. 

 

Union Church app

Digital Programs

In the past, a historic house organization that wanted to expand its reach had to purchase or in some way have a physical presence at a property, bearing the associated operational and financial challenges.

Now, technology allows us to deliver content to audiences far and wide from a physical property. We seek to provide all of our audiences with a digital dimension to their Historic Hudson Valley experience: on-site and off-site, before, during, and after a visit, or in lieu of a visit.

Recent examples include online exhibitions and web programs devoted to Montgomery Place, a site whose location frustrated Historic Hudson Valley’s efforts to build an audience, and is now a property of Bard College.

At our library, work is underway to digitize the card catalog with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Not only will this project make our collections instantly searchable, but it will also ensure unprecedented access to a recent private donation of rare and first-edition works by Washington Irving.

 

Tours

House and Landscape tours

Historic Hudson Valley continues to offer traditional docent-led house and landscape tours and we pride ourselves on the high marks we earn from visitors about their experience. For those fortunate enough to be able to visit our sites in person, guided tours provide a special sense of place.

Informed by our original research, curatorial collections, architecture, and landscapes, our tours make the past come alive for visitors of all ages.

Besides the sites of Historic Hudson Valley, we also provide tours of Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, a property owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.