Jennifer Fitzpatrick’s Leading Role in Telling the Stories of Humboldt
In this issueEngage - Volume 9, Issue 1 Winter/Spring 2019
Cultural AreasGeneral Culture
Keywordscommunity engagement museum storytelling
From spoken word stories in oral cultures to the most rigorous printed historical tomes: stories are how humans remember, understand, and share culture. Since ancient times, those who tell stories in a memorable way are highly valued in a community.
In Humboldt, Jennifer Fitzpatrick is passionate about ensuring the Stories of Humboldt are shared. A Director of Cultural Services for the City of Humboldt, she has been involved in curating Stories of Humboldt, an exhibit featuring stories collected from local residents that showcase some unique aspects of the community.
In fact, the Stories exhibit marks the culmination of an ongoing strategy Fitzpatrick has led to modernize the Humboldt and District Museum. She explains, “Our long-term goal is to re-design the museum to show the evolution of the Humboldt area by telling the stories that have impacted our community’s development along the way. We focus on those stories unique to the Humboldt community.”
To determine those stories, she initiated community engagement and opportunities. “We asked people to identify traditions, people, and events for further research. It’s been ongoing for years. People continue to donate artifacts and share stories, and we continue to move toward reflecting everyday life in the community through culturally relevant exhibits.”
“History is happening now, and museums are contemporary places that can share the evolution of their communities. Local events, whether past or present, affect the lives of the people here in many ways, including how our city develops.” ~ Jennifer Fitzpatrick
The first series features 13 far-ranging local stories – some from years-gone-by, others are contemporary and include the history of the Humboldt Broncos. Another series will launch in 2019.
“History is happening now, and museums are contemporary places that can share the evolution of their communities. Local events, whether past or present, affect the lives of the people here in many ways, including how our city develops,” Fitzpatrick says. ”Taken as a collective, the Stories of Humboldt represent the community's story, and it’s exciting to know the community is telling that story for themselves.”
The Stories exhibit is just one of several active projects on Fitzpatrick’s plate. The Humboldt Gallery, another feather in the community’s cap, just celebrated its 50th anniversary. In addition to already supporting the work of 588 artists, the Gallery is a popular venue that hosts concerts, author readings, workshops, fashion shows, award presentations, and receptions. It’s become a cultural hub in the community.
Also ongoing is the development of the Original Humboldt site: “In just ten years, an 80-acre parcel of prairie land has been transformed into a fascinating living heritage site. We created metal art installations with interpretive storyboards, so that visitors can experience the essence of multiple stories.”
“The community's reaction has been fantastic -- so many people have expressed excitement to see new artifacts and stories from their past. Some don't consider an event from the 1980s to be historical enough to be in a museum, but we aim to change that perception.
Fitzpatrick is the Director of Cultural Services for the City of Humboldt. She started working at the Humboldt Museum as a summer student, becoming its Director / Curator in 1989. With a degree in Anthropology and a diploma in Cultural Resource Management, she has a long-term vision for her work.