By Brianna Jilson
When Ron Chew, former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, spoke at USF this spring, he emphasized the importance of building community connections, especially for small museums. Working with the Treasure Island Museum Association (TIMA), first as an intern and now as the paid collections and office manager, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand how important community connections can be. Treasure Island — sandwiched in San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland — is a small community of residents and small businesses that always feels far removed from the hustle of San Francisco. Yet you never know where a conversation may lead you. Neighbors on the island always have new ideas and are willing to help with anything. In fact, the museum’s motto is: “It takes an Island.”
The Treasure Island Museum has an interesting history. It started as a military museum when the U. S. Navy occupied Treasure Island. When the base was closed, the Navy closed down the island and took most of the museum’s collection with it. Thanks to a small group of the museum’s supporters and employees, the museum managed to secure a spot on the island when it reopened almost twenty years later. TIMA reopened as a museum of place, celebrating the colorful history of Treasure Island. With the current plans for redeveloping the island, the museum was able to secure a place on the island in the future.
For a small museum like TIMA to manage to maintain a presence is a testament to its community ties. Not only did the museum strengthen its ties to the island, but it secured both office and exhibition space in one of the historic buildings on the island. Most recently, TIMA partnered with its neighbor, The Winery SF. After working together on smaller partnerships, the winery agreed to host the exhibition “Wish You Were Here: Postcards from the Golden Gate International Exhibition.” We are thankful for the many donated materials and volunteer work from island businesses and friends.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with the head of Project Gado thanks to connections made through an artist whose studio is next door to the exhibit. Project Gado is a for profit business with a social mission to digitize and share the world’s visual history. They use new and innovative technology to quickly scan and digitize large archives and share it through a unique partnership with Getty Images. Ultimately there is little to no cost for the archive. The artist who introduced us has never worked with the museum before. A friendly chat about what the museum was doing led to this amazing opportunity to work with a unique group.
Like any other small museum, the Treasure Island Museum Association relies on donations and volunteers to make its programs a success. Long time donors and dedicated volunteers can become some of the most important resources for any museum. Yet I have learned that sometimes, it’s the smaller, newer connections that can have the biggest impact. Always be ready with a friendly smile, and never say no to a quick chat.