The Doss Heritage and Culture Center, a nonprofit museum in Weatherford, opened its doors in 2006 to preserve and interpret the history of Parker County and Texas. For 14 years now, the Doss has collected artifacts and organized displays and activities on topics like cattle drives, Native American life, peach farming, and famous residents such as the actor Larry Hagman. In mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic forced the Doss to close its doors and cancel or postpone events. The center re-opened June 23, but has shifted much of its educational programming online and removed interactive exhibits from its displays. Amanda Edwards, director of museum affairs, explains how the Doss has pivoted to remain active and relevant during the pandemic.
How has the Doss stayed connected with the community during this time?
We’ve moved our educational programming to a digital platform. Our weekly story-time series happens online now, and we’ve had lots of feedback from parents saying it’s giving their kids some normalcy. The Western Heritage online field trips are also a hit—staff members do a video on a Western activity – sheep shearing, goat milking, ranch life, etc.—that teaches kids about our culture. One of our biggest draws each summer are the day camps for kids, which we’ve had to move online. Lots of it involved tactile learning elements, which are hard to sanitize. We came up with Camp Crates that are picked up and done at home. This way, we’re able to get some of the tactile items involved and it prevents us from having sanitation issues at the museum. There are four Texas history-themed camp crates being released throughout the summer, each tied to a Google Classroom that provides additional education beyond the crate. They’ve been selling out and were sort of our beacon of hope for the summer. For adults, we have a historian who teaches local history classes in the building, and he’s volunteered to do a digital version of his program that includes episodes on Parker County history.
What about museum exhibits?
We revamped the exhibit schedule to focus on hands-off art shows. We’ve also started Family Fridays at the museum for people who still want to come in. There’s a museum scavenger hunt, and we provide paper clues and a disposable pencil. They go around the museum hunting for answers and can explore without touching anything.
How does all of this affect grants?
Our free programming helps us apply for grants. The future of our grants is worrisome right now since we haven’t been able to do the programming and track the numbers like normal. With everything digital, we’ve had to find new ways to track our online data for grant funding, and we’re encouraging people to tune in with us online. We’re very appreciative of our donors and the community, and so far, we’ve seen success with the digital programs.
How can people support the Doss during this time without visiting in person?
People can always give online. You can also support us on social media by liking our posts, sharing, and helping us stay visible when it’s hard to fight all the online noise. The more likes, shares, and interactions we get helps our algorithms. We’re here to support the community, our kids, teachers, and homeschool facilities. We want people to know that we’re here as a resource for the community.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect cities and towns across the state, Texas Highways asked our writers to share stories of adversity, recovery and strength in Texas’ small business community. We also checked in with businesses we’ve covered in the past and invited members of Texas travel associations to give us an update on how they’re doing and how you can support them. Click here to explore our map of nearly 500 small businesses.