The Future of Historic Waco – Summary of Community Gathering
The Historic Waco Foundation has launched a strategic process to understand Waco’s story from a number of perspectives in order to form future partnerships and programs that would offer the greatest benefit to the community. This post is one in a series to share with you how that work is progressing and how you can get involved. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here: Historic Waco Foundation Series. — ALW
By Patricia Scott, President, Historic Waco Foundation Board of Directors
This is a great time to be part of the Waco community. Waco is growing. We have a vibrant downtown and almost every weekend there is a concert, festival, sporting event, art festival or convention bringing visitors to town. With all of the excitement around town, it is easy to focus on the future, but we must also look at Waco’s past if we are truly going to understand Waco today.
Historic Waco Foundation’s mission is to preserve and present the history of Waco and McLennan County. As an organization, we are the first to acknowledge that though our mission is broad our focus has been narrow. We have focused on the historic homes and the people that built and lived in those houses – and that has limited Historic Waco Foundation to the late 1880’s and a very small group of people in Waco. It is time to look beyond these beautiful houses and focus on the history of Waco in its entirety.
To begin this process, Historic Waco Foundation recently hosted a gathering to gain information and provide direction from the community at large. The gathering attendees came from all sectors of our community and most had no previous knowledge of or participation in Historic Waco Foundation activities.
Prior to the gathering, Historic Waco Foundation sent an online survey to community members and asked that they share it with their networks, and so on. The survey asked respondents to answer three open-ended questions (1) what is important to the people of Waco, (2) what is distinctive about Waco and (3) about what do Waco-area residents care.
In total, Historic Waco Foundation received 37 survey responses. Using those responses as a basis, Historic Waco Foundation developed four additional questions to guide the community gathering conversation.
Question 1: Which untold stories need to be told?
Discussion ranged from an unbiased and full telling of the Jesse Washington lynching to what Waco-area residents have done for recreation through the years. Attendees also mentioned the importance of delineating the history of Waco’s schools, including unique stories like the tunnel under La-Salle, then a two-lane main road, for elementary school children. Conversations also focused on the importance of recognizing the contributions and daily lives of Waco’s African American and Hispanic communities.
Question 2: What are some ways Historic Waco Foundation can tell these stories?
The community gathering attendees offered several fantastic and thought provoking suggestions for how Historic Waco Foundation can share some of the previously untold or rarely told stories with the community. Overall, the suggestions centered on involving more media and technology in our storytelling. Plays and performances are a common way to presented history – think Shakespeare and his Henry plays—and many of the attendees agreed. There was discussion about Historic Waco Foundation collaborating with the arts community, be it visual or performing arts, and involving students who can write, produce, act, sing or perform historical interpretations.
Question 3: What organizations can or should Historic Waco Foundation collaborate with in the future?
Acknowledging the stories that need to be told and employing creative ways to present them is only the first step. Historic Waco Foundation will also engage in robust collaboration with community groups to identify additional stories and truthfully and effectively present them. Thanks to this enthusiastic group of community leaders, Historic Waco Foundation now has an extensive list of possible partnerships.
Question 4: What are some ways Historic Waco Foundation may be able to use its houses in the future?
Historic Waco has struggled with the upkeep of its current houses and has investigated alternative uses for the historic homes. Historic Waco Foundation asked attendees for suggested uses for the homes, and many of the responses mirrored possibilities already discussed and investigated. Stay tuned for more on this. Historic Waco sincerely wants to present the houses in ways that benefit the entire community and accurately capture the stories of all Wacoans.
This community gathering was just the first step in finding our niche within this community. Historic Waco Foundation will take the many suggestions to heart and act on them in ways that will benefit the sustainability of our organization and Waco’s many citizens.
Patricia Scott is President of the Board for Historic Waco Foundation and a native of Waco. Patricia has been a member of Historic Waco Foundation since 2010. She is a Docent at McCulloch House and has served on the Historic Waco Foundation Board for the past three years and as President for the past two years. Patricia and her husband love to travel and make it a point to find a Museum wherever they go. She loves to read and needlepoint, but her greatest joy is her granddaughter, Grace.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.