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Blog posts by Diana

How to Throw a Volunteer Party

Posted June 22, 2013

TY sign (1)It’s not everyday that you get asked to make tea cups out of gummy worms and ice cream cones. Or find buried gravestones in Pioneer-era cemeteries. Or parade downtown with puppets and stilts with a performance-art based band. These are just a few of the unexpected & unpredictable tasks the MAH’s volunteers are asked to do. Our volunteer recognition party is the one day we get to formally thank our ever creative, ever inspiring volunteers for all the amazing work they contribute to the MAH over the last year. And we wanted to make sure that this year’s was nothing short of amazing.

We were hard pressed to find anything online about how to throw a volunteer recognition party. We scoured the internet for ideas, budget models, and looked to other museums for inspiration but to no success.

But it wasn’t as hard as we thought. Here’s what we did:

Do It Yourself

SAMSUNGThe most essential element to any party is the people. Lucky for us, we had a group of wonderful volunteers that all happened to double as guests of honor. The next step was figuring out what kind of party to throw. We’ve done wild themes before (we’re recalling a 70’s themed party a few years back where the guests weren’t too “psyched” to dress up in bell bottoms or tie-dye) but those can be hit or miss. Rather than don capes for a superhero party, we decided to base the decorations on a concept that is very familiar with our museum– DIY. “Do it Yourself” embodies a spirit of experimentation and participation, which is very much what we strive for at our museum.

swatchesDIY translated into a party theme that meant handmade decorations, borrowed props, simple concepts like butch paper table runners, and enlisting the help of crafty co-workers. We ended up using and borrowing a lot of supplies that we already owned from previous exhibitions and events. The basement became a gold mine of supplies and inspiration. Fabric scraps, old books, wine bottles, mason jars, yarn… you name it and we can pretty much find it in our basement.


If you are in need for creative inspiration or party ideas, we recommend using Pinterest. We use the site for so many different projects- 3rd Friday art craft ideas, creative ways to make our Front Desk more organized and efficient- and it works like a charm for party ideas. It’s a great tool for everyone because they offer crafts and activities that range in skill and difficulty. Pinterest is where we found and solidified our ideas for the general party atmosphere and specific elements, like the table centerpieces.




Ask for Help

The budget for throwing a volunteer party was limited, so we decided to walk next door to local businesses and organizations to borrow a cup of sugar, so to speak. We knew catering was going to cost the most, so our goal was to get everything else donated. The community response was amazing! With the help of our Volunteer Services Intern, Jennifer, we received donations from local catering companies & prizes for volunteers. We even made a stop to our local Farmer’s Market to get flowers and strawberries.


Take it Personally

We wanted to make a special and personalized “thank you” for every volunteer. However, with changing RSVP lists, a total of 150 volunteers, and a small staff, thanking everyone personally can be difficult. But we added as much personalized flair as possible.




1. Volunteer Recognition Cards

Rebecca Wood.jpg

All of our honored volunteers received this specialized card. A picture of all the staff surrounding a chalkboard with a handwritten “THANK YOU” by our Museum Camp Intern, Iris, followed by their name and what they are being thanked for. Staff also wrote a personalized message on the back.




2. Prizes

Honored volunteers also received a small gift. The prizes were random and varied from a restaurant gift certificate to passes to the local roller rink (generously donated from local businesses). Our favorite aspect of the prizes was the packaging, fashioned with paper, tape, foliage, and a little love.




3. Party Favors

A few exhibitions ago, we accumulated a ridiculous amount of mason jars for a fun in-gallery activity about memory. Ever since then, we’ve been looking for ways to reuse those jars. What better use than as a vessel for party favors for our 80 volunteer guests? We stuffed them with new MAH merch like pencils and buttons and, of course, candy!


So, how did our party turn out? Well, one of our staff members shared a tearful thank you with a volunteer. Our volunteer of the year was thanked with a standing ovation. Just about all the staff came to the event (which is hard to coordinate). And another volunteer brought us cupcakes after the party as a way of returning the favor.


It was an amazing night shared with inspiring people.

See more pictures from the event here.

– Katie Chrivia & Diana Kapsner

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MAH Battle Wounds: Pounded, Attacked, & NerdFighting

Posted January 25, 2013

The Visitor Services team is excited to share our visitor encounters from the front desk. We are (in no particular order) Mary Kopp, Sarah Groh, Katie Chrivia, Kai Hanson and Diana Kapsner. You will occasionally see a visitor encounter from some museum interns and volunteers as well.

Friday, January 4th


The night I was in charge of the barn raising on the third floor, I met a ten-year-old named Taylor. He came in with his grandmother for First Friday (as they apparently do very often) and he was fascinated by the wooden structure within the small gallery. As he approached, I held out a mallet and told him to pick a peg and try to hit it off of the barn. His eyes lit up and he instantly took up the task. It’s amazing how fun it is to hammer things you don’t think you’re allowed to, and for Taylor, it made his night. He asked to do it again, and this time I whispered that with a little extra oomph, he could make the pegs pop out. With this goal, he gave it all he had and sent the peg flying across the room! Not quite what I had in mind, but so mesmerizing to him that he stayed with me for the rest of the night, pounding on more pegs and even helping other people (like the boy and his father pictured here) learn about the joy of using a mallet. Thank you, Taylor!

Kaelle Allen, MAH Volunteer


Saturday, January 5th


On a breezy afternoon in Santa Cruz, Jim came into the MAH filled with whims to lift our spirits. I knew we were in for a treat when he struggled with all his might to open the MAH’s atrium door from the outside courtyard, but was unable to enter. I was pretty sure I had unlocked the door. He then swiftly opened the door for his lady friend by removing his wedged foot to which he
was struggling against. Ha! Later, Jim excitedly asked us “Hey, what am I?” Diana and I were at a loss.

“Guess what I am.”

Jim next yelled out, “I am under attack. Get it?” Pointing up, he repeated, “I am under a tack!”

Thanks Jim for being a force of greatness.

Mary Kopp


Tuesday, January 15th

“Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”

Two teenage boys came in specifically to be Ze Frank’s exhibit. They were hard to miss, wearing bright red shirts with the word “PIZZA” underneath a stenciled man’s face. Curious, I asked them what it was about. They kind of looked at me and paused. One of them hesitantly reached in his pocket to pull out a note. He looks to his friend, to which he nods his head in assurance. Awkwardly, they gave me the note and set off to see the Ze Frank exhibit. The note read:


Nerdfighter?! Well, I’m glad there wasn’t anything to be worried about, but I was intrigued. When they were leaving, I asked them what this was about, to which they replied “It’s about ending World Suck. You should watch the videos.” I told them I would, but only if they came to Ze Frank weekend.

Sure enough they came and although I didn’t get to talk to them again, I discovered how awesome all of Ze Frank’s fans are. Nina captures the spirit of the entire event very well in her blog post.

As I was closing the museum the day I met them, I found this on the activity don't forget to be awesometable in the Ze Frank gallery. It felt like a clue; like they left it here for me to find.

It wasn’t until weeks later I used my highly developed research skills to look “FTL! DFTBA” up. Apparently it means “French the Llama! Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.” I’m still trying to figure out the first part. My advanced Google search skills also allowed me to  look up the definition of Nerdfighter on Urban Dictionary:

“A Nerdfighter is a person who is proud to be nerdy and intelligent, and who fights to decrease WorldSuck. Nerdfighters are not composed of cells and tissue, but instead made entirely of awesome. Nerdfighters are known to perform their Happy dances when they are joyful… are diverse in their hobbies… have also been described as someone who is ‘Outgoing, intelligent and awesome enough to accept nerd as a compliment’. The polar opposite of a Nerdfighter is a Decepticon.”

I’m proud to say that I am a Nerdfighter. Thanks to those 2 guys and all Ze Frank participants for giving me something to fight for!

Diana Kapsner

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Patchwork, Shared Passions & Pre-historic Findings

Posted December 26, 2012

The Visitor Services team is excited to share our visitor encounters from the front desk. We are (in no particular order) Mary Kopp, Sarah Groh, Katie Chrivia, Kai Hanson and Diana Kapsner. You will occasionally see a visitor encounter from some museum interns as well.

December 4, 2012

The MAH recently partook in a Pop-Up Museum at La Fábrica ( Participants were asked to bring something homemade to La Fábrica for show and tell. I was fortunate enough to see my good friend Laurel Reynold’s creation called “This is A Knot Quilt” when she stopped by the museum on Tuesday.  The quilt was constructed at the Fábrica from donated pieces of fabric. Laurel  raffled her knot quilt off for the Fábrica’s Holiday fundraising sale on Wednesday the 12th at the Santa Cruz Farmers market. I was happy to see her quilt around the community at MAH, the Fábrica and the Farmer’s Market.

Mary Kopp


December 7, 2012

I was stationed at the front desk on Free First Friday, answering questions and directing guests as usual. About an hour into my duties, a little girl named Amber came up to the front desk with her parents. She was holding something brownish and slightly dirty. Amber had found this object in the dirt, next to some ivy, and thought it was a dinosaur bone. But not just any dinosaur bone—one from a dinosaur that eats vegetables and plants. Amber and her family wanted the opinion of a museum professional and I was the lucky gal for the job. I examined it very closely; it was hard and certainly shaped like a bone. After some thought, I gave Amber my seal of approval, but suggested she might talk to a paleontologist, just to be sure.  The little archeologist- in-the-making was adorable and totally made my night. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your awesome find with me!

Katie Chrivia


December 23th, 2012

Controlling the toy trains here at the MAH was Jaden’s dream come true. Jaden (pictured here) is a train enthusiast who has travelled up and down the west coast from San Diego to Vancouver chasing train shows, visiting train yards, and even controlling them. He’s controlled the MAX light rail in Portland and even the Roaring Camp Railroad here in Santa Cruz. He has spent the last 3 days in a row from open to closing to control our toy trains and counting…

Diana Kapsner



December 26, 2012

It’s no surprise that I’m a huge Star Trek fan. So, I was stoked to found out that our annual auction earlier this month was STARS: Supernova. I wore an Uhura-esque dress in science-officer-blue and told everyone I could that it was Star Trek related. I don’t meet a lot of Star Trek fans at work or even in life, so you could only imagine my surprise when one of MAH’s volunteers, Christine Garcia, came up to me and said “one of the guests painted a Star Trek ship on her dress, you have to check it out!” I wasn’t alone. We walked over to see a gorgeously detailed Starship Enterprise hand painted on her dress. Her outfit was complete with Star Trek communicator pins, necklaces and a phaser. To top it off, she gave me her card (pictured here). We talked for quite a while about our favorite series, how she made her dress, the new movies and everything else. Art and Star Trek – what else can one ask for?

Live long and prosper!

Diana Kapsner


From Pez to Puzzle Pieces

Posted October 27, 2012

The Visitor Services team is excited to share our visitor encounters from the front desk. We are (in no particular order) Mary Kopp, Sarah Groh, Katie Chrivia, Kai Hanson and Diana Kapsner. You will occasionally see a visitor encounter from some museum interns as well.


September 30, 2012

I stayed late at the Museum one evening so that the carpets could be cleaned. The carpet cleaner arrived, noisily getting to work. When he had finished his task, he looked down at the stone ground and said,

“You see this marble swirling pattern on the floor? Me and my guys did that when this place first opened. We got a bunch of old papers from the Sentinel, grey floor paint, and then smudged paint on the floor.”

I imagine it was a difficult job, tough on their hands and knees, but it was very interesting to learn that the floors were hand-painted and to know that the same man has been making this place sparkle and shine for almost 20 years. Look down the next time you visit your MAH.

-Katie Chrivia


October 5-6, 2012

Levi and Jesus were on a mission to complete our Antique Shop puzzle. They came on First Friday, Santa Cruz’s art walk night, and were working on it until we had to close the museum at 9pm. Surprisingly, they came back the next day and stayed until 8pm determined to finish the puzzle. “We’re going to try to solve this until they kick us out.” Levi and Jesus worked it for 7 hours total. That’s some dedication!

-Diana Kapsner & Stacey Garcia



October 17

Can you believe that I’ve never had Pez? This was crazy talk to Jeremiah, who has a huge collection of Pez dispensers he has been collecting for 19 years. “What do you mean you’ve never had Pez? How could you not have had Pez?” he asked me, baffled. It was such a coincidence, too, because the night before, I had a dream where I bought Pez at a festival (no joke!) “Well, I’m going to have to bring some for you. What’s your favorite cartoon character?”

Apparently, it’s the Green Lantern. Jeremiah came back a month later with a stack of Pez candy and the Green Lantern dispenser. Jeremiah can dispense Pez like nobody’s business; the man has it down to a science. “You have to peel the wrapper back… rip the sides off too… oh, careful of the broken ones…” I failed miserably. Lemon Pez scattered all across the top of the desk. Thank goodness we don’t have ants.

My childhood-self had no idea what she was missing. Now, I can’t stop eating them, even as I write this. I think I’ll try the cherry favor now…


Later that day…


The Battle of the Elmo. It was a hot day on the desert-colored tables in the Lezin gallery.


A staff member happened upon the scene. We had no idea who could have done it, but I was determined to figure it out. I eyed all the visitors curiously wondering to myself “was it you?” I put on my metaphorical Sherlock Holmes cap. There was only 1 family who came into the museum that day. I would investigate. As the family walked out, saying their goodbyes, their son lingered around a few seconds longer to look at the doodads in our store. I raised an eyebrow and in a low voice, asked him suspiciously “did you make that war scene in the Lezin gallery?” He smiled a buck toothless smile and ran out. Case closed.




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Visitor Inspirations

Posted September 22, 2012

The Visitor Services team is excited to share our visitor encounters from the front desk. We are (in no particular order) Mary Kopp, Sarah Groh, Katie Chrivia, Kai Hanson and Diana Kapsner. You will occasionally see a visitor encounter from some museum interns as well.


August 24, 2012

Kong rockin’ a Memory Jar

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming a number of really awesome people into the MAH. One in particular, was a first time visitor and UC Santa Cruz sophomore who just recently switched his major from Biology to History of Art & Visual Culture. I shared with him some of my favourite professors & subjects in the department. It was great that he had followed his passion for architecture and wanted to cultivate his newfound interest in the arts at the MAH. Shortly after our impromptu conversation, I suggested he join the creative process by making a Memory Jar in our interactive gallery. When we walked into the gallery, I noticed his expression switch from excitement to astonishment…”These are people’s memories?” he asked, somewhat bewildered, as he panned the wall of decorated jars.

I reassured him, “Yes, and you’re more than welcome to add your own”.

When he finished I was amazed by his unique and creative use of the materials sans glue, to boot. He had devised a clever way to balance a construction paper shadow man with its two rectangular hands and a jar lid.

The label read: I was helping a friend and wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to lift, but to my surprise I could.

His succinct comment was moving: here was a story of achievement and strength, and now he had a tangible reminder of it. I told him he could return November 25th when the exhibit concludes to reclaim his memory jar. Then, off he went, up the bird chirp staircase, to explore the rest of our installations.

-Natalie Benamou, Community Programs Intern

September 2

Two ladies came into the Museum, eager to check out what we had on display. They originally came to because they had heard wonderful things about the new Santa Cruz Collects exhibition. But instead they left with new ideas for their classrooms. They loved the interactive components to the exhibits, especially the memory jar activity on the first floor and the long scrolls for list making on the third. One of the ladies held up her phone and excitedly told me that she had already told two teachers about the interactive components and the ideas for the classroom she got for them.

–  Katie Chrivia, Visitor Services

September 17

I was in the Courtyard yesterday afternoon about closing time and noticed what appeared to be ghosts in the lobby! Actually, they are patio umbrellas. Thought you might get a kick out of seeing them! (Maybe you could use them to promote a Halloween event!

I am new to Santa Cruz and hope to get involved with the museum as a member or volunteer. I visited it once, in June, when I was trying to determine if Santa Cruz was the right place for me to retire to. The museum went into the “pro” column—and ultimately I made the decision to move here.

–  From an email sent by Andrew B.

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