The Exploring History Lunch Lecture Series is a local case study submitted on the “Tell Your Story Page.” Read about this fun and educational lecture series in College Station that has been going strong for nine years, garnered local sponsors and has served as a proactive forum for local preservation issues. As a bonus, all the lectures are available via YouTube.com!
Project Name: Exploring History Lunch Lecture Series
Location: College Station, Texas
Region: Texas Brazos Trail Region
Submitted by: Anne Boykin
Organization: City of College Station Heritage Programs
On the third Wednesday, ten months out of the year, the Heritage Programs office of the City of College Station hosts a lecture on a topic that pertains to the seven county Brazos Valley region. Local organizations and/or restaurants donate the lunches for 80 – 125 guests. The speakers donate their time. The guests pay $5/pp which is donated to the Heritage Programs. The lectures last one hour and are videotaped for replay on the city’s educational channel and on YouTube.com. The lectures are held at the College Station Conference Center which is owned by the city and available for free to city sponsored events. It’s a win-win program that gathers enthusiasm every year.
What community needs/issues did your project or program address?
We have a wealth of folks in our community who have history to share. Our program, now nine years old, will never run out of interesting, entertaining and educational topics. We have been able to educate not only our community but those in surrounding areas about our history. With the recent addition of YouTube.com, we are international. In our university community, which is very international, our story is now told around the world. The lectures are a great way for the community to come together and promote our history in a friendly and social atmosphere.
Who were all the partners involved? How did they contribute to the project’s success? The program is coordinated by the Heritage Programs office, the Historic Preservation Committee, and the Senior Advisory Board. All of these programs fall under the city of College Station Parks and Recreation Department. All three partners participate in locating speakers, hosting the events, and volunteering for the check-in table. Area restaurants and health care agencies donate the meals. These groups are allowed a few minutes to talk about their organizations before lunch and distribute their brochures.
How did you fund this project?
In the early days, the city funded the entire program. As budget constraints tightened, we began charging $5 and the city supplemented the cost of the lunches. Now, the lunches are fully donated. We asked the folks who attend to decide if they wanted to pay $5 or get a free lunch. All of them agreed to continue with the $5 to help support other Heritage Programs events. Our only costs are a mass mailing we do in January with a list of the programs. Monthly emails are sent as reminders to those who have email addresses.
What challenges did you encounter? How did you overcome them?
Our greatest challenge was a shrinking city budget. Our following has been very faithful through all of our economic ups and downs. See above for more information.
What is the future of this project? If applicable, what are the next steps?
We have a very long list of suggested speakers. At this rate, I doubt we will run out of speakers. In the nine years we have provided this program, we have only had a few repeated speakers and those were by popular demand. As long as we can continue to get luncheon sponsors, this program will continue. We have already thought ahead to the possibility of no sponsors and feel that we would be able to continue charging the $5/pp and provide a sandwich lunch.
Based on your experience with this project, what tips or pieces of advice can you share with the preservation community?
Always have great speakers! Researchers or authors are not always the best speakers. We try to find interesting topics that appeal to a wide range of audience. The majority of our audience are retired military or university faculty and staff. They are sharp cookies and we definitely do not talk down to them. In the Q&As after the lecture, we always learn something new about our audience. Sometimes they are the best at making suggestions for new speakers. Don’t forget that local history is impacted by national or international events. We always try to include topics that appeal to veterans especially.
Statewide Plan Connection
Goal 5: Learn and Experience History through Place
Goal 7: Cultivate Political Commitment
This informative, educational, and fun program is appropriate for young adults and older. In the summer time, we often have young families who attend. By being able to reach a wide range of citizens through a variety of media, we are able to tell our story to many. At almost every luncheon, there are city government staff, city council members (past and present), former mayors, members of our local Parks Board, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Cemetery Board. These folks who are active within the community will take the story of our history back to their groups. When local preservation issues come up, we can reach a large audience through a simple announcement at the lecture. We have a large database of contacts and have been able to garner support for several issues. If we know of a specific issue, we can gear our lectures to address these issues.
For More Information
Project Website: http://www.cstx.gov/explore
Contact Name: Anne Boykin
Organization: City of College Station Heritage Programs
Supporting documentation: City of College Station Heritage Programs April 2011 Newsletter