Proud Of Where You Come From: Capturing Youth Perspectives

Last week, We Are the next had the privilege of observing a 3rd grade field trip to the historic Bembridge House Museum in Long Beach. Owned and operated by Long Beach Heritage, this three-story, 18-room Queen Anne style home was brought to life with the excited chatter of school children exploring the interior and the grounds. We attended this field trip in anticipation of a program we're planning in partnership Long Beach Heritage in the upcoming year. 

We believe that the Bembridge House is an important place because of its architecture and its relationship to Long Beach's legacy of protecting historic places, and for that we want to help bring it back into focus for residents in our community. 

The Bembridge House was originally built in 1906 by a wealthy couple and was then purchased by Thomas Rankin, who passed it down to his son Neil and daughter Dorothy Bembridge. Dorothy was a pianist and school teacher. She lived in the house from 1918 until her death in 1999. Because of her love of her family's home and care for its historic attributes, the building's hand-carved woodwork, stained glass, tiled fireplace, and other important character-defining features survive today. 

 

When the Bembridge House was threatened with demolition in the 1960s due to the City of Long Beach's effort to expand park space, Dorothy fought to protect her family's cherished home. Her efforts succeeded, and in 1981 the predecessor to the Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission designated the building a historic landmark. After Dorothy's death in 1999, the house was purchased by Long Beach Heritage, and was later nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Children explore the historic Bembridge House Museum in Downtown Long Beach, photo by We Are the Next.
Cuckoo Clock detail in the historic Bembridge House Museum, Long Beach, photo by We Are the Next
Architectural detail of the Queen Anne Victorian style home, the Bembridge House Museum, located in Downtown Long Beach. Photo by We Are the Next

Over the last decade, Long Beach Heritage has operated the Bembridge House as a historic house museum. It is open to the public for occasional tours, and the organization works with Long Beach Unified Schools to arrange field trips for students to visit the house. However, they have faced challenges in recent years. The museum has experienced a decline in its visitorship, and simultaneously the number of visitors who are Long Beach residents has decreased. Because of this decline, Long Beach Heritage is joining forces with We Are the Next to evaluate the presence their museum has in the minds of our city's youth and find a path towards a more successful future. 

The Bembridge Historic House Museum, Downtown Long Beach. Photograph by We Are the Next.

Drawing from events and concepts put forth by the Anarchists Guide to Historic House Museums, we have designed a series of programs for Long Beach youth. In the 2016/17 school year, We Are the Next will transport high school students from across the city to the Bembridge House Museum, where they will attend tours with Long Beach Heritage docents and provide feedback on how those tours can be more captivating and cater more heavily to the interests of a 21st century demographic. With their help, we believe we can assist this magnificent work of Victorian architecture in regaining its role as an important cultural establishment in the Long Beach community!

If you are an educator or member of the community and would like to find out how you and/or your students can participate in this program, email La Dawna Minnis, Director of Education Programs, at ladawna@wearethenext.org for additional information. 

This program is made possible by support from:

 

 

 
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