Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Thomas Day Goes Mobile

Thomas Day Museum Goes Mobile
The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina)
    12 December 2012

The Thomas Day House/Union Tavern in Milton launched a mobile tour for visitors Sunday afternoon, enabling a tour of the famous furniture maker’s house and shop while listening to stories about Day, his work and his life. The Mobile Tour uses a recording, which can be downloaded to a smartphone or iPod. It features numbered stories, which correspond with numbers posted on furniture and other items throughout the facility, so the tourist will know which piece to find. The Mobile Tour is targeted to young people, ages 11 and up. “The youth are our future,” said Vanessa Richmond-Graves, board member of the TDH/UT, Inc. and the Apprend Foundation. “All of us in Milton who have been working for almost three decades to preserve the Tavern and to amass the furniture collection there want our efforts carried on. So we feel that it’s imperative to involve the youth in Milton and beyond in this important part of Milton’s and North Carolina’s history.

The tour was field-tested with 11-to-12-year olds, who provided critical ideas. “The young people noticed things that adults would not necessarily notice, like the claw feet on a desk and book case, and had great ‘why?’ questions,” said Laurel Sneed, the tour’s writer and producer.

Jonathan Prown, a Thomas Day expert and executive director of the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee — which publishes American Furniture Magazine — also gave a presentation Sunday. “We live in a day and age when history-telling can be difficult. History has lost its luster,” he said. “It’s in part our own fault, for not making it pertinent today.” Prown said it’s time to remind people what an inspiring person Thomas Day was. “There’s kind of a twist to his furniture. That’s where Thomas Day the joiner, the furniture maker, turns into Thomas Day the artist,” said Prown, pointing out the scrollwork on a nearby armoire. “He came up with strategies of survival. He had clientele who wanted high-style furniture,” said Prown. “His pieces have almost a jazz aesthetic, taking a normal pattern and doing something a little more flavorful. “It’s not easy when you have an historic site, to get people excited about furniture,” said Prown, adding that he’s an advocate for finding new ways to deliver information. He said that in museums, the average person stops at a piece for three seconds, and that the museum staff members talk more than the visitors. The mobile tour gets away from that. “Thomas Day had to innovate to succeed,” said Sneed. “And so do you.”