Normally during the spring and early summer, the staff at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center is preparing for a new tourist season, scheduling field trips with local schools, and developing new programs, exhibits, and events. Unfortunately, this year has been anything but normal. The interpretive center had to close its doors for 8 weeks due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Closed, however, was not the same as quiet. Behind the scenes, our team was still actively working to advance the Foundation’s mission. Just after the closing, our staff mobilized to create an ongoing series of engaging online programs. These virtual talks and tours have helped us connect with our membership and new audiences around the world. Each program will remain on our website, for future use by teachers and the general public.
We were able to move so swiftly because of the groundwork laid by our recently launched Heart Mountain Institute. The board created this education-focused initiative in 2018, with the aim of promoting outreach, research, and multimedia projects. We were thinking about online teaching and learning before it became necessary, and so we were prepared for a situation like the one we are in.
During our closure, we also took the opportunity to make improvements and additions to the site. We worked remotely with architects and engineers on further plans for the restoration and development of the root cellar and barrack. We also entered the early design phase for an exciting expansion of the interpretive center, a space where we can host workshops and retreats for educators, civic leaders, and other groups. Through these workshops and special events, we can use the lessons learned from Heart Mountain to shape a better future.
While these are opportunities we can grasp during this difficult time, the current crisis also presents serious challenges to our work. Far fewer people will be traveling this summer and autumn, and we will not be immune to the substantial revenue losses faced by all museums and attractions. For the first time, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. Between the cancelation of this event and the anticipated loss of admissions, we will experience a significant and unexpected loss of revenue in 2020.
The Board of Directors is committed to supporting our outstanding and hard-working staff, even in the face of these losses. We are actively seeking assistance through government stimulus programs, and many of our Board members have personally stepped up to help close the gap. But we also need to look to all of you…the people who, over the years, have helped build the Foundation, develop our museum, preserve the site, and launch our programs. We are asking you to join us now, so that together we can ensure the Foundation will not only weather this storm, but continue to tell the Heart Mountain story at this most critical time in our history. With your help, we will do more than endure; we will thrive.
Please stay safe in the coming weeks and months and be mindful of your health. We hope to see you again in person soon, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to write, call, or just leave a comment on our social media. Even when forced to keep our distance, togetherness is what makes the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation special.
Thanks for all you do,
Shirley Ann Higuchi & Douglas Nelson
Chair & Vice Chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation