Marston House for Balboa Park Centennial Exhibits

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, Learning Institute, San Diego Exhibit Evaluators Group

Eight people attended the four exhibits led by SOHO docent, and curator of the Souvenirs and Keepsakes exhibit, Chris Pro. These were the first exhibits at the Marston House. The exhibits included: Balboa Park Exposition Designers 1915-1935: The Making of the Dream City, Souvenirs & Keepsakes: Memorabilia of the 1915 & 1935 Expositions, Art in the Park, and Exposition Memories: The music, literature and decorative arts of the 1915 San Diego Exposition.


Chris took us on a tour of the whole house museum. Most of the attendees have never been here before- some people preferred to get a behind the scenes tour of the house in all the nooks and cranies. Native San Diegans especially enjoyed visiting this house. Art in the Park and Exposition Memories were dispersed throughout the house. The other two exhibits were on the second floor. Souvenirs and Keepsakes were mainly from two collections. The committee of curators, historians and educators decided to show 1000 items to just begin to understand the scope of the expo and the impact of the tourism industry of the era and for San Diego, an industry we have been dependent on ever since. We were reminded that vistors need to be in a docent led tour to visit the house and exhibits. It was interesting to see a combination house museum and exhibits in the same place. We used the NSF Framework form to help us do the evaluation. There was consensus, however, that this tool doesn’t really work for house museums.

Here are some of the comments from the attendees:

  • It seemed like it depended on your interests whether or not you enjoyed the Exposition Designers and Souvenir exhibits. If architecture wasn’t your thing, there was too much information in the Designer area. If souvenirs aren’t your interest, the area seemed busy and overwhelming. Others, however, really enjoyed the amazing collection of 1915 and 1935 memorabilia and learning about the designers.
  • Attendees enjoyed the led tour through the house and they did feel a good flow through the different exhibits. Folks liked the combo of the Marston family and the expo info/objects. The art pieces were from the expo periods as well as new pieces commissioned for the exhibit.
  • It was very apparent to everyone that the Expositions were really big deals through the amount of memorabilia. Small items like tickets and passes made the Expositions seem more personal and real.
  • It was interesting to hear about how hard it was to narrow down the amount of souvenirs in the exhibit. The empty rooms after the souvenir exhibit were good to clear your head.