Our key Museum Operations leadership has decided to continue to suspend our tour program through at least June 2020. The decision was made based after considering many external and internal factors. Our focus is on the safety of our volunteers and guests. We are actively planning to open as soon as possible. We have consulted CDC guidelines, American Alliance of Museums guildelines, and resources from our local health department. We have developed a plan that includes smaller groups and our tour format will change. We will use the weeks ahead to train our volunteers. We will do our best to make sure our guests are safe and will continue to have a great experience.
Tours were suspended on the Burnham Block in mid-March 2020. Our individual tour reservations were dramatically down by March. Group tours were looking normal – but most cancelled by the end of March. We miss greeting guests from around the United States and the world. We especially miss school groups like Wakanda Elementary School. At our March Board of Directors meeting, I briefed our Board on our operating costs and potential lost tour receipts. After consideration, our Board felt we should hold back on urgent fundraising appeals connected to COVID-19 in light of the enourmos needs in our community. We have adjusted our spending and will delay and defer what we can. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers to welcome our guests, manage museum operations and manage restoration projects. The Burnham Block is entirely staffed by volunteers. Not having to meet payroll makes a big difference right now. Regardless, the pandemic will seriously impair and delay important work on the Burnham Block. I ask that you consider becoming a Friend of the Burnham Block or make an additional donation in 2020.
Nicole Atkinson has been a furniture engineer, furniture builder, and millwork project manager for 34 years. Fortunately, for the Burnham Block, she responded to a Facebook post to recruit new volunteers in 2013. During her training to become a new docent, it became known to the Burnham Block staff that Nicole had just the right talent and experience to create much needed replicas of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed furnishings.
Nicole started her career as a product engineer at the Buckstaff Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which manufactured solid wood institutional furniture. While there, she started building furniture with the help of the skilled craftsman in the shop. Eventually, Nicole worked for Techline/Marshall Erdman and Associates where she developed an interest in Mr. Wright’s work, especially his furniture designs. Prior to launching his furniture company, Erdman owned the construction company that built Mr. Wright’s First Unitarian Society Meeting House in Madison in 1951 and several other Madison-area, Wright-designed homes.
Nicole has worked for other millwork companies like The Carlson Company, a manufacturer of fixtures for high-end retailers like Louis Vuitton and Barney’s, and Wisconsin Built, maker of restaurant fixtures for Starbucks and Noodles.
Nicole attended 13 semesters of woodworking at Madison College and has been designing and building furniture in her own shop for over 30 years. In her spare time, she runs a cabinet re-facing business, has remodeled over 75 kitchens, and flipped eight homes by remodeling the kitchen cabinets and updating millwork.