headshot marla novo

Mon, Sep 24, 2018

Meet Marla, the MAH's History Guru

Marla has been transforming MAH archives for 22 years – the longest run of any MAH staffer, ever – so long she says she’s an archive now. Learn more about how archives inform her work, how stories come out of objects, and what she’s currently most excited by.

What’s Marla’s favorite part about archives?

Marla is driven by a passion for telling the stories that would otherwise go untold. There are so many ways we can interpret items. It’s always changing. The collections are an opportunity to empower the voices of those who have been silenced. She loves showing people what lives at the MAH and how it can inform how they live their lives or pursue that research and passions.

What can we look forward to next?

Expect to see the MAH at more off-site locations. Marla is always thinking of what’s next. How can we bring positive impact into the community? How can we bring more relevance to our work? Right now, she’s most excited about making the MAH more accessible to everyone by bringing collections out into the community. Think installations at Dominican Hospital, mini-exhibitions in bus stops, and pop-up galleries at Goodwill stores.

What’s her current favorite object?

The original sign from the Beach Flats garden. This sign will be featured soon in the History Gallery for an upcoming mini-exhibit. The sign helps tell the stories of a marginalized community. Connected to what’s happening now, the sign asks us to reflect. How can you be a part of history? How are things changing in Santa Cruz and in the world? What history are we repeating now?

Marla also loves a new acquisition of protest signs (featured in the photo above) from the first women’s march in January 2017. Not only do these objects tell a powerful story empowerment, activism, and togetherness but they illustrate Marla’s process. All of the signs were crowdsourced and came to the MAH through the collective power and work of a community at the heart of enacting positive change.

What memories stand out to her the most?

In 2015, Marla organized an exhibition called Princes of Surf. The project told the story of three princes that came from Hawaii and introduced surfing to the mainland right here in Santa Cruz. The original boards were brought to the MAH by a massive procession with hundreds of onlookers. A blessing ceremony performed by Hawaiian Kumu Kaui preceded their unveiling. The awe and reverence in the room was a moving demonstration of how deeply objects connect our shared cultures.

What’s the best part about working with volunteers?

Marla’s favorite part about working with volunteers is that make her look at things in a different way. She’s always surprised and energized by the enthusiasm and energy volunteers bring into the space.