Category Archives: Community engagement

What Does Relevant History Look Like? There’s a Podcast for That!

Mutual-SignificanceHistoric sites are usually skilled at explaining the history of a place, event, or person but when it comes to relevance, it can be a mixed bag.  They often can’t make the leap from sharing information about the site to sharing information that’s meaningful to visitors. Historic sites have important messages to share (i.e., why does this place matter? why is it significant?). They just need to find the spots where it overlaps with issues and topics that are meaningful to visitors (what is significant to them?). That overlap is the “mutual significance” or relevance.

Relevance isn’t about topics that are “interesting.” That’s such a vague term it can be used to describe a Pulitzer prize-winning novel, a Hollywood cocktail party, or a wedding where the groom’s ex-wives are bridesmaids. Relevance isn’t about an amusing fact or story that leaves visitors smiling.  “Relevance” is something that meets current needs in a practical and useful manner. It finds its origins in the Latin word for Continue reading

How to Evaluate the Visitor Experience with Journey Maps

A journey map can show you the strengths and weaknesses of the whole visitor experience at a glance.

A journey map can show you the strengths and weaknesses of the whole visitor experience at a glance.

When people visit historic sites, they not only take a tour but they probably explore your Web site, buy tickets for the tour, shop in your store, and use the restroom. While the tour might be outstanding, the entire experience can be spoiled if the visitor couldn’t find a parking spot, got soaked in a thunderstorm, was frustrated by a broken credit card machine, or encountered a dirty restroom. For most people, a visit to an historic site isn’t just about the tour, but the whole experience from beginning to end. If one element goes awry, the entire visit can go bad—even if you had absolutely no control over it (like the weather).

To improve visitor satisfaction and increase attendance and impact, historic sites are now examining the entire visitor experience to be sure every part functions well and works seamlessly from beginning to end. One of the best ways to analyze and improve the experience is through a “journey map,” a diagram that lays out every step in the visitor experience from home to historic site to back home. It can help organize planning and evaluation; simplify understanding of complex processes; and easily show how different parts of the organization contribute to an excellent visitor experience. For the past two decades, hotels, airlines, and other customer-oriented businesses use this technique to generate higher satisfaction rates and build stronger relationships for increased profitability. Only recently have non-profit organizations adopted mapping as a method for analysis and planning.

mentioned journey mapping previously but because there continues to be so much interest in the topic, I’ve Continue reading

Google’s New Data Gallery Suggests Directions for Historic Sites

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 10.16.58 AMGoogle has regularly shared findings from studies conducted from various sources (including its own analytics from searches and YouTube) in Think with Google, which I receive as an email a couple times each month as a subscription.  They’ve now gathered those studies together in a new Data Gallery which, of course, can be searched by topic.  There’s nothing for “museums,” “historic sites,” or “tourism,” but there is lots for “travel & hospitality.”  You can also narrow your search by industry (e.g., “travel & hospitality”), by platform (e.g., mobile, video), by themes (e.g., consumer trends, Millennials, U.S.).

A quick browse through the “travel & hospitality” shows the growing importance of video.  For example, their research shows that two out of three U. S. consumers watch online travel videos when they’re thinking about taking a trip and nearly 90 percent of YouTube travel searches focus on destinations, attractions/points of interest or general travel ideas.  This suggests that historic sites and house museums need to Continue reading

Video: Evaluation Consultant Randi Korn on Impact

In this 2:01 video, Randi Korn explains how museums and historic sites can define impact and how an “impact statement” integrates personal passion, the organization’s strengths, and the audience’s interests and needs.  And to measure impact you have to go beyond the usual numbers involving attendance and income and instead look at the experience that people had.  This is one in the “Questions of Practice” video series produced by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites Workshop on May 25

George Mason's Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Virginia will become a hands-on laboratory to explore how to create a comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery at an historic site at a one-day workshop on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm (right before the AAM annual meeting).  You’ll learn how to better connect and extend your site’s interpretation of its history of slavery and help staff and volunteers achieve a greater understanding of difficult knowledge and complicated emotions.  Registration is $90 and includes morning refreshments, lunch, and a post-workshop reception.  For more details and to register, visit http://bit.ly/SlaveryWorkshop.

The workshop will be led by Kristin Gallas, co-editor of Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites and includes presentations by Continue reading

Latest National Research on Technology in the K-12 Education (with Tips for Historic Sites)

"From Pixel to Print," the 2015 report on the use of technology in K-12 education.

“From Pixel to Print,” the 2015 report on the use of technology in K-12 education.

Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization focused on education, just released a national study on the use of technology by teachers and students called, “From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations, and Simulations within K-12 Education.”  For the past thirteen years, Project Tomorrow has provided these annual “Speak Up” research reports to help schools and elected officials (and I’m including museums and historic sites) better understand the trends in technology in the K-12 education field. This year’s report incorporates responses from 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 4,536 administrators, 40,218 parents and 6,623 community members representing over 7,600 schools and 2,600 districts in the United States and around the world.

 

From “Print to Pixel” highlighted these major findings: Continue reading

Challenges Facing Historic House Museums: A Report from the Field

AASLH Historic House Management Workshop at Brucemore in 2016.

AASLH Historic House Management Workshop at Brucemore in 2016.

At the annual AASLH workshop on historic house museum management, we always start by asking participants about the biggest or most important challenge they are facing at their historic site.  For the participants, the exercise allows them to get to know each other beyond a name by recognizing the issues they may have in common.  As the instructors, It’s an opportunity for George McDaniel and me to ensure we address their concerns.  For AASLH, it’s a way of keeping a finger on the pulse on what’s happening in the field.  At the end of the workshop, we review the list and provide some time for participants to develop a plan to address their issue.  As a reminder, they also fill out self-addressed postcards with a message to themselves, which I’ll mail to them in six months.

So that you can keep your finger on the pulse of the field, here’s the list of issues and challenges from the Cedar Rapids workshop at Brucemore, which included participants from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois: Continue reading

Video: Detour’s High-Tech Audio Tours Come to Museums

Groupon founder Andrew Mason guides Casey Newton of Verge through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art using the latest version of Detour, a location-based outdoor audio tour app that now works indoors as well.  Through your smartphone, Detour knows your location in the museum and presents the artworks in that specific gallery along with the associated audio recordings so you can wander (giving you the right information in the right place), as well as 15-30 minute “walks”.  Parts of this Verge video are silly and the background music too loud, but it looks like smartphone technology now has the capability to be used at historic sites for self-guided tours of the buildings, landscape, and neighborhood in a way that’s more flexible and responsive to visitor interests.

The video below is a better explanation of Detour’s ability to “automatically guide you as you walk, almost like you’re there with a real person”.  It debuted last year with ten Detours of San Francisco (including architecture) at $4.99.

Brucemore Encouraging Membership with Members

Detail from Brucemore's membership brochure.

Detail from Brucemore’s membership brochure.

At last week’s workshop on historic house management in Iowa, I discovered that Brucemore, a historic house museum in Cedar Rapids, is encouraging membership with testimonials from members.  Inside a tri-fold brochure (pdf), three members—an artist, volunteer tour guide, and a neighbor—share what they like about Brucemore and how it’s made a difference in their lives and the community.

Angela Billman, Actress, Brucemore Member

When I was 14 years old, my family took me to the Classics at Brucemore to see Romeo and Juliet. The experience introduced me to Shakespeare, outdoor theater, and inspired me to become an actress. The estate enriches the community in so many ways and inspires people every day.

It’s a clever idea because it shifts from the site promoting itself to members promoting the site.  It’s people connecting with people, not a faceless organization talking to the general public, which is the most effective way to raise funds and build membership.

Notice, too, the contemporary graphic design that uses sans serif typefaces, photos placed at an angle, tint blocks, textures, and three-dimensional elements (such as the paperclips).  This moves it away from the Times Roman typeface, fixed grid of photos, and goldenrod paper that’s far too common at house museums.

If you’re revising your membership brochure, you might want to consider these techniques to make your content and design more attractive and engaging.

Video: Hackney Museum: Learning Together, Staying Connected

This 5:45 video provides a behind-the-scenes view with staff and residents about a 2014 collaborative exhibition between the Hackney Museum and a local neighborhood.  This film documents what the museum staff and community partners learned together, both successes and failures, when they created the “Side by Side: Living in Cazenove” exhibition at the Hackney Museum, located in a suburb northeast of London.