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AASLH Annual Meeting Recap

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The AASLH Annual Meeting in St. Paul was a whirlwind for me, starting on Wednesday by stepping off the plane and heading directly into a five-hour Council meeting and then joining the evening reception at the Mill City Museum.  The rest of the week held the same pace with walking tours of St. Paul at 7 am (had to skip breakfast), educational sessions throughout the day, and chatting with colleagues over dinner.  It was great fun but it didn’t give me much time share on this blog what was happening during the conference.  I’ll talk about a couple sessions in more detail later, but here are a few highlights in the meantime: Continue reading

How Museums Can Optimize Revenue Through Dynamic Pricing

pricing-productsOptimizing revenue by increasing pricing for special exhibits or peak times (e.g. weekends) is widely adopted in the performing arts (e.g., matinee vs evening performances at the theater) but rarely used by museums.  A few museums, however, are beginning to experiment with dynamic or demand-based pricing to maximize their revenues.   For example, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art increased their price $2 for the last four weeks they were open before renovation began and received no complaints.  In 2008, the EMP Museum dropped its admission fee from $30 to $15 and it did not affect visitation, so in 2011 they increased prices and in 2013 they moved to 2013 to dynamic pricing. During the last 3 weeks, they earned an additional $15,000.

In “What Price is Right?”, a session at the recent AAM annual meeting, Heather Calvin (Museum of Science), Jill Robinson (TRG Arts), and Jessica Toon (EMP Museum) discussed how museums can use demand-based pricing strategies to set admission prices, service fees, discounts, and membership dues.  It was a wide-ranging presentation so I’m sharing the highlights here to Continue reading

The Most Popular Blog Posts for 2013 at

Your 2013 year in bloggingAs the Engaging Places blog enters its third year, it’s a chance to take a look back to see what’s attracted and intrigued our readers.  The busiest day for 2013 was June 25 when the post on Rethinking the “Do Not Touch” Sign went up and attracted nearly 550 views.  Of the 34,000 views for the year, the most popular posts were (starting with the highest):

  1. IMHO: Seismic Shifts Predicted in Historic Preservation (update: the National Trust moved to the Watergate after selling their HQ building; Preservation Action has moved from the National Building Museum to the Heurich House Museum; and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is moving to the National Building Museum–it’s musical chairs in DC!)
  2. HBO CEO named Mt. Vernon CEO; A Step Backwards IMHO (still popular even though it was posted in 2012)
  3. Sequestration to Hit Smithsonian Collections
  4. Let’s Give SWOT a REST (and another popular post from 2012)
  5. NEA Survey Reveals Patterns in Historic Site Visitation
  6. Rethinking the Mission Statement

Most readers came from the United States, although Canada and the United Kingdom were close behind (with a total of 122 countries!).  It seems that readers are most interested in

Continue reading

AASLH Meets in Birmingham

The American Association for State and Local History is holding its annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, attracting about 700 people from a variety of history organizations around the country.  The schedule is packed into three days and today started with an outstanding tour of the Civil Rights movement using historic sites around and the public art in Kelley Ingram Park.  We learned about the many people involved, the strategies and obstacles, using both local and national (sometimes even international) stories. A new sculpture was just installed to honor the children who were killed fifty years ago (four girls from a bombing of the church and two boys on the streets of Birmingham), now accompanying statues of Martin Luther King Jr., children facing fire hoses, and the famous walk-through sculpture of attacking police dogs.  I’ll be sharing more from the annual meeting in the following days, including a summary from the discussions on the relevance of history.  

Engaging Places blog on Vacation in August

One of the traditions in Washington, DC is a long vacation in August because it’s just too hot and humid to work.  Even though most offices, homes, and cars are now air conditioned, the tradition still holds (note that Congress recently adjourned until September) and we’ll be observing it here as well.  There won’t be any posts unless something incredibly interesting happens and we’ll focus on sweeping out spam, refreshing pages, and perhaps even get around to a little remodeling.  We’ll be back again after Labor Day with the usual 2-3 posts each week, so it’s a good time to subscribe so you don’t miss the news when it comes out again this fall.  Thanks for your continued support and interest this year and we look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Video: History Summer Camp in China

This 4:49 video is titled, “Dailian History Summer Camp” but I can’t figure out what’s going on.  The music is bubbly but the scenes make no sense:  children playing basketball in kimonos, performances of Korean traditional music, song and dance numbers, jumping rope, and a visit to a historic POW camp (including weapons and torture devices).  I can’t even figure out if the titles are written in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, but it looks like they’re have a good time (the opening titling is a bit long, so you might want to skip to 0:30).      Can anyone translate this and share what’s going on?  Thank you all.

Video: Extreme Journey Camp

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership works with the Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia to provide an unusual summer camp that visits historic sites to create vodcasts on leadership.   This 3:11 video describes the camp and includes interviews with students, teachers, and staff.  According to one 7th grader, “I would recommend it to kids that like history, computers, or sports.  If you don’t like one of those three, then some parts you won’t enjoy.”  This video is the first in a series of nine, and you’ll find them all on YouTube.

NEA Survey Reveals Patterns in Historic Site Visitation

On Monday, March 11, I’ll be a plenary speaker at the Virginia Association of Museums conference to discuss the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing historic house museums.  It will be followed by a forum with historic site managers, tourism experts, preservationists, and community leaders on the needs and opportunities for historic sites in Virginia, such as a statewide association for historic house museums.  It’s great timing for this topic:  Governor McDonnell declared 2013 as the Year of the Virginia Historic Home in recognition of the bicentennial of the Executive Mansion and Virginia’s more than 100 historic homes, most of which are open to the public as museums and historic sites.

Whenever I’m asked to give a presentation or write an article, it’s an opportunity to do some research and reading to gains some new or deeper perspectives on the issue.  For the VAM presentation, I’ve been looking closely at the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts.  For decades, NEA has interviewed thousands of people across the United States to learn about their involvement in music, art, theater, festivals, reading, and dance.   NEA conducted the last survey in 2008 and published a series of analytical reports in 2009-2011.

Looking back over 30 years, the survey confirms that attendance closely correlates with Continue reading