Tag Archives: Cliveden

Analyzing Visitor Engagement Through Mapping

The July/August 2017 issue of Museum, the magazine of the American Alliance of Museums, features articles on engaging families, veterans, and LGBTQ audiences and my general article, “A Visitor’s Perspective on Visitor Engagement”. It introduces three major factors that influence visitor engagement at museums: convenience, novelty, and values. I had a limited space so I’d like to share a bit more information about the influence of convenience, the idea that the more convenient it is to visit a museum, the more likely that people will visit. It’s not just about living close by but also other effects, such as traffic, roadway patterns, museum hours of operation, finding a place to park, and ease of purchasing tickets. Nevertheless, distance is a major factor and you can see it through mapping.

In my article I referenced a couple of my clients—Cliveden (Philadelphia) and Caramoor (Katonah, New York)—and described the differences in their program participants or supporters.  Below I’m showing these differences through maps created in ArcGIS. Each red dot represents a household and for Cliveden, the map shows that the majority of their supporters live within a 30-minute drive of the site. For Caramoor, the map shows that the majority also live within 30 minutes but there is a significant number who live within 45 minutes to the south (and very few to the north). As you can see, the distance of the audience varies (in other words, the meaning of “convenience” varies). Every place is different and you have to analyze your own data to fully understand it.  As I mention in my article, convenience is also affected by novelty and values, which might explain the clustering.

Drive times from Cliveden (left) and Caramoor (right) are shown in graduated drivetimes of 30, 45, and 60 minutes.

This type of mapping also pokes a big hole in one of the most common refrains I hear at museums: “we get visitors from every state in the nation.” Unless that’s your engagement goal, it’s a nonsensical recognition of success. First of all, it’s more likely that a site’s visitors are local, not national, so they’re overlooking the obvious audience for repeat visitation and support. By mapping your visitors and supporters, you can make better decisions about promotion, programming, and fundraising. Secondly, this statement creates a false sense of success. It’s been said numerous times that attendance shouldn’t be the only measure of success and yet it often is. More important is the impact that the history of your site has had on the people who visit. If the significance of your site is insignificant to the people who visit, perhaps it’s time to rethink your purpose and goals.

Upcoming Workshops Just for Historic House Museums (plus Big Discount Today)

Wheelwright House was built in 1780 at Strawbery Banke Museum inIf you’re looking to sharpen your house museum or historic site, AASLH is offering two workshops in the next couple months that are just for you.  I’m co-teaching in both of them, but discussing very different topics:

Reinventing the Historic House Museum” on March 22, 2017 at Cliveden in Philadelphia, PA.  Ken Turino and I will explore techniques, processes, and examples for reimaging historic house museums, using Cliveden as a case study and exercises that are based on your historic site.  Unfortunately, this workshop has already sold out with fifty participants, however, additional workshops are under consideration in other regions.

Historic House Museum Issues and Operations” on April 6-7, 2017 at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH. George McDaniel and I provide a broad overview of the management of house museums, which I consider one of the most complex responsibilities in the museum field (who else puts their most important object outside 24/7?).  We cover a lot of territory in two days, from boards to fundraising, from collections to interpretation, from sustainability to disaster preparedness.  It’s ideal for those who are opening a house museum or a new director of a house museum, but I’ve found that even those who are working in established house museums benefit because it allows you to step back and get the big picture. With more than three dozen historic houses from the 17th to the 20th century, the Strawbery Banke Museum is a great place to study house museums of every variety, plus Portsmouth is a charming New England town.  Registration is $270 members/$385 nonmembers, but you get $40 off registration if you book by March 2.  If you can act fast, you can save an additional $50 off of the early-bird rate (that’s $90) if you book today (midnight, Thursday, February 23) by using the code “HHMFlash.”

These two workshops are offered annually and travel around the country, often at the request from a historic site or house museum.  If you’d like to bring one of these workshops to your region, contact Amber Mitchell at AASLH at 615-320-3203 x 814.

 

Hot Topics in Collections Management Tackled in St. Paul

The annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History always covers a diverse range of topics, but collections management is certain to be among this.  This year in St. Paul was no exception and three very different projects caught my attention.

"Deteriora and the Agents of Destruction" by the Indiana Historical Society.

“Deteriora and the Agents of Destruction” by the Indiana Historical Society.

In a poster session, Tamara Hemmerlein shared Deteriora and the Agents of Destruction, a publication of the Indiana Historical Society.  Presented as a “living graphic novel,” it informs readers about the various ways to preserve collections from light damage, pests, dust, and mishandling (represented by such villians as Ultra Violet, Mass-O-Frass, and Miss Handler) and includes links for additional information.  I’m not sure of the intended audience, but it’s a lot more fun than reading a collections management policy.

collections avalancheChatting in the hallway, Continue reading

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Archives Transferred from his Homes to NYC

Taliesen, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1932. Drawing by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns and operates Taliesen and Taliesen West–the homes and studios last used by Frank Lloyd Wright–has transferred its architectural archives of papers, drawings, and models to the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  The collection includes more than 23,000 architectural drawings, about 40 large-scale, architectural models, some 44,000 photographs, 600 manuscripts and more than 300,000 pieces of office and personal correspondence. “The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation takes seriously its responsibility to serve the public good by ensuring the best possible conservation, accessibility, and impact of one of the most important and meaningful archives in the world,” said Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “Given the individual strengths, resources and abilities of the Foundation, MoMA and Columbia, it became clear that this collaborative stewardship is far and away the best way to guarantee the deepest impact, the highest level of conservation and the best public access.”

The decision to transfer the collections couldn’t have been easy for the Foundation–it’s a significant part of their identity with tremendous historical and cultural value.  Admitting you can’t care for a collection is difficult–but organizations should regularly ask themselves if they’re the only ones to do this work and if someone else can do it better.  It’s especially tough at historic sites and house museums–they typically have the most complex collections management issues of any museum. Not only are they caring for Continue reading

Put Your Organization to the Rorschach Test

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you’re finding that your organization is in a rut and you no longer feel as inspired about its work, it might be useful to look at it in a new way by creating a “word cloud” of key documents, such as a strategic plan, mission and vision statements, interpretive themes, or visitor evaluation.  A word cloud is a visual presentation of the most frequently used words, sized by frequency.  For example, if you use the word “history” ten times more than “preservation” in your strategic plan, “history” shows up much larger than “preservation” in the word cloud.  The word cloud allows you to look at your organization from a different perspective: words jump out at you and prompt questions about what’s being emphasized (and what’s not).

As examples, in the slide show above I’ve assembled word clouds from the first few paragraphs of the About section of the websites (which often includes the mission or vision statements) of the following historic sites:

I’ve used word clouds in strategic planning sessions to Continue reading