Tag Archives: Iowa

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

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.