Tag Archives: James Madison’s Montpelier

Attractive Outdoor Interpretive Panels are Possible at a Bargain Price

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James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia sports some very attractive interpretive signs that looked so good, I had to figure out how they were made. With a bit of prodding and poking, I discovered they were printed plastic attached with Velcro to a sturdy wooden frame.  Very clever!  The signs are great looking even after a couple years outside.

Peggy Vaughan, Vice President of Communications and Visitor Services, generously shared that the three signs cost about $900 total:  $90 for each 30″x 40″ PVC sign and $210 for each base. The content, design, and bases were created in-house (yes, Montpelier is fortunate to have a graphic designer and master carpenters on staff) and the signs were printed by FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos). This sign was created using Adobe Indesign, saved as a pdf, and printed directly on PVC–the image isn’t as sharp but they last longer outdoors than the alternative method of laminating a printed image onto PVC. Peggy said that, “The big advantage to these signs for us was that they are relatively cheap, and because everything around here is always changing, we did not want to spend $2,000 on a proper museum sign, as we had in the past, that would be out of date before it wore out. And, frankly, even if things don’t change at your museum, your messaging should change from time-to-time to keep up, don’t you think?”

If you’re looking for more ideas for signs at historic sites, I’ve collected dozens of images from places around the world—good, bad, and ugly—on several web albums.  Please note that one sign may serve several purposes (e.g., directional AND identification), so look in other categories, too.

Identification Signs

Directional and Wayfinding Signs

Informational Signs

Mike Quinn named CEO of American Revolution Center in Philadelphia

Michael Quinn

H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, chairman of the American Revolution Center today announced that Michael C. Quinn will join the organization as president and CEO effective April 1, 2012. Quinn will oversee all aspects of the development of The Museum of the American Revolution, to be built in the historic area of Philadelphia.

Since 1999, Quinn has served as president and CEO of The Montpelier Foundation, the private non-profit organization that operates James Madison’s Montpelier, a National Trust Historic Site in Virginia. Under his leadership, the home of James Madison and its surrounding environment were transformed from a 1900s mansion into a vibrant interpretive and educational center focusing on James Madison and the U.S. Constitution. He oversaw the $25 million restoration of James Madison’s home, and the planning and construction of a 15,000 square foot visitor center. He conceived and oversaw the establishment of the Center for the Constitution, which annually provides advanced intellectual seminars on constitutional theory for more than 700 teachers, police officers, and legislators.

Previously, Quinn served as Continue reading

Montpelier Adopts New and Improved Mission Statement

Mission statements are required part of non-profit organizations, but I’ve often found that they’re treated like death and taxes–inevitable but you don’t want to think about it. In museums and historic sites, you can tell when they’re particularly useless when you can swap the name of the organization with another and it still makes sense.  Good mission statements are distinctive, memorable, and passionate.  They have to help you make decisions–is this project, activity, donor, or partnership right for us?  They have to go beyond “collect, preserve, and interpret” and describe what you want your audience to “think, feel, and do“.  Creating a good mission statement isn’t easy and examples are hard to come by, so when I find them, I collect them like golden eggs.

Montpelier's new mission statement on the back of a business card.

When I visited James Madison’s Montpelier last week, I learned they adopted a new mission statement.   Developed as part of their strategic planning process by a small team of trustees and staff, it was then shared with the entire board and staff for comment and revision before it was adopted by the board of trustees.  I thought it was so good I wanted to share it as an exemplar:

Our mission is to inspire continuing public engagement with American constitutional self-government by bringing to life the home and contributions of James and Dolley Madison.

Yes, there’s a bit of jargon that requires some explanation but it’s so much better than the previous one:

The Montpelier Foundation preserves the legacy of James Madison, his family, and
Montpelier’s plantation community, and seeks to inspire an understanding and
commitment to the ideals of the Constitution as the first successful form of self
governance to secure liberty for its citizens. The Foundation’s mission is founded on
the fact that the Constitution is a landmark in the history of mankind’s quest to achieve
freedom. James Madison, the individual most responsible for the Constitution,
provided both the innovative ideas central to its success and the leadership that
brought about its creation and ratification.

Yikes.  Try to fit that on the back of a business card.