On Saturday, the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington DC hosted an all-day symposium on “how are historic house museums adapting to the future?” at Gunston Hall in Virginia. The sold-out symposium featured three speakers, a tour of Gunston Hall, and lots of time to chat with colleagues during breaks and over lunch. The cost? A mere $15, truly a bargain. The symposium not only attracted professionals from Virginia, Maryland, and DC, but as far away as Connecticut!
I opened the symposium by discussing Michael Porter’s “Five Forces” as a way of identifying opportunities and threats to help historic sites prepare and adapt. If you’re not familiar with the Five Forces, it’s a framework for identifying those issues that have the biggest impact on your operations. This is a much more useful alternative to SWOT, which may be a good outline for summarizing an analysis, but it’s not a helpful way to analyze a situation. If you’d like to get an introduction to the Five Forces and how it applies to historic sites, take look at my presentation (warning: it’s an 18 Mb pdf). Even better was the discussion that followed, which explored a wide range of ideas from the growing role of photography to changing demographics to the interpretation of African American history.