During a recent visit to the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC, I encountered the most subtle donor recognition methods I’ve ever witnessed. I usually discourage donor plaques within an historic house museum because it doesn’t advance the educational mission of the organization, distracts from the visitor’s experience of “imagining the past,” and can be installed in a manner that permanently damages the historic materials but if a director or board insists, the Meridian Center offers a potential solution. The Meridian Center holds its offices and meeting rooms in two early twentieth century houses–Meridian House and White-Meyer House–that are listed on the National Register and although they aren’t museums, the donor recognition plaques are so subtle that they border on being acceptable in historic house museums.
Plaques can be found in nearly every room but are typically integrated into the existing decor with matching materials in small type or placed strategically and discretely to avoid attracting much attention, except if you take a close look. They are considering a donor wall for their upcoming capital campaign, but it will be installed outdoors under the supervision of preservation architect Belinda Reeder.