Tag Archives: Michael Porter

Reinventing the House Museum in Portsmouth

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A sold-out crowd of history enthusiasts packed the auditorium at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on April 21 to discuss ways to reinvent the house museum.  Sponsored by the American Association for State and Local History and the New England Museum Association, the one-day workshop explored ways that historic house museums can more successfully engage their community and improve their financial sustainability.

The morning featured several presentations and the afternoon was a hands-on workshop at a nearby historic house.  I opened the day with a process for developing a plan and then focused on Michael Porter’s Five Forces, a diagnostic tool that’s superior to SWOT for assessing a house museum’s strategic position.   Ken Turino of Historic New England provided a smorgasbord of ideas from house museums around the county to rethink existing conceptions.  Larry Yerdon, CEO of the Strawbery Banke Museum, discussed ways they are introducing new programs and activities to be both more engaging and financially sustainable.

After lunch, we gathered at the Governor John Langdon House, a property of Historic New England, where Joanne Flaherty and Linda Marshall led us on a quick inspection of the property and described its operations and recent efforts to use it for temporary exhibits.  Then the audience became temporary consultants using the Five Forces, analyzing existing and potential competition for exhibits, interests from visitors, and collaborating with exhibit providers.  The consensus seemed to be that an exhibit program could have a competitive advantage if it focused on the collections of Historic New England and may be better suited for rooms other than the parlor or dining room, which are architecturally significant.

This workshop will travel next to Atlanta, Georgia on June 12, where we’ll be using the Margaret Mitchell House as the case study.  To register and for more information, visit AASLH.org.

 

 

Recap of Historic House Museum Symposium at Gunston Hall

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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.

Jana Shafogoj at Morven Park discussed how the current emphasis on STEM has allowed their site to Continue reading