At the beginning of this week, AASLH hosted a special workshop with the National Park Service to discuss ways that two historic houses in National Parks, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller in Vermont and Saint-Gaudens in New Hampshire, could revitalize their historic house interpretation. AASLH COO Bob Beatty attended the workshop, which was led by longtime AASLH members Ken Turino and Max van Balgooy .
On his website, Engaging Places, van Balgooy writes about the ways he and Turino guided the staff of these two house museums in rethinking their tours, specifically for visitors under age 35:
Using such tools as the Five Forces and a Double-Bottom Line Matrix along with a smorgasbord of ideas from other sites, we explored possible processes and projects that could improve and enhance their tours. Our goal wasn’t to provide solutions but to raise many useful questions, including:
- Would treating tours of the house as an educational program encourage alternative approaches to their planning and development? By calling them “tours,” do we limit the possibilities through our assumptions about the tour experience?
- Is there a sufficient market for visitors under 35 years of age? How many people under 35 live in the local community? Why is this site relevant to them?
The framework of this workshop was the curriculum of a recurring AASLH Continuing Education course, Reinventing the Historic House Museum. This workshop, typically a one-day symposium, is designed to offer current thinking, practical information, and solutions to the challenges facing historic sites. The Vermont workshop’s focus was tailored to the specific needs of these two historic houses operating in National Parks.
At the heart of these workshops is the idea that the Historic House Museum in America is not dead nor are most of them dying. The field, however, needs to take time to reflect and renew as the world around our historic sites continues to change. Reinventing the History House Museum aims to facilitate this necessary reflection. The next of these workshops open to the public will be held in St. Louis on April 4, 2016. Learn more and register.