In our institutions, many of us are tasked with increasing programming and outreach of the museum. I find that when I need to come up with a new or innovative idea I cannot think of anything. Fear not, the following ideas are meant to spur a discussion around engagement.
Over Memorial Day weekend I attended the American Alliance of Museum’s Annual Conference in Washington DC where I attended a variety of sessions geared towards museum programming and those related to being an executive director. One session I attended resonated quite well with me, 75 Ideas in 75 Minutes: Boosting Engagement at Small Museums. While the presenters put forth 75 ideas, I will provide 5 that I found to be the most important and have the ability to reach new audiences.
1. ‘Adopt’ a University Program
Not too long ago we were all students. Many of my fondest memories of my education were when I was able to work alongside a real institution. Schools have a lot to offer museums. Think about what different departments can do for you and what you have to offer them. There are many majors besides history. Working with your local university will allow you to collaborate with your community and expose new, young blood, to your organization.
2. Host an Adoption Event
Most towns have an animal shelter or humane society. Like a small museum, shelters are often looking for ways to promote their cause in the community. You often see them at the local market in the summer or various community events, but why not have them at your museum? Adopting events target a variety of audiences, including families. Team up, there is power in numbers. Plus, who doesn’t love dogs?
3. Create a Community Gallery
As professionals, we need to relinquish some control. Do you have an empty wall or two? Consider creating a community gallery where different organizations can host a display. By opening your space to the community, you bring in new audiences who often times have not visited your institution before.
Most museums utilize social media to connect and correspond with visitors. Museums also have a wealth of information that they can share that does not fit within the museum, so why not create local history trivia that relates to your museum or collection. This is a great way to educate your visitors and also engage them in a discussion about your institution.
5. Focus on Education
One of the most important parts of a museum is having a strong educational baseline and then branching out from there. Without factual information to accompany your collections, you are left with little. Focusing on education helps to build credibility and education provides a basis from which exhibits, programming, and fundraising events can grow.