Webinar: Historic House Call: Planning for Special Events

This AASLH webinar, presented by Gennie Truelock and Tara Richards, provides examples and inspiration for planning special events at historic house museums. The webinar is presented by the AASLH Historic House Affinity Group as part of the Historic House Call webinar series, designed to connect staff and volunteers of historic house museums with leading experts in the field.


DATE: Tuesday, October 30

TIME: 3:00 – 4:15 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone!)

COST: $ Free Members / $30 Non-members

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact learn@aaslh.org for more information.

Register Here


Description & Outcomes

Is your historic house museum rethinking its ability to generate community interest and relevance? Are you looking for new and exciting ways to engage your current visitors while attracting new ones? Expand your reach by putting on a special event! Whether you are a large historic site or a small house museum there are a multitude of ways to attract audiences while still meeting your mission goals. By providing your public with dynamic alternatives to a tour, your institution can break the mold of the traditional historic house museum and inspire curiosity and interest that also encourages repeat visitation. In this AASLH webinar, presenters Gennie Truelock (Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum) and Tara Richards (Brucemore)  provide examples of special events that range from the small (20-100 people) to the large (1000+ people) that appeal to a variety of audiences and provide participants with practical tools and tips for planning and implementing a wide range of events.

Participant Outcomes:

  • Participants will understand that special events can be of any size and level of complexity and that good planning is key to having a smooth event.
  • Participants will be inspired to generate new event ideas while avoiding mission drift.
  • Participants will receive examples of event contracts for professional services and vendors, and tools that can be adapted for event planning at their site.


Gennie Truelock is the Programs Manager at the Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum in California. She is an advocate of using storytelling methods as a tool to encourage audiences to see the relevance of the history that surrounds them, and has helped to implement a variety of programming experiences for visitors ranging from immersive tour experiences to theatrical presentations. She is a member of AASLH’s Historic House Museums Committee.

 Tara Richards joined the Brucemore staff as the Marketing and Program Associate in October of 2009. She has held multiple roles prior to becoming the Director of Community Engagement in 2015. She oversees the site's expansive event and program menu that engages 47,000 visitors a year, as well as the site's marketing efforts, visitor services, and interpretation.


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Carol Kammen to Speak at Local University

Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN will be hosting an after-hours conversation with noted author and local historian Carol Kammen on Wednesday, May 27. Carol is a visiting public historian leading a Maymester course for MTSU history graduate students. She will also be our awards banquet speaker at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Louisville. This event is open to the public, and we encourage AASLH members and local historians in the Middle Tennessee area to attend!

Since 1995, Carol’s column, “On Doing Local History,” has appeared regularly in our magazine, History News. Her books include On Doing Local History, The Pursuit of Local History: Readings on Theory and Practice, the Encyclopedia of Local History, and Zen and the Art of Local History.

Wednesday's talk will be moderated by AASLH's Bob Beatty, and we will be there with copies of Carol's latest book, Zen and the Art of Local History. Hors d'oeuvres will be served at 4:30, with discussion beginning at 5:30. The event will take place in the New Student Union Parliamentary Room (Room 201) at Middle Tennessee State University.

RSVP to Kelle Knight at kelle.knight@mtsu.edu

Driving directions available here.

Sponsored by the Public History Program, Department of History, MTSU



Millenials in the Museum

Many corporations across the United States are starting to target a millennial audience. Generally millennials are less prone to spend and have a little less capital then previous generations; thus corporations have to alter their approach and create new ways to reach this emerging audience. As I come from the world of nonprofit museums, I have started to adapt successful programs from previous institutions to fit the corporate mold.

One of the most popular way museums attract that fresh-out-of-college audience is adult programming. These programs are developed with young adults in mind, and follow the same general formula. First, the hook: Draw in the millennial audience with the promise of snacks, adult beverages, and a museum environment free of screaming children. Second, offer a somewhat outlandish twist on your mission. Finally, complement the event with programming similar to what a normal visit would offer.

For example, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia offers a program called Mega-Bad Movie Night. An idea inspired by Mystery Science Theater 3000, the highlight of the program is a screening of an awesomely awful sci-fi film with a trio of scientists on stage cracking jokes at the movie’s expense and interjecting some real science. Prior to the film, visitors enjoy snacks, beer, and wine while the education staff offers a variety of interactions, games, and demonstrations with a little more of an edge than one would find during a school visit.

Here at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Philadelphia, we have taken inspiration from such programs and launched our First Friday events. On the first Friday of each month, we offer a different themed program to draw in a millennial audience from the university next door and the several office buildings in our vicinity. Throughout the year, we will offer movie nights, a grown-up field trip night, a trivia night, and more. How is your company attracting this young audience? What ideas might you have for an adult program at your institution?

Patrick Wittwer is the Museum Manager at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Philadelphia.

Events- Drivers of Attendance

2014 Fairy Tale Festival at Ford House in Michigan.  Captain Hook invading the grounds.
2014 Fairy Tale Festival at Ford House in Michigan. Captain Hook invading the grounds.  That's right, pirates!

Two years ago, Nina Simon posted on Museum 2.0 about events driving attendance and it made me wonder if there was a way to re-package things I was already doing to sound more "event-y" to drive attendance.  In the winter of 2013 at the Ohio History Center (in my last position) we re-packaged and added more programs to our normal weekend schedule and called them "Cabin Fever Weekends."  It gave something for the marketing department to talk about and we demonstrated an increase in attendance over one year before.  It turned out to be more work for the front line staff, and sometimes, they had unattended programs.  We used the same "event" based principle for the summer in Ohio Village and also saw increases in attendance.  The events were a lot of work, but we were serving more people in mission-based activities.

I just came off a big event at my new place of work where we served 2,000 people in one day and I started to wonder if events are the new drivers for attendance and how do we re-organize our resources around this concept.  Is it true?  Is it worth the time and energy?

As I love to look at data to help understand patterns and visitor behaviors, I would love to see other organizations facing the same question: do events drive a significant percentage of attendance?  are they the best use of staff time? are audiences engaging in meaningful learning experiences?

Want to chat about this topic more?  Join us on Twitter @AASLHEdInt #edintchat at 4pm EST on Tuesday, July 29th to talk about your own experiences, ask questions, and connect with other educators and interpreters.

Jump Right In And Get Your Feet Wet!

Wednesday, July 31, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern (login at 12:45 p.m.)  

You're invited to the next FREE event from the AASLH Small Museums Online Community and the Visitors' Voices Affinity Group!

Join us online and learn:

  • how to adapt a special event survey for your site in less than five minutes;
  • how to train volunteers to interview visitors; and
  • how to add questions to the basic survey template.

This webinar is designed for those who have rarely, if ever, conducted surveys with visitors at small museums and historic sites. By the end of the session, you'll appreciate how this template gathers visitor feedback on many aspects of your organization.

Museum professionals who have used this template will be available to answer your questions: Anne Kennedy, past board member and volunteer of the Miami County Museum in Peru, Indiana and Matt Schuld, museum director of the Elkhart County Historical Society and Museum in Bristol, Indiana.

This Small Museum Online Community Event also features Conny Graft (Consultant, Conny Graft Research and Evaluation) and Stacy Klingler (Assistant Director, Local History Services, Indiana Historical Society). They are also co-authors of  the Small Museum Toolkit chapter, "In Lieu of Mind Reading: Visitor Studies and Evaluation." 

Learning Times will host this online event.  If you’ve never participated in a Learning Times Event/Webinar, please go to http://aaslhcommunity.org/tech-check/ right now to test your computer and  make sure you can connect.

On Wednesday, July 31, about 15 minutes before the event starts, go to http://aaslhcommunity.org/office/ to attend.  Just enter your name and city to participate.

Please note: participation is limited to 100 logins, so come early and chat with other folks while you're waiting to guarantee your spot.

The event will be archived in the Small Museums Online Community and at the Visitors' Voices webpage.

If you have any questions about the event, please contact Terry Jackson at jackson@aaslh.org or 615-320-3203.

You can learn more about the Visitors' Voices and Small Museums affinity groups of AASLH, but you do not need to be a member of either to participate.

Site Rentals: The Challenging Intersection of Mission and Money

Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, President Lincoln's Cottage

Contributed  by Sahand Miraminy, Events and Programs Coordinator at President Lincoln's Cottage

Museums and historic sites may find themselves asking whether or not a site rental program would be beneficial to their operations. Wear and tear, staffing, equipment, and liability are just a few of the daunting requirements that come to mind. Simultaneously, outside organization and clients may also have similar reservations. For obvious reasons, most museums and historic sites have greater rules and regulations than a typical event venue. However, it’s important for people to know why. At President Lincoln’s Cottage, we try to make sure that everyone involved with the event, from planners to wait staff, know that Lincoln made important decisions while living here. More so than aesthetics, it’s those decisions and ideas that draw clients to our site today.

Although site rental programs are most often implemented to create revenue (in our case for preservation/restoration related efforts), it’s important to recognize the other benefits. Like our general visitors, clients and attendees to special events and site rentals are able to experience the site, our exhibits, and offerings. Many of them want to use this place just as Lincoln did, a place to hold important meetings, reflect, and entertain with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. We recently had the opportunity to create new rental packages for our site. It was important for us to represent our most popular offerings in a clear and comprehensive fashion, but also to provide the opportunity whenever we could, to allow for meaningful interpretation of the site. Every event we hold gives attendees the opportunity to learn something, whether it’s through tours, a program, an exhibit, or merchandise we offer as add-ons. We strive to be mission related in everything we do, but the waters are a little muddied when it comes to renting the Cottage for a corporate party.

One of our driving principles is: to engage the public in an exploration of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and ideas, and preserve President Lincoln’s Cottage to nurture reflection and discourse on liberty, justice, and equality. Site rentals make us money, which helps us carry out our mission. However, we wanted to think beyond that. This past year, we launched our M.A.S.E. program (Mission Advancement through Special Events). Through this program, organizations with related or supporting missions and principles may apply and qualify for reduced or modified rental fees. Not only does this program strategically allow mission related events to take place on site, it helps identify potential partnerships and opportunities for the future, not only with the organizers of the event, but also the guests. It’s important to recognize that many of these guests are people who may have never visited our site on their own, maybe not intentionally, but perhaps because it’s often difficult to identify our commonalities until we have had a glass of wine. In the past year alone, we have gained well over a hundred new members, strengthened partnerships, and have identified numerous possibilities for the future through this program.

 How does your organization use special events to further your mission and overall development?

South Lawn, President Lincoln's Cottage