I’m writing this post on Black Friday. As my family is enjoying our local Thanksgiving Day parade then racing from one store to the next to find the best deals on toys for the kids, I am at work awaiting one of the busiest days of the year for the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. A day like today does not appeal to what John Falk has coined as “the Recharger” who is seeking a personal experience away from crowded exhibits and large tour groups. The Recharger looks for an isolated space, or corner of the museum to find repose and reflection, to recharge in the magnificence or beauty of a space. In fact, regardless of Black Friday, our house experience does not create that environment—even on a slow day. Currently, Ford House offers one experience in the house, a guided tour. While our docents are able to vary this experience to meet some of the needs of the audience, it is still very structured and rushed. Ford House is in the process of creating a menu of touring options, including self-guided tours, which will provide different ways to meet the diverse desires of our audience.
One thing we have done, which has been very successful, is to provide opportunities to enjoy our estate’s 87 acres of beautiful lakefront property. We have developed a growing number of loyal followers who find refreshment in our beautiful Jens Jensen designed landscape. We offer a $5.00 grounds pass, but have found much success in our membership program.
“With more than 80 acres of breathtaking lakefront property, Ford House provides the perfect setting for renewal. The landscape transforms with each new season to offer both indoor and outdoor views that inspire the soul. Whether visiting an exhibit, participating in a program or tour capturing a memory through the lens of a camera, lingering over a meal, or just relaxing by the lake, Ford House offers something for every member and generation of our Fans, Friends & Followers.”
Our $25 Grounds Pass membership provides:
“Year-round access to ground for walking, personal photography, sketching, reading or merely relaxing.”
While this audience has always existed at Ford House, it is only recently that we’ve developed a membership level to formalize this group.
It is interesting to note that recently we opened our first outdoor exhibit, which focuses on endangered tree species around the world. The exhibit panels are overly intrusive, and the exhibit is in place on a secluded naturalized area of the grounds known as Bird Island. While the exhibit has been installed to help drive visitation to this area, we have received some negative feedback from one of our regular “Rechargers” who loves this area because of its secluded nature. She was pleased to know that the exhibit was only temporary and would be removed in March.
So, what does your institution do to attract the “Rechargers?” Have you experienced conflict between this group and other visitor types isolated by Falk such as the Explorer, Facilitator, Experience seeker or Professional/Hobbyist? Have you developed programs or opportunities for this group and marketed to them? Please post your experiences.