Another way we like to engage with the readers of our blog (a.k.a. you) is via our live webinarswhere we answer your questions. We often get questions about marketing your trips or attractions, which are great. However, this question we got from a museum employee was particularly interesting because of the political and social backdrop that this museum is rooted in.
I work in a museum that has a reputation for appealing only to the “old white guy” as a huge part of our museum is on the American Civil War. As times are evolving and a new generation is employed here, we want to rebuild bridges that were burned long ago and move past the “old white guy” perception. How do we move with the times and rebuild those bridges that were destroyed? I would love to market to the LGBTQ community as well as African Americans. What trends are you seeing that can help me attract them? How can we also appeal to a younger crowd (mid 20s)? What can I do for outreach?
Hi Museum Staff,
Before getting to my answer, I need to preface this by saying I don’t know much about America’s history and I’ve never studied it closely. Everything I know comes from Wikipedia, Reddit and Quora.
Ok, for the answer part. When I thought hard about this question, it became very clear to me that this is about conflict resolution and the museum you work for has a role to play in a larger picture that is embedded in intricate layers of history and politics that involve oppressing one people group for the gains of another.
You’ve got a tricky problem.
Two relevant examples come to mind: the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Both these places present history in a factual and objective manner, both highlight obvious winners and losers, and both come clean about how dirty history can sometimes be.
You ask how to rebuild bridges that were destroyed and, to carry on with this analogy, I think you’ll have to build a bridge that incorporates modern architecture and 21st century mindsets. To me, that involves a lot of dialogue and a space for the younger generation (your employees included) to ask all their questions.
Today, both these museums emphasise the importance of history and why learning and understanding it can hopefully prevent future generations from repeating it. It’s not just about the history of the people involved, it’s about the painful lessons the human race has gone through to get to where we are today.
If you want to appeal to a younger group, I would advise you to first look at the overall message the museum is telling it’s visitors. Is it objective? Is it anchored in facts, regardless of how ugly it looks? Does it talk objectively about the winners and losers in those events? Does it explain “why” from both sides? Use these answers as the backbone to your entire marketing and branding strategy.
Once that is sorted, I would suggest using the museum as an educational tool. What lessons can be learnt? Would schools and colleges be interested? Can you get speakers in this field to speak on a topic that your museum showcases?
Thirdly, are there any non-profit groups or activist groups you can partner with who can use the exhibits in the museum as a tool to further their message for positive changes in the future?
Finally, I would also like to caution you about the potential dangers of today’s “hyper-woke” internet world against a backdrop of a very politically charged nation.
Most of the positive and good things your museum does will go unnoticed but one wrong word on a Tweet could go viral and not in a good way. (Even typing out my thoughts on this question gets me a little worried.) So while you might be fired up to rebrand and market your museum in a new way, please take a step back and look at what you’re writing/emailing/posting/tweeting before hitting send.
All the best,
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