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Marketing Museums and Archaeology

November 28, 2011

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, we do a reasonably good job of marketing on a limited budget.  We have a monthly e-newsletter with a 1700 person buy-in circulation that includes 200 press contacts.  We receive consistent press coverage of our events.  Our Facebook page has grown to over 800 likes with a moderate level of engagement.  We have a good regional distribution network for our rack cards.  We are attentive to off-site events in which we can take part.  Also, we are fortunate that the University of Memphis administers and promotes our Museum.

But we still fall short in taking advantage of many opportunities.

Related, this week a very common event occurred at the Museum.  I was at the front desk chatting with two visitors in their late 50s headed toward California.  After learning their general route was along Interstate 40, that they had plenty of time and a strong interest in Native American culture, I recommended several stops along the way.  First, I told them about the Mississippian era Parkin Archaeological State Park about 45 minutes into Arkansas from Memphis.  Next, we talked about Spiro Mounds, just across the Oklahoma border and within 20 miles of the Interstate.  Finally, I highly recommended the complex of Chickasaw Nation of cultural heritage venues including museums and a new Cultural Center south of Oklahoma City centered in the Sulphur/Ada/Tishomingo area.  The two visitors were most appreciative as they were not aware of any of these venues.

Here is the punch line to that story.  Were I not standing at the front desk, did not engage the visitors, they possibly would not have found any of these museums and archaeological sites.  We had no brochures for the locations (our fault) but even more so, there is no website, brochure, or other resource that is a one stop shopping for, how to “plan your road trip west if you are interested in museums and archaeology”

What are some solutions?

  • Gozaic is a service that attempts to fill the void, but after two years, judging by their website they have not been very successful.  Neither Parkin, Spiro, or the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center show up on their searches. Administered through Heritage Travel Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Gozaic has the potential of Culture 24 in the United Kingdom that hosts pages and links that direct the visitor to venues by type, such as prehistoric.
  • Trail guides, such as the Louisiana’s Indians Mounds of Northeast Louisiana, the Megalith Trail of the Morbihan region of France, or the Archaeological and Heritage Trails around Inverness, Scotland UK, are becoming increasingly popular as a means for cultural heritage travel.  However, most of these resources stop at modern state or county political boundaries.  The Great River Road website is an example of a tool that might be of more interest to the regional traveler as it traces cultural heritage venues along the entire Mississippi River corridor in the United States.
  • Perhaps most effective, but least efficient is for each cultural heritage venue to stock the rack cards and basic promotional information for everything within a few hundred mile radius of their site.
  • I wrote about Kent Vickery last week, a former professor of mine who retired to Woodland Park Colorado.  About one year ago, a couple stopped into our Museum.  Again, by coincidence I was at the front desk, asked where the couple were from and they said Woodland Park Colorado.  I asked if they knew Kent Vickery.  They replied they went to the same church as Kent, and he advised them on museums to visit during their trip.  This story and countless others, show that word of mouth seems one of our best promotional tools.
How do you market your site or museum to the cultural heritage traveler?
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