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Hi everyone! Our museum had a board strategic planning retreat this past weekend. Among the issues we looked at was that of our name: the North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting is an unwieldy moniker, for sure. But aside from the issue of whether the words “North Star” appeal to the region we intend for it to-not just Minnesota, but the 5-state upper Midwest-the board was concerned that perhaps the word “museum” in our name was a hindrance, rather than a help.

I just listened. My feeling is that we are, indeed, a museum, and that it is an honorable word, one with a long history and easy-to-understand connotations.

My question for you is this: do any of you know of any recent research into the term “museum” (as opposed to “history center”, or any other type of euphemism for museum) with the general public, designed to elicit what image comes to mind when people hear the word? I’d like something to pass along to my board.



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3 Responses to What do you call a museum?

  1. Mike Worcester says:

    Would a term like "Heritage Center" work also? I can see the difficulty with your current name, but how would you shorten it w/out obscuring the mission? I have no clue.

    As for North Star, my personal experience with that phrase is that most casual observers view it as a term for Minnesota (you know, the whole "Star of the North" thing). But the alternatives, like Upper Midwest or similar, have so much less character.

    Good luck either way Claudia!



  2. David Grabitske says:

    I’ve often struggled with this one, Claudia. While there are those people who see words like museum, historical, and society as musty or elitist, I’d like to think that words still mean something. I think in your case the word museum is fairly apt. It is what you are. In the cases of local historical organizations around the state, many are more than a museum, they also have a research library. In those cases I still like the term "historical society."

    As to whether or not to hang onto "North Star," part of me says, "Well, it is their historic name, and there is something to keeping a well-established name." I think Mike is right that North Star is associated closely with Minnesota. How can the region be more reflected in your name? That’s going to be harder since Minnesota is sort of at the western edge of the Midwest. I think many would put the Dakotas into the Northern Great Plains. For a digital project covering Minnesota and the Dakotas, the project managers have been calling it "Great Rivers" after the Mississippi and Missouri.

    Great Rivers Scouting Museum? I don’t know, Claudia. I am not good at concocting names, so I will just wish you luck also.



  3. Merlin Peterson says:

    If the word "museum" carries negative connotations, we have no one but ourselves to blame. And no one but ourselves can change that perception. Changing the name to "history center" only gives that name bad connotations as well if you don’t sweep up the dust and neutralize the musty odor.
    Claudia, you have a great constituancy in an active scouting program to help you with the name. How do current scouts view the task of preserving their program’s history? There are all sorts of good reasons to ask the younger crowd.


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