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According to an Associated Press story on the LaCrosse, Wisc., television station WKBT, visitation at Wisconsin historic sites is up 11 percent from last year, after years of decline. According to Minnesota Tourism employment in the tourism industry here is expected to rise 19 percent this decade, apparently to meet a growing demand. While the 2007 local history survey is still coming in, the past three years do show a reported steady increase in visitation at local historical organizations in Minnesota. In 2004 total reported visitation was 934,919, in 2005 it was 964,431, and in 2006 it was 1,008,528. These numbers are likely very low as at most 130 of the 350 organizations reported on visitation. Do you see an increase in attendance at your historical organization? What do you think is driving renewed interest in local history?

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5 Responses to Visitation Rising?

  1. Kathryn Otto says:

    I would also be interested if you have noticed an increase or decrease in people using your library/archives. With so much information now available on the Internet, has that affected the amount of research people are doing in-person?


  2. Mike Worcester says:

    Our visitation here has really plateaued in recent years. Research numbers ping-pong from year to year. And we never really counted our web site at part of visitation. (We did not even add a site counter until last November).

    So to me trying to answer the broader question of "why?" poses some challenges. Are high gas prices to blame? Are the changing demographics of our local communities putting a pinch on those who might naturally be inclined to visit a local history museum? Should we cast an evil eye at video games, Camp Snoopy and its ilk, and related entertainment options as a reason for the decline? Has it become more difficult for a smaller organization to compete advertising-wise with the "bigger" options?

    One fact I have to continually remind my board is that while they might be gaga over whatever we do that has a "local" theme, not everyone else will. In our community alone, close to half the population have moved here in the last fifteen years–including myself. To them, what went on in Cokato in the 1950s has little resonance.

    Other thoughts anyone?


  3. David Grabitske says:

    Good points, Mike. For historical organizations in the suburban or exurban fringe of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, being relevant to newcomers and legacy residents is challenging. On the other hand, a case could be made that every adult made the choice to live in Cokato — so there is a common thread to virtually every story. And, if I were to guess, newcomers might welcome the opportunity to learn about the traditions of town. In these and other ways local historical organizations are uniquely positioned to be the bridge between new and longtime residents. Making that bridge may be more pronounced in the metro fringe, but it seems to be something universal across the state. I suspect that because local historical organizations continue to do a better job at being relevant for the general public, that is a part of why attendance may be rising.


  4. June Lynne says:

    Tracking only paid admission into our sites, attendance at Historic Chippewa City is up 11% and up 19% at the Swensson Farm from the same time last year. We are still having a great many visitors from outstate so the high gas prices are not affecting us as much as I thought they might.


  5. David Grabitske says:

    That’s the third 11 percent that I’ve seen. Wisconsin Historical Society in the initial post showed 11 percent. Recently I was looking at Minnesota Historical Society statistics for attendance and there too is an 11 percent increase from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007. Great post, June!


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