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David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation in July reported that Americans drove 10 billion less miles in May 2008 than in May 2007. Metro Transit in the Twin Cities reported this last April that mass transit ridership hit 19.2 million fares for January-March, 2008, the highest number since the same period in 1984. Whether or not these mark a permanent trend is hard to say, but I think it is fair to guess that travel methods are being adjusted in ways that local history museums need to pay attention to.

There’s a lot to be said for putting programming where people are bound to be. For example, if most people drive a car to work, how might you reach commuters? By now many in Minnesota’s local history community have probably noticed changes in travel patterns. Can you provide a specific example to show how your organization is placing programming where people are bound to encounter it?

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4 Responses to Getting in the way

  1. Mary Warner says:

    This may seem obvious, but our website is a form of programming that meets people wherever they are at (as long at they have a computer and internet access, that is). Throughout the summer, we’ve been doing a series on our blog called Morrison County Influentials. We are listing 150 people with a connection to Morrison County who’ve been influential on a county-wide, state-wide, nation-wide, or world-wide level. We’re doing this to coincide with Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial.

    For years and years (probably since the beginning of MCHS in 1936), we have offered a research service for those who live too far away to visit. We also create specific off-site programming on request. For example, a local senior facility has asked us to come speak to residents in September.

    While the cost of fuel might seem to make bringing our programs directly to people a more pressing concern, on some level we’ve always had to figure out ways to work with people off-site.

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  2. Like MCHS, we view our web site as a form of programming/outreach. For our out-of-town/state members, the only previous method of communication we had was our quarterly newsletter. Now with the web site, they can access information about us at any time.

    For researchers, they can see what we offer for resources and contact us for more. We also post articles from our newsletters about specific topics for anyone to peruse.

    While our site hits are perhaps not what we’d like them to be, since we have had our site up and running for over ten years, a simple search gets you to us right away.

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  3. While CCHS also has a website that we use to update our community of upcoming events and other news, we also make a concentrated effort to host fundraising events and programs in various places around the county. There is a vast suburban/rural dichotomy in our county, and though we are located right in the center we often find that our patrons are uninterested in attending things that are outside their community.

    Schools also suffer from lack of funding for buses and field trips, so we offer free “Museum in the Classroom” outreach programs on several topics for various grade levels, and often present programs in conjunction with the Carver County Library system and other groups who focus on adult education.

    Although we take a monetary hit by offering off-site programs, we also have vastly increased the number of people who participate in all aspects of programming. We overcome this barrier by including things such as facility rental and mileage reimbursement when seeking grant funding, and are always on the lookout for sponsors and volunteers who would like to bring a program to their community.

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  4. Because of the history of my institution, we have a very long history of going to where our constituents are. In the past, this has meant hauling collections and display cases out to camp, big indoor council events (you haven’t lived until you’ve attended the “University of Scouting”), and the State Fair. I continue to be astounded at what my predecessors were willing to do to bring the collection to others.

    That said, I still have to swallow hard sometimes when we are asked to go to an outdoor venue with collections. I’ve been trying to create traveling displays that do not contain original artifacts, and I always try to stay out of the light.

    But for this place, it has worked, and my job now is to make it as safe for the stuff as I can.

    It is also a grand opportunity to make a membership pitch or even to sell some stuff out of your shops. you never know what kind of friend you are going to make at one of these community events!

    Reply

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