Museum Audiences + Beautiful Spring Weather = Fun & Learning
As this blog has discussed previously, the landscape surrounding your institution can serve as much more than a backdrop for your buildings. With exciting interpretation, it has the potential to become a portal to the past, just as artifacts do. Consider taking advantage of North Carolina’s beautiful spring weather and planning some outdoor experiences that can connect your collection and institutional mission with the surrounding landscape.
The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort has been particularly active in developing public programs that bring the mission and interpretive themes of the museum beyond the structure’s walls. Curator of Public Programs Ben Wunderly, who presented on this topic at last month’s NCMC annual meeting, has turned a variety of outdoor experiences into maritime heritage learning opportunities. Last weekend the museum offered a guided hike through the Rachel Carson Reserve, focusing on the area’s flora and fauna. Other recent spring hiking destinations included Shackleford Banks. In areas with tourist traffic—like Beaufort, where other companies may already be offering tours, Wunderly recommends discussing plans for outdoor guided walks and other activities first with tour business owners and explaining how your institution’s programs will differ from theirs. Also, be careful not to undercut their prices for programs with overlapping content.
Several historic sites have gardens that literally help enliven visitors’ sense of the past. Historic Oak View County Park has an exhibit on cotton culture in a barn and a growing cotton patch just outside. The effect is an exhibit component that’s multi-sensory, educational, and fun to revisit. Children can get up close and personal with the plant that was once such an important, “King,” cash crop and see the various stages of seasonal growth and harvest. How would they know, without this kind of experience available, for instance, that the cotton flower is really pretty? In recent years Bennett Place has added a kitchen heirloom garden to its interpretations of Civil War homefront and denouement. See page 3 of the Site’s newsletter for more details. Bennett Place’s garden has become so prolific that its surpluses can even be used to benefit the community.
Does your institution have land for gardening? Is it in an urban landscape with possibilities for guided walking tours? Are there other forms of transportation available, like sailboats in Beaufort, that can add to the authenticity of the outdoor heritage learning experience? Exploring outside connections can open doors to new audiences and help both your staff and community enjoy the spring!
Posted on April 23, 2013, in historic houses, historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged Ben Wunderly, Bennett Place, heritage gardens, Historic Oak View County Park, museum tours, NC Maritime Museum, NCMC. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.