Museums became a part of my life at a very early age. My family would never go to amusements parks, but I have been to Canterbury Shaker Village, Old Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport, Strawbery Banke, the Mohawk Trail, and many others in between. Readers familiar with New England will recognize those attractions. I started volunteering at museums at age 17 and so far have spent almost half my life working with the public. The list of museums I have worked at has grown rather long over the years, but some of the highlights are a children’s museum, Victorian mansion, Cistercian abbey, and women’s history museum. One of the benefits of working in so many organizations is that I am able to bring some of what I have learned here to Stratford.
One topic that my department spends a lot of time on is why people do not visit museums. The list can be extensive, but one reason that comes up frequently is money. Household budgets are shrinking and sometimes going to a museum is just not an option. For others going to a museum is a gamble and the movies are a safer bet. We also have visitors that have been here before and may not want to pay admission again. We want to remove as many barriers as possible, so we are trying something new.
This winter Stratford will be testing a new membership program. It is something I had seen at a museum I went to as a child and gave me my first volunteer position: The Children’s Museum of Portsmouth (now The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire). Starting in December, a membership card will be placed at our local library (soon hopefully libraries). Patrons to the library will be able to “check out” the membership card and receive free admission. We hope this will encourage new visitors to give us a try and attract more families. We also hope previous visitors will take the opportunity to stop by and see the progress of all the projects we have underway (there are a number of them!).
If there is anything else we can do or try, please let us know in the comments below. We love feedback from our supporters and community!
-Abigail Newkirk, Director of Interpretation/Programs