Visitor Center project

As some of you may know, we are embarking on a comprehensive campaign. One piece of this campaign involves redoing our current visitor center (and building on to it) to make it more visitor-friendly. Building a new visitor center is a daunting task, and we’re beginning to visit area historic sites to get ideas and to see what everyone else is doing. From there, we’ll work to make visitors’ experiences at Stratford Hall as well-rounded, entertaining, and educational as possible.

To this end, six members of our staff visited Monticello’s new visitor center on Wednesday for a colleague opening. We were highly impressed with the thought, time, and effort that has gone into planning and constructing their new visitor center. One part I personally found especially interesting was their hands-on history room, or “discovery room,” as they call it. We’ve been planning our own hands-on history room for families, and Monticello’s is something to live up to. From building blocks for toddlers, to a reading corner for families, to the stores on Mulberry Row (see image), to Thomas Jefferson’s bed, this room fascinated me. I wish I had more time to spend there, and am very interested to see how families enjoy the activities.

So tell us, what is it that people are looking for in a visitor center? What works and what doesn’t work? Let us know what you think. Within the next few years, we’ll be doing lots of research, site visits, and planning for this new building, and we’d like your ideas to help guide us.