Monday, October 27, 2014

Marketing Historical Societies By Changing Their Names

In April I wrote a post about my visit to, the former Lancaster (PA) Historical Society. Lancaster.Org is both a website and a "brick and mortar" county historical society.  It is one example of the way that state and county historical societies are re-branding themselves with new names.  The Ohio Historical Society is now the Ohio History Connection.  The Colorado Historical Society is now History Colorado.

Here is a taste of a New York Times article discussing this recent trend:

In June, the Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania announced a grant-funded
project to examine the marketing of its name as well as the names of its buildings and other spaces. “For years, we have been hearing — mostly anecdotally — that our name hindered our ability to reach new audiences,” Robert Lukens, the president, said.

The society would simply like to get the word out to a greater variety of people about all the historical stuff it has, like one of the youngest images of Frederick Douglass that he gave to Susan B. Anthony and a rifle that was used on Robert Peary’s expedition to the Arctic in his quest for the North Pole

“We need to change the image of our organization,” Mr. Lukens said. “We want to make sure that the excitement that our programs and our collection bring to people is accurately reflected in what we call ourselves.”

In addition to trying to bolster its annual attendance of 32,000 — the society would like to break 40,000 in two years — the organization is experimenting with programs like “History on Tap,” where speakers discuss historic topics at local bars and restaurants. The website promoted a recent one at Molly Maguire’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, noting that the event would “provide a brief history of the Irish in Phoenixville starting from the first immigrants in the 1810s to boxing in the 1950s.”

Perhaps academic institutions could learn a lesson here.  How might we re-brand the humanities so that they are more attractive to perspective students?  What about "The Human Experience Connection?"