In the ‘Business’ of Museums

I enjoy still moments and often feel like I do tourist sites because I have to. Like Instagram, If you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen. But what if there were this awesome thing where a person who knew stuff could show you cool places, filled with history that you never knew was there?–Yeah, I’d sign up too. Tourism is a booming business that brings in a stream of revenue into cities, and museums are prime to capitalize. And as funding becomes increasingly competitive in the non-profit sphere (such a catch-22), public humanities is growing more and more dependent on attracting audiences through tours as a means to actively engage audiences. With the wealth of resources available through technology, the museum isn’t the brick and mortar sanctuary it once was in this millennial age. So once you get people in the doors, how do you keep them there and convince them that it is worth coming back?

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Pont des Arts Bridge

In my trip to Europe I stopped over in Paris for a few days, and two things were recommended to me: Jim Haynes’ Sunday Dinner and the Black Paris Tour. A Sunday tradition hosted by Jim Haynes for over 30 years now, brought conversations from around the world into one beautiful garden for an evening. You never know who will be stopping by, or coming back. The Black Paris Tour explored the history of black folk in Paris as history-makers, a side of Paris that unfortunately does not always get told or integrated into notions of Parisian heritage. I should also mention I took an amazing (free) tour in Frankfurt.

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Sunday Dinner

What made all of these opportunities so special was the opportunity in which the “untraditional,” the non-conforming, the nitty-gritty, and the raw were interwoven into the larger fabric of history (as it should). No, the Sunday dinner wasn’t a tour, but yet in still, in one room tourist and natives were engaged in the same fashion. We were having conversations. Two requirements came to mind:

1. We must navigate tourist sites to enrich the tourist experience and understanding. Tourist spots shouldn’t just be stops on a map but learning aids to a larger narrative that tourists, from these experiences, can make larger connections.

2. We have to continue to empower these sites for the local community. Here is where city and museum must work in tandem to commit to engaging the surrounding community. These sites shouldn’t die once tourism season has passed, and the history certainly isn’t any less relevant. Continue to create, innovate, and teach. If nothing else build a sense of community-pride through a shared past.

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La Madeleine Roman Catholic Church where the funeral of Josephine Baker was held.
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Look familiar? (Hint: It’s in Washington, D.C.)

Please be sure to click on the links in the post if you are interested in any of these opportunities. Thank you to all the tour guides (and host) who made my experience in Europe both enlightening and enjoyable! #BGMBmakeitwork

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