Making History Relevant: Marketing, Social Media, and Museums

The following blog post is the work of Assistant Director Victoria Gray. Read along to learn about her experiences trying to market our little museum in this big world.

From Victoria:

Making a house that was built over one hundred and twenty years ago relevant in today’s world can be a bit of a challenge.  There are still, of course, true history buffs and people who have a love for the Victorian Era, but with those folks set aside, I often ask myself: how do we draw in the average person?

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(Picture: Victoria sporting an epic Downton Abbey themed hat at our trip to the costume exhibit in Richmond last November.)

Through my time at the Hunter House Victorian Museum I have learned three important words when it comes to attracting new people to our house: network, network, network!  It is amazing how much exposure your museum can get just from getting to know new people and collaborating with locals.  This year the Hunter House has been making a lot of new connections which have helped us become more relevant in areas of the community where people would have previously not pictured us.  Personally, I have been networking with local gardener John Wharton of Glass Gardens on a Spring terrarium class, as well as with Old Dominion University Professor Dr. Maura Hametz, who recently spoke at the Eloise Hunter Chapter of the Victorian Society’s Spring Symposium.  Director Jackie Spainhour has been testing out new advertising through Yelp and planning future collaborations with Nauticus,  Hill House Museum, and the Hermitage Museum.  Assistant Director Kelly Kubiak has even initiated planning for a future event with a local pet grooming salon and retail store, Muddy Paws, and Epworth United Methodist Church.

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(Picture: All dressed up for one of our themed teas)

There have been many times when myself, Jackie, and Kelly have sat around the Hunter House kitchen table and spewed ideas back and forth.

“How about something with tattoos?”

“Maybe we could incorporate the LBGT community into one of our future events.”

“How can we draw more men into our facility?  Guns?  Cigars?  Beer?”

“How about something with spiritualism and paranormal experts?”

If there is one thing I have learned from working at the Hunter House, it is that no idea is too outlandish.  The Hunter House is so much more than just a thirty-minute tour.  Although the history of this house may have begun in 1894 it is still so relevant today!  It is my personal goal to make the Hunter House have a connection to every one of our visitors.

To achieve this goal, I have taken to social media.  You can find the Hunter House on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Through these new mediums our old house can achieve a worldwide reach and become known to a broader audience.  A person who does not like history, or so they think, may not seek out the Hunter House on its own;  however, once hashtags like #spiritualism #art #vampires #fashion are added to a post or photo,  it is amazing the response we are able to get!  Working to spread the word about the Hunter House and our events has led me to learn the power of the hashtag.  Before I started working at the Hunter House I had not hopped on the hashtag train; however, through my outreach trials and tribulations, I have learned that the hashtag is my best friend!  By using a hashtag on the Hunter House’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts I have been able to reach a lot more people who may not have been interested in old houses or the Victorian Era, but were drawn to seek out #vampires.  Yes, vampires were a thing in the Victorian Era. Some are interested in #makeup. Unlike today, the concept of beauty in the nineteenth century was synonymous with not only pain, but sometimes even death due to widespread use of arsenic in beauty routines.

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(Picture: Victoria, Jackie, and docent Jessica in costume for the Witch’s Tea)

Beyond my experiences with using social media to boost the museum, I have learned that a good event can draw in even the most reluctant guest.  Director Jackie Spainhour has a special touch with events that get new people in here.  As many of our regular visitors may have noticed we are trying out a lot of new events and I think through this we have learned a lot about what attracts guests.  The Witch’s Tea and Spiritualism Faire seem to be a house favorite, well for most.

The last thing I have taken away from marketing the Hunter House Victorian Museum is that you cannot please everyone.  Some of the same people who may praise us for our teas and lectures may be turned off by our Spiritualism Faire (this is oh too true!).  However, that is ok.  Not everyone is going to like everything that we do, but we want to be sure that we have something for everyone to enjoy.

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(Picture: Guests enjoying one of our most popular events- painting in plein air!)

If you have any suggestions for future events or lectures, please feel free to comment down below.  We love getting feedback from our viewers and followers!

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