After Hours at the Museum: Trends in Adult Programming

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On Tuesday night, members of the Cuseum team trotted over to Old North Church to attend the “After Hours at the Museum: Trends in Adult Programming” panel hosted by the Greater Boston Museum Educators Roundtable.

The panel focused on the various ways institutions use “after-hours” events to tap into, retain, and engage their adult audiences. Panelists from three Boston-area museums shared their experiences and ideas. Though they all had different backgrounds and takes on adult programming, one common theme arose: how to engage millennials.

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Erin Wederbrook Yuskaitis, Director of Education at Old North Historic Site, spoke about their mission to encourage their visitors and neighbors to return time-and-time again. As an increasing number of millennials flood into the city’s North End, the local climate around Old North Historic Site is changing, and they’ve chosen to adapt and shift alongside their community. Erin emphasized a simply philosophy which has worked well for her institution: “never take yourself too seriously, because your visitors will follow suit. The experience is what all visitors will remember and if it’s not light-hearted - you’ve lost the audience.”

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Another perspective came from Michelle Rankin, of the Boston Children’s Museum, who spearheads the uber-popular event, Boston Grown-Ups Museum. Michelle is less concerned with returning visitors and focuses solely on experience. She uses her after-hours programming to showcase the fun-factor of the museum. Her advice to the attendees was to always “play to your strengths.” With countless “sold out” crowds, her approach is clearly working.

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The final panelist of the evening, Amy Briggs of the Danforth Art Museum, always keeps educational impact in mind when looking at after-hours programming. Amy makes it her goal to “trick people into an educational experience.” Why not?! Amy’s tool of choice is the ol’ “carrot and the stick” museum-style… a gallery scavenger hunt where visitors were rewarded with… beer. Well, as a team comprised mainly of millennials, we can attest that this style of a social, learning experience is right on the mark.

We’re always interesting to learn more about the various ways the museum community drives engagement with their visitors, and at this event we learned about some of approaches taking place in our own Bostonian backyard.

Have an interesting tip or trick about the way your museum is tackling after-hour programs, we’d love to hear from you!

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