TED Love: David Rau and the Magic of House Museums

Did you know there are more house museums in America than McDonald’s restaurants?

Wow! That’s a lot of historic house museums. So how can these incredible places stand out while becoming more sustainable and engaging for the audiences they serve?

We recently came across David Rau’s talk at TEDx Connecticut College in 2015 on how museums can attract audiences using creativity. As Director of Education & Outreach at the Florence Griswold Museum, David was part of the team that oversaw the revitalization of this incredible historic home using a broad array of new educational programming. Following the recession of 2008, the museum’s staff embraced new ideas on interpreting their incredible site — including one absolutely magical idea.

Image courtesy Florence Griswold Museum.

Storytelling + Faeries = Magic

Drawing on Florence’s own life and creativity, the Florence Griswold Museum created an event that would prove pivotal to exploring how new ideas in storytelling can help refresh narratives while attracting new visitors. As David states in his talk,

I still remember that morning in October I was pounding in the last directional sign, hoping that somebody, anybody, saw a flyer or a poster. Then a car pulled in. Phew! Then another. Then another. And then another.
It was a little unreal. 10,800 visitors came to the museum during those three weeks in October. As expected, they toured the Wee Faerie Village, but they also lingered and they explored our art gallery, our historic house, and the grounds.

Inspired by this success, the Florence Griswold Museum has experimented with various themes and ways of storytelling. By 2013, the museum reached over 17,000 visitors for this annual event! Florence Griswold’s program is now an award-winning, popular event that continually brings in new visitors and inspires other museums to “let their hair down” and welcome new visitors.

Want more great TED Talks? Check out these six awesome TED Talks about Storytelling.


Originally published at museumhack.com on August 5, 2016.

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