“We are all nonprofits with tight budgets, so we have to work very hard to maintain as well as seek out diverse revenue streams,” said Julie Williams, executive director of the American Independence Museum in Exeter.
Jessica Pappathan, executive director of the Aviation Museum of NH in Londonderry, agrees with Williams and said one key to success for many—if not all—of the museums on The NH Heritage Trail has been collaboration.
“Collaborating with local businesses is very important in regards to our sustainability,” she said. “We are fortunate to have good partnerships with a number of local businesses and with aviation and aerospace companies who value our mission and want to help support our initiatives.”
According to Director of Operations Jeff Barraclough, local businesses have also been instrumental in advancing the mission of the Manchester Historic Association/Millyard Museum.
“A number of local businesses are part of our recently launched Business Partnership program, which gives businesses an opportunity to support our museum,” he said. “In return, we help to promote those businesses and provide them with museum passes, meeting space, shop discounts, and other benefits.”
For NH Heritage Trail museums, one of the biggest needs is to actively promote their respective collections and programs. At the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University, Interim Executive Director Marcia Schmidt Blaine said they consider every possible marketing opportunity imaginable.
“We’re trying all sorts of things—from special events with particular groups to changing chalkboard messages on the sidewalk,” she said.
Many museums are also actively using social media, including the American Independence Museum.
“We are on Facebook practically every day and have nearly 2,500 followers—social media is a great way to stay connected with people who know and may not yet know about us,” said Williams.
Noting many NH Heritage Trail museums have seen a marked increase in visitation in 2016, Trail President Michael Culver, who is also executive director of the Wright Museum in Wolfeboro, cited a key challenge still remains.
“One of the most important and probably hardest objectives for history museums to achieve is to make history relevant to contemporary visitors,” he acknowledged. “History museum are not only are stewards of items from the past, but custodians and interpreters of the dreams, challenges and triumphs that make us who we are.”
In looking ahead to the rest of 2016 and beyond, Culver said he believes the NH Heritage Trail as a whole is just hitting its stride.
“We are stronger individually because we work together on The Trail,” he said. “In 2017, I envision we will find ways to create experiences for visitors that actively connect them with multiple museums on The Trail. want to create memorable experiences for everyone—and especially families, which we are all seeing in more abundance.”
To learn more about any museum or upcoming event on The Trail, visit www.nhmuseumtrail.org.
Museums on the Trail include the Aviation Museum, Albacore Park, American Independence Museum, Castle in the Clouds, Lake Winnipesaukee Museum, Libby Museum, Millyard Museum, Museum of the White Mountains, New Hampshire Boat Museum, New Hampshire Farm Museum, Portsmouth Historical Society @ Discover Portsmouth, Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm, The Belknap Mill, Woodman Museum, and Wright Museum of WWII.