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 Post subject: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:21 pm
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Location: Danbury, CT
So, how does the public view history and our museums? Is there a decline in interest for railway preservation? If so, why? Also, can we fix it and how?

As suggested, let’s continue an interesting and potentially beneficial conversation. Thanks.

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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:19 pm 
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Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 1:15 pm
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Location: Henderson Nevada
I note that increasing the public does not interact with railroads in daily life... When was the last time you had to stop at a grade crossing for a train... (counting the cars?) When was the last time you visited a depot to take a train or pick someone up (beyond commuter rail).

On the other hand, the 6 year olds (with parents) who are our biggest fans like dinosaurs as much as trains, and I am pretty sure than none of them have ever seen a dinosaur.

We need to move beyond nostalgia, and on to interpretation...

Randy

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http://museums.nevadaculture.org/nsrmbc
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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:21 pm
Posts: 353
Location: Danbury, CT
Randy Hees wrote:
We need to move beyond nostalgia, and on to interpretation...

Randy


I could not agree more.


In addition to kids, I’d say our biggest fans are senior citizens. For one group, it’s the novelty of choo choo’s and the other, nostalgia. The age groups in between seem to be the elusive “target audience” in my estimation. I think this is true in both patrons and volunteers.

There’s a thirst for “young blood” in railway preservation. How do we quench that thirst? Is it possible? Also, how much can you expect from them?

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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:14 am
Posts: 213
The railroad I volunteer at was founded in 1990. I was on the first trip at 5 years old. I rode the same train over the years and 20 years later, I started volunteering. In the last 7 years I have noticed something very interesting. A strange shift. When I started in 2011, ridership was so-so. The comments and questions I heard from passengers were, to put it nicely, severely uneducated. To the point of embarrassment. People also didn't seem to care about what they were riding on. We could have pulled around a gravel train with a semi tractor and a train horn and most people wouldn't care, or notice, the difference. In the last few years I have been asked some very intelligent and thought provoking questions by the least likely canidates. These young parents with their kids taking notice of differences in equipment, or the history behind it, or why, or how, etc. When I am engineer, I love to have cab riders (except for the stereotypical dreaded ultra foamers) and am amazed at the intelligent, thought provoking conversations that are being had. There is hope. There is interest. We are in a different day where we need to figure out how to direct it.


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:22 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
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Location: southeastern USA
Apart from a generic ride, what interactive things can we provide to bring our visitors into closer proximity to old iron? I had one guy who was thrilled to drive a spike when I was doing some track work on an off day once...... another was thrilled to throw a switch and see how they worked to line trains from one track onto another.

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Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:44 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3418
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
EWrice wrote:
The railroad I volunteer at was founded in 1990. I was on the first trip at 5 years old. I rode the same train over the years and 20 years later, I started volunteering. In the last 7 years I have noticed something very interesting. A strange shift. When I started in 2011, ridership was so-so. The comments and questions I heard from passengers were, to put it nicely, severely uneducated. To the point of embarrassment. People also didn't seem to care about what they were riding on. We could have pulled around a gravel train with a semi tractor and a train horn and most people wouldn't care, or notice, the difference. In the last few years I have been asked some very intelligent and thought provoking questions by the least likely canidates. These young parents with their kids taking notice of differences in equipment, or the history behind it, or why, or how, etc. When I am engineer, I love to have cab riders (except for the stereotypical dreaded ultra foamers) and am amazed at the intelligent, thought provoking conversations that are being had. There is hope. There is interest. We are in a different day where we need to figure out how to direct it.


Somewhere, I can't remember where (perhaps a forum on Facebook), someone remarked, in regard to the incident with 844, that one of the things he noticed about that trip was that there were a lot more "civilians" out to see the big Alco than he could recall in years past. Indeed, the victim of the incident was such a "civilian."

I do think there is a generational shift going on. . .and maybe we can tap into it.

In fact, I had some comments about that, by myself and at least one other, in a couple of other places, including on the "Home for Mainline Steam" thread.


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:50 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3418
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Ah, here's what I consider the key quote, from James Porterfield, best known as the author of the book, "Dining by Rail."

Quote:
The Numbers Game: Just to be clear, the audience for preservation as education - not preservation as entertainment - is known as a heritage traveler. That term is defined by Laura Mandala, a leading heritage tourism market researcher, as one who travels "to experience the places, people, activities, and things that authentically represent the past and present, including cultural, historic, and natural resources" (emphasis added).

Mandala's most recent study, published in 2013, points out that 76% of the 170.4 million Americans who travel for leisure - as opposed to those who travel for business or family matters - participated in one or more heritage-related activities. At 3 out of 4 leisure tourists, that's 129.6 million people annually looking for sites operated by folks like you and I. The number has likely grown as the "Great Recession" has waned.

So much for the "we're in a shrinking market" argument floated by some among us.



From Page 2 of this thread.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=41074


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:51 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3418
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
The question is, how do we grow our segment of the market?


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:44 am 

Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:18 pm
Posts: 75
J3a-614 --
Thank you very much for the Ja,mes Poprterfield quote, I had no idea that such a very high percentage of peoplewo travel for pleasure do so to learn more about the places they go to. What good news!

as12 --
Thank you very, very much for your excellent comment in the previous thread. I am really touched and veryh grateful for your wisdom and maturity and intelligence. And you really naledit witjh the reasons you gave wy so few young peopel do volunteer work: school, ttansportation problems, jobs. thank yu for your volunteer work!

To all --
But -- please do not assume that this womderful trend will continue as a permanent thing. The churches made that mistake way back in the 1950s, when church attendance was going up, up, up -- and now, 50 years later, church attendance is going down, down, down. So -- let us all do what we can to attract many more of these "heritage visotors and travelers," -- but let us also do what we can to keep this great heritage travelr trend going.

I am very encouraged and very happy to hear that a number of visitors seem to kow much more about trains, and are asking really intelligent questions -- wow.....

There is hope!


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:48 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:13 am
Posts: 29
Quote:
On the other hand, the 6 year olds (with parents) who are our biggest fans like dinosaurs as much as trains, and I am pretty sure than none of them have ever seen a dinosaur.


They should come to our museum...


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:29 am 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
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I believe that a big part of the problem is that the railroads have spent most of a generation telling the public to stay away or else. Even with that kids love to see the BNSF trains from the pedestrian overpass in a local park.


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:27 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
John T wrote:
I believe that a big part of the problem is that the railroads have spent most of a generation telling the public to stay away or else. Even with that kids love to see the BNSF trains from the pedestrian overpass in a local park.


So that should be the hook. How many of our outfits have a "touch-a-train" event? Touch-a-truck events are common with children's museums and places geared toward toddlers, because it gives the little kids a safe way to experience something they are curious about that is too dangerous for casual contact. Touch-a-train, with cab tours, engine room tours (much more exciting if idling), caboose rides and the like could go a long way toward raising interest with the pre-teen crowd. A healthy dose of Operation Lifesaver would be in order, too.

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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:53 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:45 pm
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If you talk to tour operators, they will tell you that "heritage" tours are popular, but ticket holders want to see behind the scenes or do things that they can't normally do. I think that this is why the 765 trips out of Joliet are popular - dress-up with a steam locomotive at a private event.

Evidence is that participants want to learn a bit, feel that they make a difference (I have had several tour operators talk about events like Habitat for Humanity as being popular), and feel like they are getting to do something not normally available.

This has led several museums to allow people to participate in digs, peeling paint, etc. They are obviously supervised, but the activity attracts people. In some ways, they want to know how the restoration was done, why it is important, etc. There are several examples of these events leading to large financial gifts and new members.

They key seems to be make the time worth it for people. With so many options available, what sets your location apart? Why should they come to your event as opposed to another one?

Bart


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:34 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:14 am
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John T wrote:
I believe that a big part of the problem is that the railroads have spent most of a generation telling the public to stay away or else. Even with that kids love to see the BNSF trains from the pedestrian overpass in a local park.


This is exactly why I always take the time to interact with people. I never sit in the cab while waiting for boarding and such. I stand on the ground next to the loco and watch the people, answer questions, offer to take pictures, etc. I always invite people into the cab when appropriate.

One of the best reactions I got was from a guy who built injectors for detroit diesels. I opened the valve cover on our 567 and showed him the top end while running. I love watching grownups turn into kids.

Take the time to interact with people. It will pay off in the end.


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 Post subject: Re: “How the public views history and our museums.”
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:14 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:21 pm
Posts: 353
Location: Danbury, CT
What kinds of data collection methods do other operations use to collect feedback? Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc.?

Also, how do other operations recruit volunteers?

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