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 Post subject: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:56 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8952
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
This subject arose in a separate discussion elsewhere over the ITM debacle, and I figured it was worth bringing up here.

Too many of the public are totally ignorant of who REALLY runs museums such as ours. Thanks to our current politics and more, too many people are under the impression/delusion that government runs everything--including museums. I could go off on a tangent as to why that may be--which would blame everything from the "big government" policies of FDR and Johnson to our educational system, media, whoever--but that's not for here. Suffice it to say this mentality is out there, and it's horribly more pervasive than you might want to think.

This situation is obviously not helped by that fact that many such museums are indeed, government enterprises, from the Smithsonian Institution to state history museums, national and state parks and historic sites, and even many of our rail museums--California, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina all have rail museums under state management. Further, perhaps a few too many of our rail museums present themselves as "state" museums while not actually being under state aegis--Arizona has two of them (one open and one in progress); then there's Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, and others all having "[Insert State Name] Railroad/Railway Museum" within their borders.

I GUARANTEE you that there are folks all over Baltimore that "know" that Baltimore's government runs both the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and the B&O Railroad Museum (neither is true, of course, though BSM occupies leased City land that used to be Ma & Pa property). I actually heard it many, many times from people in the area surrounding the B&O Museum after the B&O Museum's roof collapsed in February 2004: "Oh, the city has the money, they'll just fix it right up...." I attempted to correct several of these folks to their faces, and I was called "f***ing crazy" and worse. (And, yes, these people apparently vote.)

I'm sure some people believed, or acted like, the Indiana Transportation Museum was run by Noblesville city government, even in spite of media coverage--and that mistaken impression: a) is not helped by the fact that local government did indeed own the track, and b) may well be coloring the decisions city government has made regarding the place.

Has anyone else seen these aspects as a problem? Can anyone else correlate similar mistaken impressions about their places? Is it possible that this affects donations, volunteerism, etc.? Do we need more and heavier promotion of the fact that we don't (necessarily) feed at the public trough?

Granted, this problem of perception, if it indeed exists, is a societal problem hardly unique to our limited avocation. As one of my friends pointed out to me over this topic a while back, "Let me ask you something, Sandy--how many people do you know that even know what tithing is anymore, let alone do it? And I'm not even talking religiously, so to speak. I'm talking just giving back to their fellow man. Instead, we let the government do it on our behalf and absolve us of our responsibility."


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:19 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 2:46 pm
Posts: 1990
Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Nothing new.
Heck, I do living history stuff (usually WW2 era) and you can't imagine how many people see our displays and think we're subsidized by the military. Worse still, people will pick up things from our displays (moving the 'don't touch' signs to do so) and in some cases, won't pout them down because they think their tax dollars paid for it (their grandparent's tax dollars in many cases...).
I had a family of 4 once throw all the stuff I had in my WW2 Jeep at a display on a military base, tossing some pretty rare stuff a decent distance, then used my Jeep for a picnic table, sitting on the seats and eating. they even refused to get out when I found them there. I called an MP over and they refused to get out for him, too (until he told them was going to have them escorted off the base in a squad car), all the while declaring it was taxpayer owned, so they could do whatever they want with it.
To this day, I bet if you found them, they'd still think that MP and I were the jerks.

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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:05 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2348
Location: Northern Illinois
Obviously, you are lacking the signs that say,

DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE. THE BASE COMMANDER HAS AUTHORIZED THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE.

That should do the trick :-)

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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:03 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1119
Location: Back in NE Ohio
Dennis Storzek wrote:
Obviously, you are lacking the signs that say,

DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE. THE BASE COMMANDER HAS AUTHORIZED THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE.

That should do the trick :-)


With people that dense, probably not.


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 750
A small percentage of people are thoughtless jerks! The rules don't apply to them. Unfortunetly they are much more memorable than the thousands of others. Favorite fraises are "I was only having fun" and "I didn't mean any harm". "My taxes paid for it" doesn't mean you own it. Look up theft of government property. Illigitum non carborundum est Don't let the bastards grind you down.


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 2:46 pm
Posts: 1990
Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
One thing we have around here in the Pac NW are some insanely rich people. Bill Gates and Paul Allen have contributed huge amounts of money to their hobbies. Allen has put millions into an excellent WW2 airplane museum and what is now called the Pop Culture Museum, among other things.
So, when someone decries that money is needed for, well, anything, someone will always simply say that one of these Microsoft billionaires should pay for it, as if we're all spoiled rich kids who expect Mom and Dad to bail us out of any situation.
I've been told that many people, upon seeing other non-billionaire-funded museums, assume that they are and openly complain why Bill Gates hasn't already paid for the restoration of whatever basket case they're looking at, thinking he or someone like him already owns it or funded it before.

I think the bottom line here is that when it comes to a piece of RR equipment bigger than a lantern or any other big item, that it can't be owned by non-governmental types. Either they don't think a museum/foundation/person could afford it or should legally be allowed to have it. I hear that all the time.
I once took photos of a private car tacked onto the back of the Coast Starlight:

Image

After it was gone, a local walked up and asked what the odd car on the back. I explained private cars to him in layman's terms. He laughed and declared I was lying to him, as "Everyone knows that a normal person can't own something like that!"
I had almost the exact same conversation with another bystander when Reading 2100 was still in Tacoma. The guy saw it go past and refused to accept that a person could own a steam locomotive other than one of those live steam models you straddle in a park!

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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:05 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 1003
It has always amused me how many people seem to believe that the railroads are government-owned. I cannot say how many times I've heard members of the public waiting at a crossing for a train to pass insist that Norfolk Southern is actually a government entity. When I have asked, I've been told it has to be since they can build wherever they want, or it just has to be because it's so large, or some other silly reason.


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:51 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8952
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
And the tragic part is, these people are allowed, nay, encouraged, to vote.............. maybe.......


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:55 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:45 pm
Posts: 133
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
This situation is obviously not helped by that fact that many such museums are indeed, government enterprises, from the Smithsonian Institution to state history museums, national and state parks and historic sites, and even many of our rail museums--California, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina all have rail museums under state management. Further, perhaps a few too many of our rail museums present themselves as "state" museums while not actually being under state aegis--Arizona has two of them (one open and one in progress); then there's Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, and others all having "[Insert State Name] Railroad/Railway Museum" within their borders.




This is a trend among museums I have never understood. Is there a significant upset to naming a site the museum of a certain state?


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:45 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2004 3:04 pm
Posts: 98
Location: San Jose, CA
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:

Has anyone else seen these aspects as a problem? Can anyone else correlate similar mistaken impressions about their places? Is it possible that this affects donations, volunteerism, etc.? Do we need more and heavier promotion of the fact that we don't (necessarily) feed at the public trough?



Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Perceptions need to addressed constantly through marketing and social media. Is someone monitoring Yelp discussions about your organization? Does your literature/media sites say, "XYZ has been an independent non-profit organization since....." Does your literature/media site list your funding sources? Does your ticket window/entrance list this same messages?

Yes, more and heavier promotion is needed but more importantly the correct messages need to be shared. Corporate image is taken seriously resulting in billions of dollars spent toward marketing, facilities, personnel, etc. Granted, our industry does not have unlimited resources, yet at the same time, we can be creative. Explore partnerships in the community. Raise awareness of your existance with your local chamber of coomerce, tourism bureaus etc.

Image takes time and effort to develop. Perceptions need to be cultivated and managed. Does the organization have a formal marketing plan and strategy? Or does the organization have a ad-hoc marketing committee of volunteers?

While we can not impact the perception of single individuals, we have opportunities to impact broader audiences who may include new customers, new donors, and new stakeholders. Many times on this forum, we discuss the ongoing need for "professionalism" in terms of our appearance. Cultivating our image starts with that first introduction, appoaching our facilities, interactions with personnel, signage, housekeeping etc.

Weeks ago, someone shared a video link of a young woman's first visit to the Illinois Railway Museum. It was insightful regarding her perceptions of that facility. There was a lesson for all of us who viewed that video.

If we are not properly managing our own image...shame on us.


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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:07 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2348
Location: Northern Illinois
derail wrote:

This is a trend among museums I have never understood. Is there a significant upset to naming a site the museum of a certain state?


It's easy to understand... Illinois Railway Museum sounds better than Bob's Trolley Circus. It sounds more legitimate and official, at a time when these fledgling organizations needed all the legitimacy they could get.

Some early organizations were perceptive enough to realize they were national in scope, and named themselves accordingly; National Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood, MO and the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. After those names were taken, however, everybody else had the 1st National Bank problem... everybody wants to be 1st, nobody wants to be 27th.

By default most organizations named themselves for the area they were in, more so their customers could find them rather than what they envisioned their collection to be. Some used easy to adopt popular regional names, Orange Empire Railway Museum in CA and Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine come to mind. Most just used the state they were located in. There was little chance for confusion; no one could envision state gov't actually getting into the railroad museum business. When a few states in fact did, they tended to differentiate themselves by including the word state in their official title; California State Railroad Museum, and Nevada State Railroad Museum. The distinction seems to be lost on the public at large, however.

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 Post subject: Re: A Different Kind of "Image Problem"
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:59 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:59 pm
Posts: 563
When the Bay Area Electric Raiload Association established its museum at Rio Vista Junction, CA, it was named "California Railroad Museum."

When the California State Railroad Museum opened in Sacramento, BAERA's museum was renamed to the Western Railway Museum.


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