Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society has been around for nearly a half-century. Once housed in a small space, the organization has undergone a massive renovation, from rebranding themselves to the History Center, to expanding into an old church space that they extensively renovated over the past year. Working with Engine On and Pass It Down, the curator and executive director decided it was time to evolve the narrative as well as the brand. The new museum kicked off their new space on October 7th, 2018. The museum team set out a goal to go well beyond the expectations of visitors.
The ambitious project is built to:
1) expand their audience reach,
2) allow the public to contribute their memories and voices to the digital archive,
3) create a narrative arc that is more inclusive and comprehensive of the residents.
The team from Pass It Down & Engine On worked extensively with the curatorial team, the leadership and the board to define the most relevant topic areas, establish the key stories (the “must-haves”) and then help to scope how to expand those narratives to be more inclusive of era, income, background, and gender.
We built curatorial filters to use to establish which stories were on target for the new museum and which were not. Once those filters were in place, we established a target rhythm of building 50 stories a month to ensure that, by launch, we had the requisite volume of stories to make each display meaningful to a broad visitor base, creating nearly 200 stories for the opening
With the robust digital capabilities of the Pass It Down Platform, the museum was able to create four new interactive displays for the space, and extend the experience to the web. By building digital installations that have both on-site and online narratives, we were able to extend the visitor experience beyond the physical space. With a robust CMS that fuels the Pass It Down platform, the curatorial team now has the ability to add, edit, and change the displays, from their desks. The nimbleness of the system means that visitors can have a new experience every time they visit.
The new technology will also provide Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society with the necessary tools to take an innovative step in the process of recording their community's collective history, starting next year.
"The idea that your audience can contribute value to the narrative is critical to the future of museums," says Carol Summerfield, Co-Founder of Engine On.
"The new museum adds breadth, it adds depth, it adds new voices; voices that might have been missing in previous iterations of museum content.
"Through videos, audio, written content, and photographs, participants are able to share their own unique story. Each narrative is added by members and visitors directly into the platform and becomes part of the museum's archives. This opens the door, and the archive, to more diverse life stories that can be shared with the public. The Pass It Down platform is the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff community's virtual storybook.
"We're not just saving pieces of paper, we're saving people's lives; what they did, that they existed," explains Janice Hack, Executive Director at Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.
In addition to archiving vignettes from people's lives, this platform empowers museums to stay relevant in an era driven by technology. "There has been an awakening in the museum world around the idea that an encyclopedic approach to the subject a museum covers is not engaging an audience, especially now with Google at their fingertips," Summerfield states. Janice Hack, the Executive Director at Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, said this,
"Inspiring the next generation to keep their history alive is critical to museums."