Attendance up at Minden Hills Cultural Centre
By Darren Lum
Published Oct. 20, 2016
Recent numbers announced by the Minden Hills Cultural Centre shows it’s giving people what they want, said its curator Laurie Carmount.
There have been 4,781 visitors and close to $2,200 collected with more than two months left in the year, both higher than last year’s figures of 4,612 visitors and $1,100, she said.
According to Carmount, these positive results disproves any notion about the viability of the facility and shows the facility is doing well.
The attendance figures relate to the Minden Hills Museum and Heritage Village, Nature’s Place, the Agnes Jamieson Gallery and the common room, which hosts various activities. This doesn’t include people who visit the museum grounds without being tracked by staff.
Attendance included 170 children who attended summer day camp, which is consistent with last year. She said the children’s programming is a contributor to the success and that the centre is becoming highly sought after for summer and after school programming.
Past attendance figures provided by Carmount show this year’s total is not a 10-year high, but is well above the 4,500 average for the same 10-year period and far exceeds the 10-year low in 2009 when only 2,634 attended, which Carmount attributes to the economic downturn at the time.
Another component to the successful figures is related to the museum’s effort to feature founding families of the area, these events highlighting a local family with significant roots in the community and includes hosting the family and a display of artifacts.
“Museums are always related to the community so much more than anything else because everything it has comes from the community,” Carmount said. “So we’ve connected with the founding families, but now we need to pull that all together so that it is a consistent connection with them and the programming that comes with it.”
With the addition of its newest staff member, Ruth O’Connell, the centre will be working to expand this year. O’Connell has experience working at the Lang Pioneer Village in Peterborough County for close to four years. The village gives visitors a living history experience and she will bring that experience to the cultural centre.
Carmount said abandoning fee admission for by-donation admission resulted in far more money being collected than anticipated.
This speaks to the generous nature of Canadians when encouraged to donate rather than be told what to give. It also speaks volumes about the support people have for the centre and the popular use by locals and visitors, including international visitors from places such as Japan and Germany. The added revenue will be put towards offsetting the costs at the facility, Carmount says.
During the centre’s peak months of July and August, the summer customer service representative Krista Duncan, conducted a survey of visitors. It revealed 44 per cent of visitors were year-round residents of the county while 22 per cent were tourists and 30 per cent were seasonal residents.
“We’re meeting what the community wants,” Carmount said.
There will be an effort to increase the visits from everyone with a possible push to increase traffic by using social media, which she calls key.
“We have to be aware of it and try to build it,” she said. Visitors only learned about the centre through social media six per cent of the time compared to 58 per cent of the time through word of mouth.
Carmount appreciated the love the facility has received, evident by the survey that showed a 100 per cent of survey respondents enjoyed their stay and said the facility is important.
“It’s a great place for the kids and the family to come. It’s a great opportunity. A little jewel here having all parts connected,” she said.
Carmount said international visitors love to come to the centre because of how they are able to get a strong sense of the country and its history in one place.
She hopes putting greater emphasis on the living history aspect at the museum and village and giving an interactive experience to visitors will add another dimension. She wants it to prompt questions about contemporary life: Can our lives can be more sustainable, as it was for the early settlers who came before us? How is it possible to live with less? How did people manage with just clay, glass, metal, fibre and wood, instead of plastic?
O’Connell said unlike a conventional museum that shows you things, living history is all about getting people to touch and try things and to learn. Carmount said giving people an experience is a big part of marketing strategies. They want visitors to be transported back in time and to feel and re-live history.
Carmount feels all of these recent figures show how vitally important the centre is to the people who live here and those who visit.
“Now we’re coming out with a sense of better ideas to go from,” she said. “Things have lined up really well this year ... we’re on a good footing. We have had questions in the past about our role and how we’ve been doing. [Now with these results] we’ve been doing really well.”