The name “Historical Society” or “Historic House” has a bad rap. Before potential visitors even know your museum, they may assume it’s not for them, even if you lead progressive, inclusive tours and host innovative programs.
If you’re part of the leadership team of a historic house museum or historical society, you may have considered rebranding -- either renaming your organization or developing a new look – to be more appealing to a younger, more diverse audience or to reflect changes to your mission, interpretation, site, etc.
Using examples from museums of all sizes across the country, this book helps you decide whether to move forward with a rebranding effort and give you a concrete outline to work from.
The book will help you:
Rebranding: A Guide forHistoric Houses, Museums, Sites and Organizations is a step-by-step guide that helps Executive Directors, Board members, and staff at history organizations decide if it’s time to rebrand and, if so, how to go about it. The book will guide readers through the process of deciding if a rebranding is in order, testing ideas, developing a plan and budget, implementing the launch, and even handling naysayers. It’s an essential guide for anyone rebranding a history organization.
In 2016, Jane Eliasof led the 52-year-old Montclair Historical Society through a rebranding as the Montclair History Center, with the tagline “Museums. Archives. Microfarm.” The new name went live on January 1, 2017, with a new website, brochures, social media, signage, and business systems. The new branding reflected the changes the organization had made in the previous six years – reinterpreting one of its sites to tell a more inclusive history, welcoming a community farm to its property, making its archives more accessible, and offering innovative programs targeted to a variety of audiences. As one new member said shortly after the rebranding, “I could never have seen myself joining a historical society, but I did join a history center.”
As there were few resources available on rebranding a small historic museum, Eliasof relied extensively on experience she had gained in over 25 years of marketing for the pharmaceutical industry.
As the Executive Director of the Montclair History Center, Eliasof applies her experience in strategic planning, marketing, and educational program development for healthcare organizations to history museums and historic preservation. She has written many articles related to history and is frequent presenter at state, regional, and national conferences on creating a more inclusive museum experience. She co-wrote “Chapter 18: Reflecting Race and Ethnicity in House Museums” for Rowman & Littlefield’s Reimagining Historic House Museums.
Eliasof holds a Bachelor of Arts from Drew University, Madison, NJ and a Certificate in Historic Preservation (a multifaceted Professional Certificate program on historic preservation covering four areas of concentration: theory and practice, architectural history/history, planning, conservation) also from Drew University.
Chapter 1: Meet the Thirteen History Organizations
Chapter 2: Why they Rebranded
Chapter 3: Testing the Water
Chapter 4: Making it Legal
Chapter 5: The Design Process
Chapter 6: Implementing the Launch
Chapter 7: How Much will it Cost?
Chapter 8: The Naysayers
Chapter 9: Success
Appendix: Short Summaries of the History Organizations
If you are associated with a history organization that chafes against an outdated name, you need this book. The wide range of case studies – statewide organizations, local societies, regional museums – translates to a knowledge base that is relevant to virtual every situation. It will guide you through the exciting, fun, and creative steps at the start of the process right through budgeting and dealing with naysayers.
Eliasof offers relevant case studies and a practical accounting of rebranding processes for museum leaders who may have limited experience with these concepts. In doing so, Eliasof explores the issues many museums are tackling: mission and identity, leadership and governance, sustainability and relevance, inclusive storytelling, and community engagement. This handbook will be useful to anyone involved in rebranding, or those teaching or studying museum theory and practice.
I wish I had this book when I was rebranding the museum I ran! Jane Mitchell Eliasof has created at indispensable guide on how history museums and sites of all sizes can effectively rebrand. What I like so much about this publication is the fact that it is practical, bringing together the cumulative experience of thirteen museum leaders, mainly of smaller history organizations to lay out systematically how museums can successfully rebrand. The author devotes chapters to the why and how of rebranding, the costs associated with it, the design process then, launching the rebrand. One chapter of this very accessible book is on the legal aspects involved. Each ends with a set of questions to help your institution in the process. The author and the leaders she interviewed show there is distinct process to follow but demonstrates how this can be scaled to the size of your institution. The author and those interviewed do not shy away from problems encountered along the way, giving us all lessons to learn.