Know Your History

Historic Theatres have a unique opportunity to continually celebrate their history. From old newspaper ads and clippings to oral histories, our theatres are a virtual gold mine of nostalgia. Having said that, its often hard to find the time to “work” that material to our own ends, given the other tasks that fill our days. With changing audience demographics, it will become harder and harder to engage patrons in our history, if we aren’t masters of it. Here are some suggestions to consider as we all struggle to stay relevant in the future, but pay homage to our past.

Use Volunteers to Research your History – Many times your volunteers can be the perfect resource for research. Not only have they demonstrated an interest in your theatre, but often they have the free time to spend at the library, on-line or interviewing the public for stories. Establish some goals and assist with direction and recognition and prepare to be wowed by what comes in.

Look Everywhere – Many times we forget to ask for help from obvious sources. Might there be plans of your theatre in the local historical society or building department plans review department? Will the local paper help to solicit stories and photographs from readers? You don’t know until you ask – or have a volunteer ask for you.

Celebrate Your Finds – Once you have some significant research/history at your fingertips, don’t keep it a secret – let the world know about it. A simple lobby display, page or two on your website and press release to the media, will no doubt lead to more information.

Communicate/Educate – It’s crucial to also share what you find with your staff and volunteers. There’s nothing worse than overhearing a volunteer tell inaccurate information to a patron. Make an effort to educate any staff that comes in contact with the public, as well as all volunteers, about the history of your building.

Posted on: November 14, 2011