In 2007 the McKinley National Memorial in Canton, Ohio celebrated its 100th anniversary with a year of special events. In this special series of articles we will explore the planning that went into an exhibition, behind-the scenes tours, an anniversary dinner, a penny campaign and a major special event – a 100 Hours Celebration where the museum stayed open for 100 consecutive hours.
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate a historical anniversary is to have a dinner and guest speaker. We had many other activities planned for the year, so we decided to take a more traditional route for those who would prefer to celebrate that way.
In the past we had had success with Friday night dinners. We had a simple catered meal with “birthday cake” for dessert. We set the tables in red, white and blue to honor McKinley’s service as President of the United States.
For a guest speaker, we chose a recently retired newspaper editor who was known for his interest in local history. He was well-known in the community after serving many years as the voice of the local newspaper. We were able to hold a dinner in our auditorium for about 100 guests.
If your building can accommodate a large crowd, it is always best to have events at your facility. Believe it or not, even though it is a benefit for your organization, if you hold it somewhere else it becomes disassociated with you. I talked to a woman once who had attended another museum function at a civic center years ago, and she didn’t believe me when I told her it was our event! If she had come to our building, she certainly would have remembered it.
Use the dinner to show off your site. You could even offer a cocktail hour in one of the galleries beforehand, or an opportunity to tour with a docent after dinner.
Of course, you might not have the space to hold a dinner at your facility. Consider an outdoor event in a tent set up in the parking lot or on the lawn instead. If you absolutely do not have the space, or if you would like a different atmosphere, rent a hall. But remember renting a tent or hall will add to your expenses.
To raise some additional money, hold a small raffle at your dinner. You can give away a book on local history, an item from your Museum Shoppe, a museum membership or a gift certificate to a local business. What about a pair of tickets to your next special event? A unique prize would be a large framed print of a relevant image from your archival collection.
Instead of a keynote speaker, you might want to ask a panel of local authors to speak. Or perhaps screen a local history documentary. Or you might want to keep the evening light and hire entertainment instead. Local high school choirs and musical ensembles are a great source of reasonably priced entertainment.
The next articles in this series will document more ways that my museum celebrated the 100th anniversary of the McKinley National Memorial in 2007.