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.
Never underestimate the power of showing people places they can’t normally see.
When you work in a museum, storage areas and workspaces are humdrum spots where daily work takes place.
But to a visitor, those spaces are the subject of great curiosity! Even if you think they are a little mundane.
For the 100th anniversary of the McKinley National Memorial, we did a series of Nooks & Crannies Tours which took people into the basement of the Monument which is not normally accessible to the public.
Truthfully there isn’t much down there. You can see the support structure for the massive double sarcophagus that houses the bodies of President McKinley and his wife Ida. You can also see the double wall construction of the Monument, including two million locally made bricks.
What makes it a fantastic tour is that the public is dying to know what’s down there! And surprisingly enough, no one ever comes back up the stairs disappointed.
Behind-the-scenes tours are immensely popular. People will pay extra to see what’s behind closed doors. We charged a modest $2.00 fee for a 45 minute tour. The Monument itself is free to visit and tour alone.
On the actual 100th anniversary of the dedication on September 30 we had two Nooks & Crannies Tours, with complimentary “birthday cake” at the end! It was fun to look out over the grounds and imagine Theodore Roosevelt, who had been McKinley’s vice president when he was assassinated in 1901, giving an address at the day’s festivities.
Surely you have something in your museum that is normally off-limits to visitors. A storage area? A conservation lab? An exhibit prep area? Anywhere that isn’t on the main tour will work. Not everyone works with artifacts on a daily basis, so they will be fascinated with how you store things in acid free materials, or how things are grouped on storage shelves.
I’ve found that people are even interested in seeing where my curatorial volunteers work on cataloging. They also loved to see the equipment I use to create an exhibition – an HP DesignJet 500 plotter and a large format laminator!
It might be our daily workplace, but it is new and exciting to the public!
The next articles in this series will document more ways that my museum celebrated the 100th anniversary of the McKinley National Memorial in 2007.