Combating Compartmentalization: A Case Study with Morton Arboretum

Museum Resources
Marketing & Aud Dev Associate
Museum Resources January 20, 2019 Combating Compartmentalization: A Case Study with Morton Arboretum

Just outside of Chicago, you can visit a stunning 1,700 acres of public gardens, hiking trails, and even a herbarium.

The Morton Arboretum offers an extensive nature-entered education program for visitors of all ages, a library and tree research center, and a slew of events. The only downside?

Lots of departments.

Morton thinks of itself as a literal living museum, and rightly so with over 200,000 cataloged plants. This means that more often than not, visitors are engaging with nature – not a traditional collection.

With these two things in mind, they gave us a call with clear goals:

  • activate the staff to think about stories differently,
  • and get everyone involved in interpretation.

So our team knew they had a lot of ground to cover.

Dustin, Zak M. and Peter arrive in Lisle

Dustin, Zak M. and Peter headed off to Lisle, IL to help out the Morton Arboretum staff, 20 in total from all over the museum. Part of what made this workshop so great was the departmental diversity from Education to Exhibitions and Development to Digital. Having all of these groups together helped to really think about the entire journey the visitor has with the Arboretum – before, during, and after the visit.

The Morton team tests out their new skills

Our workshops work well for any and all staff is because the skill building we use can be applied to all departments. A great example of this is story shortening, which resonated with the Morton team. While this activity is aimed at Education and Interpretation staff, the process is applicable for any team member who ultimately communicates with visitors – whether it’s on a tour, over the phone, or through ad copy.

Our workshops include our 5 Elements Of A Hack, which are rooted in telling great stories. It doesn’t matter if your collection is made of paintings, artifacts, specimens, or even natural landscape; the elements will help you communicate in an engaging way that keeps your visitors wanting to explore more.

This workshop brought together staff from all different departments

The Morton team was left energized and ready to try new things. By opening this workshop to many different departments, they found a new motivation to collaborate together to increase audience engagement across all aspects of the museum: on tours, in the collection, and beyond.

The team was activated to think about stories differently and with different departments doing the same workshop activities, everyone left with tangible things they can implement right away.

Want to get your team together to collaborate and brainstorm about how your museum can bring in new audiences? Email us at [email protected].

written with 💖 by Julia Kennedy

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