Shining New Light on Guided Tours (Case Study: St. Simons Lighthouse Museum)

Museum Hack - Renegade Tours

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Are your guided tours a bit lackluster? Do you struggle to engage school groups and get them excited about your historic site?

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum is one of only five surviving light towers in Georgia.  Erected in 1804 on Couper’s Point, the 75-foot tower stands watch over the Georgia coastline, protecting ships from disaster.  Unfortunately, the lighthouse was struggling to engage school groups and wanted to reimagine their guided tour programs for the 21st century.  St. Simons called Museum Hack, seeking new techniques that docents could use during their guided tours to successfully engage audiences of all ages.

Staff in front of St. Simons Lighthouse

Dustin Growick traveled to the Georgia coast, ready to uncover the juicy secrets and interesting stories behind the 112-year-old site.  In a one-day workshop on audience engagement, Dustin led staff through a variety of engaging and entertaining techniques that could be used with the site’s core audience, school groups, as well as in other guided programs. 

Our workshop gave St. Simons staff the chance to experiment with new engagement and storytelling techniques, adding to their pedagogical arsenal and sparking creative thinking about how to better engage different audiences.  We also highlighted how docents could structure dynamic tours that would allow students more agency during their explorations of the site, inviting them to help uncover the incredible history and importance of the surviving lighthouse.

Our workshop also set staff loose to uncover new ways to make guided tours fun and educational.  We invited St. Simons docents to try out new techniques for engaging young, tech-savvy audiences, such as picture taking that could be shared with students’ parents after tours and in marketing materials for the site.  Check out their fun first selfied below:

St. Simons Lighthouse staff taking their first selfie.

Dustin Growick showing staff how to take selfies.

Our workshop gave staff a toolkit full of new ideas for making their tours interactive, engaging, and fun for all ages.  It also empowered staff to reimagine the stories they tell, inviting docents to speak from points of personal passion in order to make their stories relevant to the lives and interests of their audiences.  St. Simons went from the traditional lecture-based approach to one in which they first make human connection with their audience in order to get buy-in before delivering any information.  By approaching the site from a narrative, personal perspective, docents were empowered to not only better engage with visitors, but to also showcase their own love for the site and its incredible history.

“It was great! Dustin is very energetic and flexible. He was not at all discouraged by some of the less-than-enthusiastic starts to the activities with the docents. He truly listened to their (sometimes off-topic) comments and concerns, and offered thoughtful feedback.

Dustin did a great job of making my team think differently about their audience and how they interact with them. He never told them they did it the wrong way, but rather showed them a different way and made them question why maybe their previous method wasn’t as engaging to someone who didn’t have the same passion.

Personally, I have already used some of the smaller activities with informal groups that have wandered into the museum this summer to see how they work – and they’ve been very successful. Let me tell you, people love taking pictures of their kids! I am working on getting formal survey responses from my docents so we can begin to concretely change the way we do school tours.” – Sandy J., Education Director, St. Simon’s Lighthouse Museum

Dustin Growick as a lighthouse keeper!
Bonus: Dustin’s a lighthouse keeper!

“It was the most fun and productive day the docents have had in recent memory. They left re-energized and ready to go with a new tool kit of engagement strategies for both school groups and family visitors.” – Dustin

We had an amazing time visiting and engaging with St. Simons staff.  We can’t wait to visit again and see all their new ideas in action!

Ready to reimagine your guided tours? Contact us to find out more about how we can help your institution develop fun activities and new audience engagement strategies.

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