I’ve written a fewtimes in the past about visiting the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (locally known as the Bushplane Museum) for non-heritage events, namely for musical performances and a community craft show. In both cases the admission to the Bushplane was either free or the proceeds when to the performing artist. Those events were an example of a heritage space renting out their space to generate revenue.
A couple of weekends ago my family and I visited the Bushplane Museum during their regular operating hours as part of their “Family Fun Day.” In addition to their regular attractions the day included half price admission and a range of additional activities such as a magic show, crafts, community tables, and special guests from the popular kids show Paw Patrol. Basically it was a day designed to bring more people through the door. Given the fact that at numerous points throughout the day there was lineup to get in, I think they were definitely successful in that regard.
This visit also marked the first time I visited the Bushplane with a child. My daughter wasn’t terribly interested in all the extra things that were going on as part of the day, but she loved the planes and some of the interactive exhibit pieces in the museum. The Bushplane has a number of planes that are accessible to visitors and my daughter loved climbing in and out of them, sitting in them, and asking lots of questions about how things worked. One of the nice things about her enthusiasm around the planes was that it meant it gave me some time to read description labels, check out some of the digital interpretation, and generally just take in the museum.
I’m still adjusting to how your experiences at museum and heritage site visits change when you’re accompanied by a child. I am also becoming increasing appreciative of museums that do a good job of integrating child appropriate exhibits or special child focused programming into their services. Having dedicated space for children or children friendly interpretation can be a huge selling point when families are deciding where to visit. Sometimes this can be hugely elaborate programming but other times simply having colouring station or a touch/feel artifact section can go a long way.
What are some of your favourite examples of family friendly museum programming?
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a concert as part of Bon Soo (think Winterfest on a Northern Ontario scale). The concert featured two great traditional music groups, Dentdelion and Les Poules à Colin. The music was a great display of traditional music heritage and the preservation of Canadian francophone culture.
In addition the concert being an example of the preservation of traditional music, the concert was held at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and was a great example of a heritage organization using its facility to move beyond internal display space. Granted, February might not be the best time of year to host an event in an airplane hanger — most of the audience kept their coats on throughout the evening. But, events such as this highlight the efforts the Bushplane has undertaken to become known as a flexible conference, wedding and event venue in Sault Ste Marie. In the past few years the Bushplane has hosted bridal shows, conferences, a stroller fitness program, a beer festival and countless other events.
During intermission at last week’s concert, attendees were welcome to wonder amongst the planes displayed in the main portion of the Centre’s hanger. I over heard one attendee remark, “I had no idea planes were so big” and the few children who were in attendance seemed in awe of the space. Despite having lived in the area for three years and having a love history, I had never set foot inside the Bushplane prior to the concert. Events such as concerts have the ability to introduce new people to a museums and inspire interest in a facility that some people might never have entered otherwise.
Facility rentals also have the potential to be great sources of additional revenue for heritage organizations. In the case of the Bushplane they have invested money in tables, chairs and linens to make their space more appealing and to facilitate a rental package. Clearly, a venue such as an airplane hanger has a few more space options than a small house museum. But, even smaller museums can be used for wedding photos or meetings. Multipurpose spaces provide heritage organizations with flexibility in display, rentals, and outreach activities.
What nontraditional events have you attended or organized in a museum space?