Museums support more than 726,000 American jobs.
Museums contribute $50 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
76% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities such as visiting museums. These travelers spend 60% more on average than other leisure travelers.
Below are the program plans for two museums to be established in downtown Rosedale. While museum content necessitates the creation of two distinct spaces with two distinct marketing and program plans, to begin the museums should be treated as two wings of the same organization to improve efficiencies during the first phase of operations. Particular attention should be paid to audience experience in the two spaces – through interior connections between the museums, audiences who come to one museum should be able to attend the other museum easily, as well as experience any other cultural amenities being created in downtown Rosedale. The following plans detail the use in each space, followed by general guidance applicable to both museums.
The mission of the Senator Blanche K. Bruce Museum is to promote scholarship about and greater historical awareness of the life and work of Blanche K. Bruce of Rosedale, who was the first African American to serve a full term in the United States Senate and the only person to be born a slave and serve a full term. Anchored by a monument to honor the late Senator, the Museum will be located at the intersection of Main and Bruce Streets in downtown Rosedale.
With a relatively small footprint compared to more traditional museum spaces, the Senator Blanche K. Bruce Museum will rely on interactive electronic displays, select historical artifacts, and small educational activation sites to begin. The Museum can also provide space for traveling artifacts and exhibits on select occasions, seeking out partnerships with organizations sharing similar focus areas including African American history, the Reconstruction era, U.S. history in general, and the United States currency.
The museum as an institution is undergoing significant change in the 21st century – the rise of the Internet age has both provided a shortcut to history outside of museum spaces, as well as a growing audience appetite for experiential education. To embrace this rapidly changing environment, the Bruce Museum will have four focus areas to implement its mission:
Increasing historical awareness of the life and legacy of Blanche K. Bruce through a presence in Rosedale, outreach to Delta communities, and strong partnerships with Delta schools;
Promoting scholarship concerning the life & legacy of Blanche K. Bruce through the endowment of scholarly writing concerning Bruce and related historical topics at both an academic & youth level, partnerships with area universities and other bodies of higher education, and internship and volunteer training opportunities for local audiences; and
Acting as an economic driver for Rosedale and the greater region by attracting regional, national, and international audiences, who will patronize local businesses and spur additional related enterprise.
As one component of the larger Riverside Rising mission and program plan, the Museum will also act as a social space and link to additional revitalization efforts in the region through its proximity to the Mississippi River Explorers Museum and other emerging cultural amenities.
Museum content will focus primarily on the life and work of Blanche K. Bruce and historic “firsts” – one of the first African American landowners in Bolivar County, the first African American Senator to serve a full term in the Senate, the first person born a slave to serve a full term in the Senate, the first African American to preside over the Senate, the first African American to win any votes for the spot of vice president, and the first African American to have his signature featured on U.S. paper currency during his two terms as Registrar to the U.S. Treasury. Tracing the lineage of groundbreaking achievements will provide both an informative and inspirational narrative of Bruce’s life.
In addition, the Museum will detail the life of Josephine Beall Willson Bruce and her involvement with the National Association of Afro-American Women, as well as related topics: Reconstruction, American history in the late 19th century, U.S. currency, and others. Flexibility to related content will allow for the hosting of traveling exhibits regarding related topics. These traveling exhibits will ensure a range of new content is available to museumgoers, and it will further highlight themes not covered in the Museum’s permanent exhibit.
Day-to-day operations of the Blanche K. Bruce Senatorial Museum can follow a similar model to that of historic sites such as the V.C. Kays House and the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Arkansas, which are developed and operated by the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Office in coordination with the university’s Heritage Studies Ph.D. program. Consider similar partnerships with Mississippi programs of higher education, with the formation of the museum an opportunity to engage with academic partners in the formative stage of the museum.
At the confluence of the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers, and the Mississippi and White Rivers, the Rosedale area has been and continues to be shaped by the history of river exploration. The Mississippi River Explorers Museum will tell the story of river explorers and the importance of the confluence of these rivers on life, industry, and geography in the past and today. This focus on river explorers, with particular emphasis on the importance of the river to regional tribes, positions this Museum as the only place on the Mississippi River celebrating river explorers. The museum will trace the people who experienced the river and the land, following the narrative of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.
The museum will be located directly adjacent to the Blanche K. Bruce Senatorial Museum. Taken together, the two museums will present a narrative of histories of Rosedale and the surrounding region from a plurality of perspectives.
Much of the content delivery of the Explorers Museum will be similar to the Bruce Museum – a focus on experiential, technology-focused exhibits and traveling artifacts and exhibits on select occasions, seeking out partnerships with organizations sharing similar focus areas including the Mississippi River, Mississippi, Native American history, explorers’ journals, and Mark Twain’s writings on the Mississippi River.
As one component of the larger Riverside Rising mission and program plan, the Museum will act as a social space and link to other revitalization efforts in the region through its proximity to the Bruce Museum and other emerging cultural amenities.
Flexibility to related content will allow for the hosting of traveling exhibits regarding related topics. These traveling exhibits will ensure a range of new content is available to museumgoers, and it will further highlight themes not covered in the Museum’s permanent exhibit.
Identifying Your Audience
A key step in the planning and implementation of the Senator Blanche K. Bruce Museum and the Mississippi River Explorers Museum is defining potential audiences and what types of marketing and outreach and programming will be relevant to each. While a full-scale feasibility study will provide a clearer picture of each audience, below are the three categories we will use as a framework in developing program content:
- Local community – Those living in the four-county region serviced by Riverside Rising. Local community members will primarily be serviced by ongoing educational programming, annual events, and tie-ins from the museum to greater community events. In addition, local community members can serve as volunteers, guides, and part-time staff once the Museum has operational sustainability to hire staff.
- Students – A primary driver of attendance to the Museum will be from school groups, both from the West Bolivar Consolidated School District and other districts in the region. Students will primarily be served by guided museum experiences as well as potential high school-level internships.
- Tourist and cultural heritage visitors – The primary focus of marketing outreach will be targeted towards potential museum visitors from outside of the four-county region, as the direct population of the four-county region will not be great enough to support a museum long-term. This includes visitors coming specifically for the Bruce Museum, as well as travelers coming to the larger Mississippi Delta region for the purposes of cultural or cultural heritage tourism, with the potential to draw visitors who are already nearby in places such as Clarksdale, Oxford, Cleveland, MS; Memphis, TN; and elsewhere. For the River Explorers Museum, the eventual Mississippi River passenger boat terminal in Rosedale will provide additional visitors interested in Mississippi River history.
These groups will help determine marketing efforts and programmatic content.
Hours of Operation
To begin, hours of operation for both museums will complement those of nearby businesses and other newly created amenities in Rosedale. With the development of a new restaurant anchor tenant on the block, the Museum will be open through the early evening to reach an accidental audience of restaurant patrons.
Depending on the availability of staff and volunteers, the Museum will be open from 12 pm – 7 pm every weekday, potentially later on certain days of the month. Weekend hours will be condensed but can change based on demand, beginning with opening 9 am – 3 pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
All efforts will be made to keep both museums free of charge for entry. The museums will each include a donation area with a suggested donation of $5 per person.
Education + Workshops
The museums will develop traveling mini exhibits which will allow Riverside Rising staff and museum volunteers the ability to travel to schools and present directly to students. Museum staff will work with Mississippi state officials to ensure education offerings meet state educational standards.
Adult education, such as guided tours and in-depth workshops on topics covered in both museums, will be held periodically depending on demand and instructor availability. Adult education workshops will provide an opportunity to create new partnerships or build on existing partnerships, such as with local academics and academic organizations. Experiential field workshops will be arranged in partnership with existing Mississippi River tour infrastructure for the Explorers Museum, and with similar tour infrastructure for African American history tours of the Mississippi Delta.
The museums will hold rotating and annual events to draw new audiences to the museum and provide an incentive for repeated attendance. Events will take place both in the museums as well as surrounding, related sites.
A small but important revenue stream, the museums will contain museum-specific items as well as related merchandise such as books and films, as well as locally created artwork relevant to museum themes. These items will be sold in a combined gift shop for both museums.
Strong partnerships are critical to the long-term program and financial success of the museums. Partnerships will be required for both the initial content generation for the museums as well as the long-term operations, and discussions with these partners should begin soon, as some of these partners – particularly larger institutions – may have access to additional funding or technical assistance opportunities.
State & Higher Education
Statewide academic and institutional partners will be the target of initial outreach efforts. Potential partners for content acquisition and generation include:
- Mississippi Archives & History
- Delta State University, University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University
- Mississippi Museum of Art
In order to leverage existing marketing efforts in the region and across the Mississippi Delta, the Museum will establish marketing collaborations with established tourism, cultural heritage, and area-specific marketing organizations. The Museum will join the network of cultural heritage sites in the Mississippi Delta, which will provide greater museum exposure through maps and an increased online presence at little cost to the Museum.
Marketing partners will include:
- Mississippi Humanities
- Visit Mississippi’s African American Heritage tour and related tours
- Mississippi River Tours
- National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA
- Mississippi Development Authority
- Mississippi Blues and Mississippi Country Music Trails
- Delta Magazine
- Cleveland Tourism Office
As an element of the larger Riverside Rising program and operational plan, the Bruce Museum and the Explorers Museum will both be supported by organization-wide funding efforts as well as contribute revenue to Riverside Rising through program-specific funding and museum fundraising efforts.
To begin, museum overhead will necessarily be kept to a minimum as programming is established. Riverside Rising will recruit volunteers to staff open hours at the museum for a period of time until part-time staff can be hired. Any programming upgrades, such as new equipment, new original museum content, and the like should be prioritized by area of greatest need and the subject of grant requests specifically related to content acquisition and programming.
Initial expenses will include gift shop merchandise purchases, building overhead, and a contingency for general museum maintenance.
The development strategies for the Senate Blanche K. Bruce Museum and the Mississippi River Explorers Museum should be informed by the development strategy for Riverside Rising as a program area of the nonprofit. The Museum provides an opportunity for direct interaction with interested audiences whose only interaction with Riverside Rising is one of the museums; as a result, the museums will leverage those audiences for sustained financial support. Revenue sources will include:
A strong membership program will not only provide a small source of consistent revenue but also ensure greater community buy-in. By providing members access to opening events, discounts at the gift shop, and recognition as supporters of the museums, the membership program encourages participation in the museum and builds a base of support for the organization.
The museums will each host at least one annual event, themed around museum content. Should museum volunteers and Riverside Rising staff have the capacity for multiple annual events, the museum can hold a ticketed gala as well as a free event, again providing multiple levels of buy-in depending on the audience reached.
The museums will build relationships with individuals and organizations with the capacity to deliver large, sustaining gifts to the organization. These will need to be cultivated by the Riverside Rising Board of Directors, a Senator Blanche K. Bruce Museum Advisory Board, and the Mississippi River Explorers Museum Advisory Board, each made of Riverside Rising board members as well as others from the community. Grants are often program-specific; as a result, new program initiatives will be developed and prototyped then brought to grant funders for expansion and sustainability of new ideas.
The above plan for both the Senator Blanche K. Bruce Museum and Mississippi River Explorers Museum is focused on early-stage operations, particularly as Riverside Rising begins several initiatives simultaneously. Long-term planning for future growth will set the stage for future capital campaigns and museum expansion; that planning will be guided by a focus on the following components:
Museum programming and growth will necessarily be confined by current museum space; therefore, long-term growth strategy will include the identification of a permanent home for both museums. With additional buildings and developable land available in the downtown core of Rosedale, the museums should consider maintaining close proximity with one another as well as other cultural amenity developments downtown, with long-term plans potentially including the creation of a cultural district.
For further cultural district resources, please visit the Americans for the Arts Cultural District Exchange Toolkit as well as the guide to Cultural District funding structures.
Developing a large-scale partnership with an institute of higher education will allow for increased scholarship as well as additional resources both financial and organizational. Building strong internship programs; utilizing graduate-level programs for research projects, exhibit development, and marketing assistance; and establishing processes for further research and scholarship into related topics are some of the program-level partnerships possible.
In addition, with major connections to the Mississippi River through current and potential future industry, the Explorers Museum can be supported through long-term operational support from community stakeholders. This support will require building relationships during the development of the Museum and continued partnerships during the first few years of operation.
Staffing should increase as Riverside Rising has the financial capacity to increase. Part-time museum attendants will be the initial focus of staffing, while any increase in staffing for Riverside Rising will also impact museum operations. A strong volunteer core will always be necessary for museum operations.
Museum membership will play only a small role in the first years of operations; long-term, the ability to increase membership revenue will provide the working capital for staff and building expansion. Volunteers will also serve as museum “ambassadors,” encouraging visitors both regular and first time to become members. Additional members-only events as well as member-to-member marketing campaigns will increase museum and membership visibility.