The New Broom

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March 8, 2011 by David Gillaspie

A New Dust Pan, Too?

“I believe I could have made our own case.”

These words came from Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society, when asked about hiring a lobbyist.

This bodes well for OHS.

They fit well with State Senator Betsy Johnson who said, “At this time, you don’t need a historian.”

Why not take it further and say, “At this time we don’t need a museum professional.”

It’s a history museum.  If it doesn’t need historians or museum school professionals, what does it need? 

More money?  Or is it something else?

What if, instead of the Oregon Historical Society, it became the Oregon Enthusiasts Society full of people enthusiastically embracing what Oregon means to the people.

Kerry Tymchuk can do this. 

He’s not some rain maker picked from the staff of a distinguished museum like Colonial Williamsburg, or a retread unknown picked up off the shelf for a last hurrah.

Kerry Tymchuk comes from Reedsport.  If he grew up there, he’s familiar with the Umpqua River.  He visited the big city (North Bend.)  He knows Oregon better than a transplant on the downside of their career.  He’s already saving OHS $77,000 by not hiring another lobbyist.

What will he do to get more profile and elevate the brand?

Will he embrace social media as more than just another task?  Will he appoint a brand manager/blogger to go after facebook, twitter, and linkedin with all available tools? 

Will this blogger have the go ahead to write posts linking modern Oregon to its history with images and interviews?

Will OHS run a membership contest awarding a monthly winner an event opportunity?

Will OHS partner with successful agencies like PAM and OMSI offering discounted museum tickets?

Most important, will OHS review the staff to see who is customer service oriented?  Who on current staff can circulate the city during busy times offering tickets for free admission to strangers? 

Who can greet visitors without making them feel like it’s an airport screening?  Who is genuinely kid-friendly enough to give them the feeling that it’s a small step from their classroom to the OHS front door?

Will OHS make an effort to include independent living seniors?  Every senior living center with a bus can make a stop at OHS.

Here’s the main question for Kerry Tymchuk: If people won’t pay to come to OHS, would they come if it was free?  If they don’t come when it’s free, then you know they don’t really care.

An interest in history equals an interest in community, and everybody has in interest in their community.  If you make the connection for them, they’ll show up. 

From a recent community building meeting sponsored by the Portland Development Commission, the equation works like this:

First engage the mind:  Creat curiosity.  What was Oregon’s role in the Civil War?  How do world events effect Oregon?  Where does Oregon fit on the modern Pacific Rim?

Then engage the heart:  Show them the connection between who they are and where they live to a bigger picture.

Then engage the wallet:  People are happy to give when they see results.  This is where the brand manager/blogger comes in.  New outlets reach new people where they work and live.  Keeping new people apprised of current events has never been easier.  It’s a way to build a new base.

Kerry Tymchuk can do this. 

When he says of another county tax levy, “If we have to ask for it again, then we haven’t done our job,” it sounds like he wouldn’t have needed to ask the first time if he’d been Executive Director. 

That’s good news for all Oregon Historical Society fans.


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