Episode 295 – Jeffrey Nichols talks about the role of history museums, connecting history to today and the business of non-profit

History, Leadership, Non-Profit, Podcast

This episode is kindly sponsored by Attractions.io, the guest experience platform behind Merlin Entertainments’, San Diego Zoo’s, and the Kennedy Space Center’s branded mobile apps. Like us, the folks at Attractions.io are on a mission to elevate our experiences. Their latest launch adds in-app photos to the Attractions.io mobile app, giving guests more time to view, purchase and share their media with loved ones. Impressively, 88% of consumers say they trust content and recommendations from their friends and family over any other form of marketing – making user-generated content, like photo sharing, an essential strategy for your marketing team this season (according to Nielsen, in its global Trust in Advertising Study in 2021). To learn more about Attractions.io and the new in-app photo feature, visit Attractions.io/photos.

Jeffrey Nichols is the Chief Executive Officer at The National Civil War Museum, and has over 25 years of museum experience. Jeffrey has held several leadership roles at various museums, including the Mark Twain House & Museum and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Jeffrey’s passion for history began during his college years in Connecticut, where he studied history and got his start at the New Haven Museum in his home state. Now, Jeffrey now leads The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with a commitment to preserving and sharing the stories of the Civil War era. In this interview, Jeffrey shares the role of history museums, connecting history to today, and the business of non-profit. 

The Role of History Museums

“People believe that museums are trustworthy.”

Now more than ever, museums are recognizing the importance of engaging their audiences beyond traditional methods. With traditional history lessons becoming less prevalent in classrooms, museums are stepping up to fill the gap and provide immersive, experiential learning opportunities that can’t be replicated in a textbook. Jeffrey understands the significance and works to ensure that his museum is not only teaching history, but also creating an emotional connection to the past.

Jeffrey emphasizes that by sharing both sides of a story and highlighting the true scale of an event, museums can create a more complete understanding and visitors will see more of the significance. By presenting a balanced narrative, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of past events and develop a much stronger perspective on these events.

Connecting History to Today

“Museums and historic sites strive to broaden one’s perspective.”

The study of history serves a multitude of purposes. Jeffrey shares that history educates us on our past mistakes, and gives us a benchmark to relate to current events. Not only this, but experiencing something like The National Civil War Museum builds critical thinking skills by allowing visitors to learn about history in a multi-dimensional way. 

Jeffrey emphasizes that history is never black and white, much like the nature of the information we get in our world today. Jeffrey believes that by teaching history and fostering critical thinking skills, new and existing generations can develop the ability to analyze more complex situations, comprehend these diverse viewpoints, and make informed, strong decisions.

The Business of Non-Profit 

“Having some business sense is important.”

Jeffrey shares that getting his MBA while working at the Mark Twain House & Museum allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of strategic thinking and acquire new skills to help grow the business, which proved to be especially valuable when facing the challenges of growing a non-profit organization. By thinking in different directions, Jeffrey has been able to successfully contribute to the growth of The National Civil War Museum since his arrival. 

One of the challenges Jeffrey has faced is the marketability and advertising of the museum experience. Due to the severity and importance of the exhibits in the museum, guests don’t take selfies or post about their experience on social media very often, but rather resort to word-of-mouth referrals. To help balance the gap, Jeffrey has built a digital platform for marketing, using the resources made available to him to help grow and attract guests to the Museum, such as adverts and easily accessible information on their website.

To connect with Jeffrey, you can find him on LinkedIn. To learn more about The National Civil War Museum, visit their website here

This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
  • Summary by Mason Nichols
  • Video editing by Abigail Giganan

To connect with AttractionPros: attractionpros@gmail.com

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