Still recovering from a devastating EF1 tornado in 2010 that left their landmark facility in shambles, executive leaders of Bridgeport’s Barnum Museum welcomed a benchmarking analysis conducted recently by students in Sacred Heart University's Jack Welch College of Business. The document was created by students Danielle Licursi, Sarah Lucas, Enzo Luppi Mackenzie, Catherine McLean and Christina Sanzo, under the guidance of SHU Assistant Professor Valerie Christian, and showed how other similar institutions are marketing themselves and operating. The insights will help the museum take appropriate steps forward in its re-envisioning process.
The analysis was presented in its entirety recently at the museum’s homebase by way of both a projected Powerpoint slide presentation and comprehensive hard-copy binders. The student team presented to Barnum’s Executive Director Kathleen Mayer, Business Manager John Temple Swing, Curator Adrienne Saint-Pierre and Peter Roche, along with a P.T. Barnum ancestor and honorary board member, Elinor Biggs. Christian and SHU’s Vice Provost Mary Lou DeRosa also sat in and helped moderate.
The analysis included profiles on the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home, Library and Museum and the Ringling Museum. An initial 30 museums were at first studied before paring the field to these select few. Such criteria as offerings, admission and membership pricing, revenue, funding and amenities was studied and, ultimately, recommendations offered to Barnum to assist in engaging current and new visitors using interactive and enriching experiences, generating greater brand awareness and attracting greater capital to the establishment.
Maher was very pleased with the findings, remarking to the students, “I want to thank you all so very much for your dedication, enthusiasm and creativity in producing this important document. The analysis will serve a great need as we continue to revive the historic museum and reinvigorate all of our programs and exhibits. Knowledge of the successes and even the perceived ‘not so great’ efforts of our colleague institutions will provide us with relevant information to build a new, 21st-century Barnum Museum.”
Similarly, DeRosa commented, “The students did an outstanding job, and their passion for the work at hand was evident in the expressive and integrated presentation. The capstone projects have evolved into an opportunity for our students to broaden the scope of their learning and prepare them to engage in their communities in deep and meaningful ways. How wonderful that this iconic and historic museum has such strong advocates. The museum is full of memories for me. Kudos to all.”
As to the student experience, presenting team member Catherine McLean remarked, “Professor Christian challenged our team to think outside of the box to provide our recommendations, which truly made the project unique. Through research and interviews, we were able to share important information on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of other museums. From visitor demographics to financial funding and unique exhibition offerings, we provided key insights and actions for the Barnum Museum to use when their doors open again. The passion and drive of the staff at Barnum made the project so important to us.”
On a broader scale, McLean added, “The teamwork experience will be carried with us in our professional careers. We collaborated to provide a final deliverable of which we were all proud. We felt that one of the best parts of the MBA experience at Sacred Heart was using our academic learnings from the school to give back to the community.”