Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Survival Innovation: How The Valentine is Creating its Future

Virginia's population is changing, becoming much older and more diverse. By 2025, the number of 65-year-old Caucasians in the Commonwealth will increase by 464 percent, and the number of Caucasians between the ages of 18 and 44 will drop by more than half. What does that mean if you're a 110-year-old museum? You need to adapt to the changing demographic if you're going to stay relevant in the future.

Bill Martin, the executive director of The Valentine Richmond History Center, sat down with me recently for a podcast interview to discuss how the center is innovating to meet the needs of a growing and dynamic demographic. Everything about the Valentine is changing, from its name and programs to its community outreach and marketing - all being modified to maintain the history center as a staple of Richmond culture.

The Valentine is called a 'history center' instead of a 'museum' to emphasize its focus on outreach. We think of museums as places to go to look at artifacts and exhibits. At the Valentine, they're emphasizing living and experiencing history through walking tours or by redefining how its attendees listen and learn through history lectures, for example. The entire building will close in the fall as they recreate the exhibits.

While the Valentine has always been a conservator of important artifacts from Richmond history, as the population changes, it will expand its collections to include artifacts that document the emigration of Asians and Hispanics to the Richmond area. This will mean that future diverse generations will be able to come to the history center and find displays and artifacts that document what it was like to live in Richmond in the 1950s and shop at Miller & Rhoads but also what is was like to be a Hispanic or Vietnamese-American in Richmond in the early 2000s.

Enjoy the podcast and if you live close to Richmond, make it a point to visit the Valentine Richmond History Center before it closes for renovation.

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