durable history logo

Why web, branding and design for historical societies and historic house museums?

History is a passion of mine. I geek out over historic places, objects, documents, and art. Cultural relics of everyday life, fashion history, genealogy, and the history of the decorative arts and design are topics I’ve come back to again and again since I was young (when I also actually got a degree in art history and did my time in 1830s garb as a volunteer historic house interpreter). The past year or two, I’ve been on a kick about the period from 3000 BC to 1000 AD in Northern Scotland. Go figure.

But, even for me, it’s hard to be passionate about history when it isn’t told with stories, human moments, cultural context, and relevance. Because of this, I want the kinds of GLAM organizations I love —  and especially ones dealing in history — to have the tools to tell their stories well and capture the hearts of new audiences and remain sustainable.

There are exceptions, but honestly, I see a huge problem with the websites (and overall design and branding) for many of these kinds of organizations — especially historical societies and historic houses, which are amongst the smallest and often most under-resourced. I worry that they are shooting themselves in the feet, so to speak, by not appearing credible on the web and not offering their current and potential audiences the information, access, and invitation to engagement that is crucial in these web-centric times.

I can offer my expertise to help fix this problem (and get to geek out about new-to-me history and culture in the process!). I have over two decades experience helping organizations figure out their strategy, their brand, and their plan — and then designing visual communication tools like websites, logos, and print collateral to turn those plans into action.

I’m empathetic to the differing levels of resources that organizations have. Not everyone has paid staff, big grants, or time for new initiatives. And then there are organizations are lucky enough to have some or all of these advantages. I would argue, however, that there are steps every organization (that hasn’t already) can take to improve their messaging and their website and start on the path to more relevance and sustainability.

Maybe it’s just understanding the user experience on the web a little better and changing some of the words on your site to help your audience find what they need. Or maybe it’s a concerted, strategic overhaul of your site that changes everything for you.

Between free resources and paid services, I hope you find things here that will help make your website better. But like I’ve admitted — I’m a professional at design but only an amateur at history (and museum administration, obviously). Tell me what would be useful for you, and what problems your history organization faces. Let’s talk!

—Annie

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