Bringing the Community Back to the Museum: Market at the Museum in Rocanville
It’s a problem that many small community museums face. How do we get local people to come back to the museum? Many people have the feeling that once they have been to their community museum, there is no need to return because “nothing has changed.” While museums in larger communities often rotate their artifacts or host travelling exhibits, smaller museums often don’t have the budget to do these things. So, how do you get locals to come back to your museum?
Children on a hay ride at the Rocanville Market.
The Rocanville Museum in Rocanville, Saskatchewan seems to have found a way. This summer they have been hosting “Market at the Museum,” a monthly market featuring vendors, live entertainment and a barbecue on the museum grounds. Rocanville Recreation director Jamie MacLeod says that the idea came to the museum from a local woman in town, Sherry Davies who approached them with the idea for the market.
“Not a lot of people were visiting the museum, and didn’t realize some of the new things we had at the museum so I thought it would be an interesting way to bring some new people in,” MacLeod said during a break from the hustle and bustle of the August market. “We wanted to get new people to the museum and give the opportunity for different groups in town to come together and give people opportunities to fundraise. But mostly it was to bring people to gather at the museum as a community and make the museum a sort of centerpiece in the community, instead of once every five years you send your aunt over here when she’s visiting.”
A farrier demonstration at the Rocanville Market.
MacLeod says that attendance has been good, despite the fact that this is the first summer for the market and word is just starting to get out.
“We had 196 signatures at our first market in May in our guest book,” MacLeod said. “We had 169 signatures in June, and there were 200 people who visited in July. I haven’t had a chance to count the guestbook yet, but I imagine the numbers for the last one would be about the same. We have people from around the area, and vendors who come from Manitoba. So it’s brought some new people into the community and new businesses into the community as well.”
Not only has the market brought people back to the museum, it has helped raise funds towards community projects. Each month, visitors are asked to contribute to a different cause. So far the market has raised money for repairs to the town’s indoor pool, the local childcare centre, the legion, and Sask Sport and Creative kids.
While the museum does make some money through table rentals and donations, the main goal is to bring people to the museum and help build a sense of community.
“I like that people are coming out, sitting at a picnic table and talking to their neighbours or that new family who just moved to town,” MacLeod said. “The most exciting thing that I heard has been that a couple of new families have moved to town and this was how they have met new people and found out what was going on in the community. That’s pretty cool. People don’t know what’s going on in town, and they come here and they meet people.”
MacLeod says that she eventually wants to have the market on a weekly basis during the summer, but says she is taking things slow as she doesn’t want to “exhaust her fan base,” due to Rocanville being a small town.
For any museums thinking of starting their own market, MacLeod’s advice is to start early and have a good support team behind you.
“What I did was I kept the market separate from the actual museum at first, in case the first one wasn’t successful, or the board didn’t like it, it could be shut down without hurting the museum,” MacLeod said, noting that she started planning for the summer market in January. “And I had a good team, so make sure you have a team you can trust. And promotion is important too. Nearby radio stations will promote for free, and local newspapers will come out. And don’t be afraid of technology either, you can advertise for free through Facebook and Twitter.”
Congratulations to Rocanville on finding a unique way to bring the community back to the museum!