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Adirondack Museum director reflects on first year

Adirondack Museum Executive Director David Kahn

Adirondack Museum Executive Director David Kahn

— During their interviews, staff found that the more immersive the environment the museum creates, the better.

“Actually getting them into a historical environment was what really seemed to make people’s juices flow,” Kahn said.

So the staff came up with a few preliminary ideas, such as creating a mining experience where the visitor walks into a simulated mine shaft or an activity that would involve breaking up a river log jam. Kahn said the museum relies on this kind of audience research.

“If you are going to put money and effort into doing something, you ought to make sure you get it right,” Kahn said.

Overall, it was a good summer for the Adirondack Museum, according to Kahn, even with all the sunny skies and warm weather that typically drives people outside, into the Adirondack woods and waters instead of inside a museum. Rainy days are better for visitation.

“Visitation was down a bit, and I guess we’re hearing that from some of the other museums in the park as well,” Kahn said. “Whether that has to do with the good weather or other factors, it’s hard to say, but it was a good year from our perspective in that we did some interesting experimentation.”

One of this year’s highlights was the museum’s new audio tour with 20 different voices from a variety of backgrounds. Museum staff moved the admission desk from the gift shop to the lobby of the Visitor Center. In its place, they placed the audio tour pickup/drop-off. The audio tour functions as an orientation to the Adirondack Museum.

“We have all these buildings — we have 22 buildings and 65,000 square feet of exhibit space — and one of the things we’ve learned over the years is that many first-time visitors are really surprised when they get here and they had no idea that this was going to be as big and comprehensive as it is,” Kahn said. “Traditionally we’ve not had an orientation experience, an introductory film or an introductory exhibit. Basically in the past we’ve given people a map and said, ‘Go to it.’ And so introducing the tour is an attempt to kind of bring the whole story together and focus the visit on some themes relating to change that’s taken place in the Adirondacks over time. We wanted visitors to hear from Adirondackers.”

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