Frisco Historic Park & Museum looks to keep momentum with new 5-year plan after record year
The Frisco Historic Park & Museum is coming off a banner year, with attendance numbers reaching new heights and more people than ever choosing to engage with the town and county’s fascinating history. But as visitors rise, the museum is looking to the future to determine how best to keep the park fresh and vibrant for new guests.
In 2017 the museum set a new record with nearly 36,000 visitors, a noteworthy 15 percent increase from 2016. This year, the museum has a chance to eclipse 40,000 guests for the first time, in part because of widely successful programs like Night at the Museum and the lecture series that continue to pull strong attendance. But the growth also speaks to a larger movement in museums in recent years of ditching the more traditional archetype for interactive and diverse programming.
“Heritage tourism in general has grown across the state over the years,” said Simone Belz, Frisco Historic Park & Museum manager. “There is a trend for people to revisit historic places and landmarks. People are really starting to understand the value of those experiences, but museum have also changed. They’re not the dull, dusty places with a guy behind a curtain anymore. They’re immersive, interactive, technological experiences that provide education on a multi-user level. People learn in different ways.”
Frisco’s museum is living proof of the evolution of small, heritage museums throughout the state. Over the last few years the museum has led an effort to become more dynamic, offering interactive touchscreen exhibits, audio tours through the historic buildings and new programs to entice a broader range of guests. But the work is just getting started. Earlier this month the Frisco Town Council approved the Historic Park & Museum’s new five-year strategic plan, outlining goals for the organization’s development in the near future.
Perhaps the most important goal outlined in the document is the development of a cohesive facility and land use plan. With the recent growth in attendance, the museum’s infrastructure is already being challenged to meet demand. The plan calls for a new assessment team to conduct financial analysis of future capital expenditures, and to evaluate the long-term facility needs of the area. This will include the addition of restrooms (there’s currently only one), and it will take a look at the potential for creating additional museum operating spaces, or even the addition of up to two new historic buildings on the site.
“The buildings in place will all stay,” said Belz. “But what can be added, changed or modified? We’re in need of new infrastructure like public restrooms, parking and work space. But more specifically, we need new facilities for collections storage. We have a lot of artifacts, but we don’t have high quality storage for those items. They should be in a temperature controlled, well-lit space. We try to keep them as clean as possible, but things are stored haphazardly inside the buildings we have now.”
The second goal is simply to uphold museum best practices, largely identified by the American Alliance of Museums. While the museum does this already, there are several improvements listed in the plan such as the expansion of preventative security measures, the continued offering of professional development opportunities for employees and more. Most notably, the museum is also working to provide public access to their digital archives.
The museum recently completed digitizing its entire collection, scanning their photographs and photographing their archives. The next step, which the museum intends to implement in the near future, is making those digital archives accessible for public consumption. Belz said the plan is to merge the archive with the Dr. Sandra F. Mather Archives managed by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. The archive would likely later be added to other platforms like the town’s website.
“The town owns the museum and its collections, but it’s the history of the community and people need to have access to these things,” said Belz.
The document then moves into the preservation of Frisco’s heritage and culture through the preservation and restoration of historic artifacts and buildings. The goal is to continue to maintain a historic property inventory throughout the town — according to Belz, there are currently about 30 historical buildings in the Frisco area outside the park — and to incentivize private property owners to lead preservation projects within the community.
Additionally, the Frisco Town Council just passed a resolution to adopt a preservation fund. Currently the museum operates on money from the town’s general fund with an operating budget of about $300,000 annually. The new fund will allow private or corporate donors to put their money directly into the preservation fund to help the museum maintain their buildings and collections.
The final goal of the plan is to continue to provide the community with progressive and diverse museum experiences through the promotion of the museum, and the development of new programs and exhibits. Belz said that the museum is currently in the process of creating pilot programs to see what types of offerings visitors are most interested in.
The expansion of tour offerings is also on the horizon. Belz said the museum is currently considering a historical biking tour from Copper to Frisco, as well as a skiing history tour in collaboration with Frisco. Additionally, plans are already in the works for the expansion of the museum’s nature diorama, a exhibit at the Frisco Nordic Center and more.
“The strategic plan itself is one of the most exciting and dynamic projects we’ll jump into,” said Belz. “I think the strategies are supporting specific goals, and that it’s really a feasible plan that we can carry out as museum and town staff over the next five years. I’m really excited and proud to start looking at what the future looks like here at the museum.”
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