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home : features : features November 25, 2015

4/30/2014 8:02:00 AM
Former museum director advises D-H Historical Society
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Jan MacKell Collins takes a break from her presentation on how to make historical museums profitable outside the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Museum on April 9.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Jan MacKell Collins takes a break from her presentation on how to make historical museums profitable outside the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Museum on April 9.
Sue Tone

Throw a party, host a cemetery walk, open a gift shop. These are all ideas on how to run a profitable museum offered by former museum director Jan MacKell Collins at the April 9 Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society meeting.

Collins, former director of the Cripple Creek District Museum in Cripple Creek, Colo., for six years, gave a presentation, "Making Small Museums Work," to more than 40 members in the lower level of the D-H Historical Museum on Main Street, Humboldt.

"For the short amount of time you've been in existence, you're awesome," Collins began.

She recommended museum organizers research other museums and compare their brochures, websites and admission fees. Currently, the D-H museum does not charge admission, but accepts donations.

All museums can benefit from making their presence known in the community, Collins said, by participating in parades, setting up booths at events, and attending preservation conferences. Establishing a gift shop can bring in 50 percent of a museum's profits.

"If there's any reason for a party, we threw a party," she said about the Colorado museum. "The museum can be a starting place or stopping place for events. Provide on-site workshops, walking tours, cemetery tours, book signing events."

The D-H museum already has an extensive rack of brochures for its walking tours based on different subjects: Agua Fria River, Routes of the Black Canyon, Iron King Mine, Old Artifacts, and more dealing with historic buildings, ranching and mining.

Collins, a Mayer resident, recommended working with and supporting local historical organizations such as the Prescott Regulators and the Victorian Society. Offer them free admission if they come in costume, she said. Cripple Creek had three museums, and rather than compete against each other, they formed a coalition.

"You can never have too many museums," Collins said.

She recommended charging $3 for admission, and offering paid and honorary museum membership dues to help raise money. To gain more recognition, the museum could participate in Free Museum Day in September through the Smithsonian Museum.

Finally, Collins suggested the museum draw up a five-year strategic plan and review it annually. A strong board and history-interested volunteers are vital, she added. And obtaining oral histories is important.

"Remember that history happens every minute, every day."

Collins authored several books on the Southwest, including The Hash Knife Around Holbrook; Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado, 1860-1930; Cripple Creek District: Last of Colorado's Gold Blooms; and Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains. She is researching the Prescott area for a book on Arizona prostitution.

For more information, visit or call 928-632-7491. The museum is at 12925 E. Main Street, Humboldt.

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