Building new audiences is essential to the long-term sustainability of places like Fort Ticonderoga. This “audience building” includes all segments of our audience, from school-age visitors to the empty nesters that make up a significant part of our visitors each fall.
But attracting new audiences is only part of the road to success. Challenging ourselves to strive for excellence in everything we do and providing the best possible experience for each person ensures returning visitors and positive word of mouth.
In order to learn more about our daily visitors, Fort Ticonderoga has been participating in the “Visitors Count!” program through the American Association for State and Local History, a national organization for history-based museums. We first took part in this program in 2011, and many of the changes our visitors have seen over the past two seasons can be traced to feedback from that initial survey.
We are again participating in the “Visitors Count!” program in 2013 and look forward to important feedback that helps us aspire to greater things.
Over the past couple of years we’ve invested in increasing our reach with some key audiences: scouting groups, homeschool families, and school groups.
While Fort Ticonderoga has a long history of working with Boy Scout groups (I camped here at a Camporee back when I was a scout in the late 1970s), we’ve expanded our regular offerings for Boy Scouts. We launched “Planting the Tree of Liberty” in 2012, a program that immerses scouts in the daily lives of the Continental soldiers here at Ticonderoga in 1775. We also introduced our “Boy Scout Discovery Tour” in 2012, a self-guided exploration of the Fort and Museum using elements of the Scout Law to make connections with the Fort’s history.
New this fall is our Scouting Overnight Experience. This new venture is completely booked for the fall of 2013, with scout troops from throughout New York, New England, and New Jersey spending an immersive 15 hours at the Fort.
We haven’t forgotten the Girl Scouts! Early this month we host our first Girl Scout Day at Fort Ticonderoga, working with the staff from the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York. Girl Scouts of all ages, from Daisies on up, will spend a day exploring the Fort, the King’s Garden, and the Corn Maze. We look forward to working with the staff at Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York to expand our program offerings for Girl Scouts in the coming years.
Another growing audience includes homeschool families. We are hosting our second Homeschool Day at Fort Ticonderoga this month—a day of activities and programs related to the 18th-century history of Fort Ticonderoga. Homeschool students have been a regular part of North Country History Day, coordinated by Fort Ticonderoga’s Education Department each March.
Expanding audiences also means expanding the calendar window for programs. This fall, thanks to generous support from the Lake Placid Education Foundation, student groups can visit the Fort in October and November and again in March and April to take part in the new school program “The Artificer’s Apprentice.” In this new on-site program, students learn about trades and mechanical arts that helped support the armies at Fort Ticonderoga. Rotating through four stations, students learn about the local and global economy that supplied the leather, cloth, and other materials utilized by artificers. Students pick up needle and thread and work with leather and cloth alongside Fort Ticonderoga’s artificers as they work to clothe and outfit the soldiers at Ticonderoga.
Our outreach programs into school classrooms continue to grow as well. Thanks to funding from numerous organizations and businesses, schools from large segments of northern New York and western Vermont can bring a Continental soldier into the classroom for an inter-disciplinary program that unites geography, history, and mathematics while learning about the experiences of soldiers at Ticonderoga at the beginning of the Revolution.
The window for public programming is also “wide open” for the general public as well. Throughout the fall, winter, and spring months, there’s a lot happening at Fort Ticonderoga. Living history events include: “The First Call of Duty: Honoring the Veterans of 1775 and Beyond” November 9th; “Ticonderoga Guns for the Siege of Boston” December 7th; “Worried and Harassed by Parties of English and Indians: Carillon’s First Winter” January 11th; “A Day Longer in the Field: Provincial Soldiers Guard and Rebuild Fort Ticonderoga: February 15th & 16th; and “Ordered to Join the Northern Army in Canada” March 15th.
The Fort Fever Series resumes with Sunday programs January 12th, February 2nd, March 16th, and April 13th. The Fourth Annual Material Matters seminar returns January 25 & 26, and the Interpretation Department is offering a series of Clothing and Accoutrements workshops January 18th & 19th, February 8th & 9th, March 22nd & 23rd, and April 26th & 27th.
You can learn more about all these upcoming programs by visiting the calendar on our website. I look forward to seeing you at one or more of these programs.
Expanding our audience is our initial goal. Creating life-long partners supporting our mission ultimately ensures that Fort Ticonderoga will be here today, tomorrow, and for the future!
Director of Education