East Tennessee Fossil Museum: the missing links

September 6, 2007

By this account, the museum with the most unwieldy name in Tennessee–East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum–had a boffo opening. Some 5,000 people strolled through the new facility over the four-day weekend.

Time will tell, however, how many visitors the Museum can pull. It has several things going for it–being just a few miles off I-81 is the biggest factor–but the rural location offsets that advantage.

One low-cost way the Museum could attract visitors and help sister museums is to work the web. Visitors to the Museum website can get directions, but there is nothing on the site linking to other attractions in the area, places to eat, or places to stay. More and more people plan trips by using the web–especially the well educated, upscale families for whom this Museum would be a natural.

Birds of a feather flock together, and this Museum should especially seek to have an on-line connection to places such as Knoxville’s McClung Museum, the other big natural history museum in East Tennessee.  As anyone who has had children can testify, kids get obsessed about things such as fossils, and will demand to see any and every collection on a trip.  Museums can not only guide visitors from one institution to another, they can give people reduced admissions that will increase visitation, increase sales in museum shops, and–best of all–educate everyone who steps in the door.