Since re-opening in September 2019 the Joseph Brant Museum saw a jump in visitors and increased participation in programs and special events.
“Attendance numbers have been up substantially since we reopened last September,” says Kimberly Watson, Director of Museums in Burlington, adding that the expanded museum attracted as many visitors in its first three months as it would normally draw in an entire year.
“Our first exhibit from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brought a lot of people in from Toronto, Mississauga and Niagara. It’s bringing people to Burlington, and after they look at the museum they’re eating at the restaurants, having a look around downtown – it was definitely having an impact.”
Kimberly says she was also seeing more families, more schoolchildren and more repeat visitors, something that was rare in the past.
“On our Family Day this year, we had 650 people go through in a four-hour span. We weren’t sure what to expect, but that exceeded our expectations by far. People tell us it’s a very welcoming space.
The ability of the new facility to bring in traveling exhibits – the second exhibit was Giants, Dragons & Unicorns from the American Museum of Natural History in New York – proved successful in enticing people to come back again and again.
“You can come in, see the special exhibit, and then wander around our other exhibits that tell the story of Burlington. We encourage that – we let our visitors know when the current special exhibit will be closing, and talk about what is coming next.”
Kimberly says exhibits are selected in an effort to attract people who might never have thought of coming to the museum before, touching on a variety of topics like pop culture, mythology, cultural ex-change and sports.
An exhibit planned for this summer, for instance, is to feature exhibits on the various parishes in the Barbados and what makes them unique. In a partnership between the Government of Barbados and the City of Burlington, the city had been planning a festival that would include exhibits and performances at the Art Gallery of Burlington, in Spencer Smith Park and on the Joseph Brant Museum roof-top.
It is uncertain during the current COVID-19 crisis when the exhibit and festival will happen.
“During that festival, we were also planning to have food trucks, demonstrations and live steel-drum band performances. These kinds of events are very exciting – something made possible through the expansion of the Joseph Brant Museum.”
Kimberly adds the approach at the newly expanded museum is vastly different than in the past. “The old idea of museums where you didn’t touch anything – we’re getting away from that. The evolution of technology, our interactive special exhibits, our programming makes this a place where you don’t just see and read about things behind glass … you can experience it.”