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Monroe Museum hopes to reach new visitors

Revenue and visitations dropped by 6 percent last year at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in downtown Fredericksburg.

The drop appears to be consistent with the decrease of visitors at other attractions in the city during 2012, according to Scott Harris, director of the museum.

Harris said the downturn is an anomaly and that there had been no drop in revenue before last year.

Revenue dropped from $10,892 in 2011 to $10,221 in 2012. Harris called the drop “modest.”

Revenue in 2011 was actually 10 percent above the previous year’s yield, Harris said.

Harris said the museum will try to reach new potential visitors and expand its gift shop offerings.

One group he would like to reach out to is home-schoolers, who were a significant source of revenue at New Market Battlefield, where he previously worked.

He said merchandise geared toward children will be added to the gift shop and pushed during their public events. The gift shop now primarily offers books.

He also hopes that an upcoming series on first ladies, to air on

C-SPAN in March, will drum up business for the museum, which is owned by the University of Mary Washington.

Harris said he hopes to see 10 to 15 percent growth in museum revenue over the next few years.

In the summer, their busiest season, about 25 to 30 people visit the museum per day.

During the winter, they average about 5 to 10 visitors per day.

However, the museum’s public events have enjoyed large crowds, according to Harris.

The Annual Fredericksburg Welsh Festival in September had one of its largest crowds in 2012. About 1,000 people attended, and many toured the museum, Harris said.

Special events including lectures and celebrations are an area he wants to focus on more.

Karen Hedelt, Fredericksburg’s director of economic development and tourism, called tourism in the city “an even gain” over the past few years and said that last year had improved slightly.

She said museums like the James Monroe Museum lose visitors because the average tourists visiting Fredericksburg are broadening their experience. Large special events are the biggest crowd drawers, she said.

However, the city is very much still focused on the “heritage tourist” because of its history.

“I think the leadership [at the museum] is responding well to these challenges,” Hedelt said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976



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