BRISTOL — The Elkhart County Historical Museum is a portal to the past with its eyes on the future.
Matthew Schuld, museum manager, wants the museum to become an attraction that people can visit not once, not twice but many times to explore and discover something new every time. But to do that, Schuld said he wants to gather feedback from the public to find out what kinds of exhibits they are interested in and what parts of history they want to learn about. The museum will be open late on Feb. 14 to do just that. For an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m., the public will be able to submit suggestions to the museum to help shape future programs and exhibits. The museum is located at 304 W. Vistula St. in downtown Bristol.
The museum’s exhibits have been fairly static, Schuld said.
“Some people come here and say, ‘This exhibit hasn’t changed since I came here with my school group,’” he said. “But over the last five years, the parks department, the historical society and our staff here have really worked hard to start to change that.”
The upcoming open house is a continuation of a 2009 study of the museum, Schuld noted.
“It was a good preliminary feedback session to really understand who our current audience is,” he said. “One of the things we learned was about the demographics of our visitors, like ages that we were hitting, and the people who we were missing is another important element.”
Through the study, museum staff found out that many of their visitors were older, retired adults and young children. Schuld said he noticed that the museum needed to have more programs and activities that attract families while still keeping the interests of their other visitors in mind.
Though public input is anonymous, visitors will be able to read suggestions from other people. Visitors who contribute feedback will be entered for a chance to win Valentine’s Day themed prizes including gift certificates for Danny K’s Smokehouse and Grill in Bristol, the Elkhart Civic Theatre and a private tour and tasting at Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard.