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Is Your Museum Suffering From "Hidden Gem Syndrome"? Symptoms and Treatments

Your museum is so wonderful. You know. Your Board of Directors knows it. Yet, the public doesn't. How to tell if you museum is suffering from "hidden gem syndrome".


The following symptoms might be present:

  • you have a loyal members, but low public visitor numbers

  • you are located in an isolated/unknown place

  • you are overlooked in a huge city

  • your name doesn't properly describe your collection

  • your building is hard to find

  • the exterior of your facilities doesn't look like a museum

  • your collections are rare, beautiful and interesting


Most of time, informal observation and analytical data on visitors can help a Board of Directors or CEO properly diagnose "HGS".


The following are some treatment methods to consider:

  • reach out to local public schools to seek a partnership for programming.

  • tap into social media for marketing strategies. Create a hashtag campaign or contest to engage an audience.

  • engage your hyper-local audience. Is there a college near by? Businesses with employees who take a mid-day lunch break? Nannies with little ones? Figure out who your local audience is, and work backwards to figure out what they need and/or how you can get them to visit.

  • meet your audience where they are. If location is a hindrance, figure out a way to get your collection to your audience, and get your name out there in the process. Do you specialize in vintage baseball cards? Partner with the local minor league team to host a small traveling exhibit or event night. Does your collection contain modern art made from recycled bottles? Take select pieces to the conservation center or city downtown and put it on display.

  • call area museums and strike up a conversation. What do they do to reach the same audience? What's worked and what has flopped? They can be your best ally.

  • approach bloggers. They know how to spread the word. Get them on your team to share the wonders you have in your collection and why people should visit.

  • engage with your local public media station.

  • remind yourself daily that what you do is important and while "hidden gem syndrome" isn't easy, your museum and it's mission is worth the fight.

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