Know thy audience and write or speak directly to them. Perhaps Twain said that, or was it Thoreau? Either way, we all know it to be true. My challenge each month is just exactly who is my audience in this monthly piece? Given the great diversity of our membership and the scope of the Museum itself, one never quite knows. Perhaps in June it would be wooden boat enthusiasts, and in September it might be our members who are planning their fall pilgrimage to Mystic Seaport. Each month it may be staff, educators, volunteers, Charles W. Morgan admirers, or researchers; or perhaps it might be loyal friends and donors looking to find out what the most recent accomplishments have been. Just take a look, for example, at the stories this month: a new Mystic Seaport for Educators website, a new Lantern Light Tours, a call for “38th Voyagers” to help us tell the Morgan’s story next year, the publication of a new book, our executive president Susan Funk elected president of the board of the New England Museum Association, Williams-Mystic’s Jim Carlton honored by the California Academy of Sciences, a great member discount at the Museum Store, and so on… something for virtually everyone.
However, for the sake of argument for December, I’m going to assume that my audience is families. While Mystic Seaport is a paradise for the entire family (and dogs too) for every season, there is magic to our holiday season on the grounds at the Museum, especially after some snow. In addition to the regular opportunities for families, December features the Lantern Light Tours, the Community Carol Sing, and Holiday Magic, three wonderful ways to engage in inter-generational holiday activities that bring additional meaning and spirit to the season. When overwhelmed by Black Fridays, post-holiday returns, and party after party, our grounds provide a valuable respite from that chaos and stress. New traditions begin here, and for many the Museum becomes the source for holiday authenticity. Further, I know from direct testimony that the Lantern Light Tours can change a young person’s life, feeling actually transported back in time by virtue of the storyteller’s yarn and the village backdrop.
This time of year also provides a wonderful unpublished reality when visiting the Museum: uninterrupted time with our interpreters and staff. All too often in the high season, it’s hard for families to linger with a staff person in order to delve into more detail at the cooperage, on the L.A. Dunton, in the Buckingham-Hall kitchen, or in the Treasurers of the Collections exhibition. Now is the perfect chance to ask the questions that warrant the kind of detailed response our staff can provide, or to watch the shipsmith craft an entire oarlock for a Morgan whaleboat. The pace slows and the meaning grows. Perhaps this is the Museum’s greatest gift of the season when everything else is speeding by at such an incredible rate.
But you be the judge. Make sure that a Mystic Seaport visit is part of your holiday plans, and then let us know how it went for you! And while I’m thinking of it, a family membership, a Joseph Conrad Sailing Camp week, or a voyage on Brilliant all make for great gifts.
See you at the Carol Sing and Lantern Light Tour on the 22nd along with my extended family of 12!