Engaging visitors in historic buildings : Dallas Heritage Village's revitalization project in the Citizen's Bank building.
Although most museums have transformed from dim, dusty, quiet places of private intellectual pursuits into vibrant, educational institutions, many historic homes and buildings have struggled to make the leap into the hands-on learning models so many museums today put into practice. This project concentrates on the revitalization project being conducted at Dallas Heritage Village in Dallas, Texas, and how the staff is endeavoring to bring learning in historic homes and buildings to life through hands-on and more engaging educational approaches. A brief literature review examines the history of education in museums with an emphasis on newer approaches to learning, especially in historic homes and buildings. The goal of the project was to determine what types of educational activities would be successful in the Citizen's Bank building as a part of Dallas Heritage Village's revitalization project. This Master's project utilized Dallas Heritage Village staff interviews, on-site observations and surveys, and visitor feedback in order to determine the engagement level, likeability, and learning potential of the proposed hands-on activities. Visitor groups examined for this project consisted of drop-in family groups and scheduled school groups, in both directed and free-choice learning situations. Feedback and data was gathered and used for activity modifications before a second round of surveys and observations was conducted. The results of the project indicate an increase in engaging visitors with the use of simple educational activities that can be used by Dallas Heritage Village as they continue their revitalization project. The process and outcomes may also be useful for other organizations with similar needs or buildings, as it demonstrates useful methods of data gathering and provides insight into interpretation options available for historic homes and buildings.