Museums are an amazing place to learn about history and people, while providing a safe space to explore. Big museums have some advantages, like more space. Small, local museums are an overlooked treasure-trove. Some of my favorite parts of visiting a museum are encompassed in small museums.
Small museums get their artifacts, stories, and history from local families. Many generations have been involved with our museum and shared their family history. It helps us paint the picture of what life was like for the first lifesavers that lived and worked here.
The intimate atmosphere of a small museum also allows guests to get a personal experience with museum staff and volunteers. Often times it is these small interactions, like answering a question or explaining how an artifact fell into our hands, that create a delightful and memorable experience for a visitor.
Small museums matter because they document local history and promote community activism. Locals often get involved with preserving historical buildings that become small museums, establishing a personal relationship between the community and the museum. At our museum, the daughter of a lifesaver assisted with the grassroots effort to save our building and preserve local surf and rescue history. Her activism inspired other community members to engage with our museum and preserve other sites.
The best part of a small museum is the community. People come in whose uncles, grandfathers, or maybe even themselves have worked in the surf and rescue field. They want to share their experiences, and we give them a place to do that.