Hattiesburg Zoo gets 'Hacked': Museum Hack visits Hattiesburg

Hattiesburg Zoo gets 'Hacked': Museum Hack visits Hattiesburg
Introduction/presentation at Lake Terrace Convention Center/Photo credit: HCC
Introduction/presentation at Lake Terrace Convention Center/Photo credit: HCC

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.

Two team members from one of New York City's leading tourist attractions, Museum Hack, visited Hattiesburg March 7th-10th to present intensive audience engagement training seminars for the Hattiesburg Zoo and other Convention Commission attractions.

Museum Hack, which began only three years ago, offers public tours at four major museums in the US, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, the National Gallery of Art in DC, and the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

The Hattiesburg Zoo is Museum Hack's first experience consulting with a Zoo, considered a "living museum."
Every Museum Hack tour is unique and customized by the tour guide to highlight the pieces each guide is individually passionate about, not necessarily the most famous or most expensive.

The overall theme is to make museums fun, engaging, and relevant to the modern visitor. "The rapid rise of Museum Hack to a Top Ten Best Attraction in NYC in a mere three years has caused the entire tourism industry to notice," Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention/Tourism Commissions said.

"We are no exception, and after experiencing a Museum Hack tour, we determined that we could learn a lot about improving our Zoo experiences," Taylor said.

Dustin Growick, Audience Development and Team Lead for Science at Museum Hack, along with Ethan Angelica, Head of VIP Partnerships led the seminars in Hattiesburg.

"We had an awesome time working with the Convention Commission staff, and especially the folks at the Hattiesburg Zoo. It's inspiring to see such a passionate group of folks who clearly love their institution, and have incredible stories to share," said Angelica.  "We can't wait to hear about the new experiences, terrific stories and VIP sensibilities that will soon be coming to the Hattiesburg Zoo."

In preparation for the training, Dustin and Ethan toured the Zoo and the African American Military History Museum to get a better feel for the Commission attractions, as well as experiencing some local establishments to better understand the Hattiesburg community.

Wednesday's introductory seminar by Growick and Angelica gave an overview of the expectations of the millennial visitor in an age of connectedness and instant information.

The seminar also addressed the conflict of education vs. entertainment in museums, zoos and aquariums, and the robust competition for visitor attention.  Commission staff, as well as Hattiesburg area community partners, were in attendance and were able to  ask questions and gather insights about application of these concepts in their respective areas.

Andrea Saffle, Executive Director of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, joined Wednesday's seminar and commented, "I thought this seminar was fantastic.

They put forward some great out-of-the-box ideas for making any institution or local attraction more  appealing to new audiences.  It got me thinking about how we could apply that same concept to Downtown."

On Thursday, twenty Commission staff members, largely from the Zoo, participated in an intensive Audience Engagement Workshop, where they learned the elements of Museum Hack tours and how to customize those elements for Commission attractions.

Taylor says that he is looking forward to showcasing these new experiences at special events, including the upcoming Birthday Bash event at the Hattiesburg Zoo on April 16th.

"After completing the training program with Museum Hack trainers, Dustin and Ethan, we are excited to implement their unique approach to tours, educational programs and guest interactions," Taylor said.

For more information on Museum Hack, click here.