For over 57 years, The Red Mill Museum Village has been an essential gathering place in New Jersey, bringing the richness of our local history to life for the community. With the swift and drastic changes brought by the coronavirus, everything – including life at the Red Mill – has changed significantly. But as Executive Director, the Honorable Paul Muir, points out, with some imagination, humor and resiliency, much can be accomplished.

Recognizing the critical role that museums play in bring humanity and beauty into our world, the staff at the Red Mill Museum continue to tap into their passion for history by using new platforms to deliver key programs.

For New Jersey residents who are all under a ‘shelter in place’ directive, it is critical to have something pleasant to serve as a distraction from the stress and anxiety that can become overwhelming.  As such, The Red Mill Museum has implemented a variety of programs that can be enjoyed from home, bringing joy to many. From a virtual tour providing access to museum exhibits viewing archives on line to online school tours, there is much to see.

To encourage and build a spirit of connectivity, the Red Mill reached out and kicked off a 10-day photo contest in which they displayed images of local buildings with varying degrees of detail. Participants were asked to identify the buildings (including the outhouses!!). The winner received a Red Mill tee shirt!  For the next photo contest they will show an historic photo and ask residents to re-create a similar scene of their own with a modern twist. And after that, perhaps a contest that includes displaying a unique photo (for example, perhaps of someone fishing) and instructions to view the photo and then complete the caption, “what if …”

Even when one of the organization’s greatest single day fund raisers, the Kentucky Derby Party, had to be canceled, no one threw in the towel. Having raised upwards of $32,000 in previous years, they knew it would be hard to replace. But by contacting donors personally, they were able to regroup.   The strategic message for donors is to remind supporters of the organization’s core mission – pivoting from a focus on sponsoring events to sponsoring the vision!

While guests and donors are the primary audiences for any museum, today’s pandemic demands a renewed focus on staff as well.

The strategic message for employees is that they are valued and appreciated. When the Red Mill Museum hosted its first Zoom meeting for staff, the outreach helped to alleviate some of their concern and worry. Transparent conversation and honest interaction is always critical to maintaining high morale, especially under such unusual circumstances.

The leaders at Red Mill Museum recognize that the key to managing through this pandemic will include nurturing a passion for the mission, engaging with the community, easing concerns of staff and other supporters, and remaining in touch with all constituents to stay relevant and c onnected!