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Voices: Museum of Natural History exhibits out-of-box thinking

Katie Tabeling

At a time when the doors of cultural centers are shuttered, Delaware Museum of Natural History Executive Director Halsey Spruance advises thinking outside the box to reach patrons.

Halsey Spruance | Photo c/o Delaware Museum of Natural History

“It’s always that last bullet in the job description: ‘other duties as needed.’ That encompasses a lot these days,” he said. “You have to think about what you can do without barriers in a digital age.”

After securing a Paycheck Protection Program loan from M&T Bank, DMNH brought back its staff and started to reimagine cultural experiences online.

The museum had a strong social media presence for marketing, but now it’s been revamped for programing like story time and interviews with scientists.

Now the DMNH will take it a step further with online paid programming. Starting on Fridays, “Sew Classy Princess Parties” will bring children and fairytale characters together on a Zoom call.

“It’s a balance of finding what our audience would be willing to pay and what programming can work,” Spruance said. “It’s also about our close relationships, as we’re working with Country House [retirement community] on programming as well.”

Moving forward, Spruance said the lesson he’s taking away from working in the new normal is to be nimble in services offered. For example, staff in the gift store are now working to bring exhibits online.

That lesson also extends to DMHN’s $9.8 million capital campaign. While half of the funding needed for the museum’s renovations has been raised, all additional fundraising has ground to a halt. But Spruance said that has also helped his team prepare for remote opportunities while out of the building.

“This is like a rehearsal for when we’ll be closed down for renovations,” he said. “In the end, the goal is still the same: to provide a cultural and naturist experience for Delawareans. It just looks a little different for now.”

-Katie Tabeling


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