Remember a few months ago when I posted this?
Maybe there’s a way to incorporate “teachable moments” into visitors’ gift shop browsing. Some chain bookstores have staff recommendation sections where the displays include a brief message from employees about why particular books appealed to them. Maybe museum shops should set aside some shelf space where curators and staff historians could highlight especially good works in their fields, complete with blurbs about why each title appeals to them. Besides encouraging people to pick up solid works, it would have the added benefit of putting a human face on the staff, allowing them to engage visitors on a personal level without even setting foot outside their offices.
Well, we’re going to give it a try at the ALLM, at the suggestion of our program coordinator, Natalie Sweet. We’ve selected a few of our favorite books from the gift shop and added personalized blurbs to the shelf display. Maybe it’ll prompt visitors to give these titles an extra look and foster their own independent historical studies.
Natalie picked Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln. It was the first Lincoln book she read as a kid. Her note to visitors explains why it made an impression on her.
Steven Wilson, our curator, recommended The Wilderness Road. It’s an engaging history of the museum’s neck of the woods by a former LMU president, first published in 1947.
And I decided to recommend Battle Cry of Freedom, still my favorite one-volume history of the Civil War. We want visitors to leave hungry for more information about Lincoln’s era, and I think it’s as good a place to start as any.
If this little experiment works out, we might devote more shelf space to staff recommendations, and maybe get suggestions from the Civil War historians on the faculty.