If Columbia County decides to pursue a museum, it first needs an identity and a story to tell to be self-sustaining, a state tourism official told members of a county museum advisory committee Tuesday.
Bruce Green, a tourism product development manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told members of the Columbia County History Museum Committee that community museums must forge an identity and make visitors sell the experience to others to be successful.
Tourism is the state's second largest industry behind agriculture, Green said. Museums can be a self-sustaining enterprise and draw people to hotels and restaurants if properly executed.
In Georgia, cultural heritage tourism is growing faster than any other form of tourism, Green said. Whether it tells the story of its agricultural history, natural history, art, culture or its ties to the military through Fort Gordon, Columbia County needs to find its niche, he said.
"They want to be where it happened," he said of heritage tourists.
Green said the committee should take stock of its cultural assets, determine its audience and try to make the museum relevant to younger generations.
Museum planners must plan revenue sources from grants to build and maintain the museum and even the products to sell in a gift shop, which can be profitable. Green said exhibits should change to keep the museum fresh and marketing must be a priority.
Vicki Harmon, the director of the county's visitors center, said the county is getting to the point where "we need to tell our story."
She said the committee is ready to tell the history of the community before it is lost.
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