Changes are on the horizon for ‘The Fighting Lady’ at Patriots Point. The Patriots Point Development Authority Board has awarded a contract to develop a Museum Experience Master Plan for the USS YORKTOWN to MUSAIC Design Group. The project will revitalize visitors’ experiences aboard the YORKTOWN and will bring the ship to life at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next 3- to 4-years.
“We’re reinventing ourselves,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “The USS YORKTOWN will turn 70 next year; but the majority of our visitors are a much younger demographic. They expect a well-rounded experience that incorporates history with the latest technology and this process will allow us to achieve that over a three- to four-year period.”
“The Master Plan developed through this process will create a new museum experience on the YORKTOWN that will increase visitation and interest in Patriots Point,” Burdette continued. “Together with MUSAIC, we will develop a museum experience that will tell the story of the YORKTOWN and her crew, the U.S. Navy and naval aviation in a way that will excite visitors and keep them coming back. This in no way changes our mission as a museum or attraction. We are, however, finding many new ways to perform our mission that will make us THE attraction in South Carolina.”
The MUSAIC team – consisting of planners and designers – has experience in developing museums and cultural attractions of all types with interpretive planning, exhibition design, environmental graphic design, and project administration. Their work will create “seriously entertaining” experiences; instill relevance; develop an intelligent plan for the use of graphics, special effects, live programs, audiovisual media, and interactive technology; create a plan that is “do-able” in the short term and valuable to the long-term vision for Patriots Point; and to create a brand for the project to fully transform the USS YORKTOWN experience.
Director of Museum Services, David Clark, stated that the timing is right for Patriots Point to undertake this project. “The last major thematic upgrade to the exhibits was done between 1987-1995; ending with the 50th anniversary of World War II,” he said.
Patriots Point Development Authority (PPDA) Board Member and Chair of the Museum Services Committee, Susan Marlowe, served as one of five members of the selection committee. Other committee members included Wayne Adams, PPDA Board Vice Chair; Mac Burdette, Executive Director; David Clark, Director of Museum Services; and Melissa Buchanan, Curator of Collections.
The committee reviewed nine proposals and evaluated each on the background/history of the firm, ability of professional personnel and experience with similar projects; approach to the project; experience with tourism/education-related clients; and the cost of the project.
“We were impressed by MUSAIC Design Group’s experience and enthusiasm for this project,” Susan Marlowe stated. “The team has an outstanding track record and has worked on master interpretive plans for museums that have attracted national attention, including the Tampa Bay History Center, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Finger Lakes Museum and National Infantry Museum. We look forward to collaborating with their team of experts to modernize visitors’ experiences aboard the USS YORKTOWN.”
Status of Study
Phase 1 of the project – Interviews, Research and Benchmarking – is currently underway. As part of this phase, the MUSAIC team has interviewed some of the key people responsible for shaping the YORKTOWN’s future; people who have great experience and vision for the users’ experience, be they rental groups, scouts, veterans, or walk-in museum-goers. Benchmarking will involve looking at similar projects and citing some examples of “best practice models.”
“We’ll underpin design decisions by crafting experiential goals – what we expect visitors to learn, feel and do during and after their visit to the USS YORKTOWN,” said Matt Kirchman, MUSAIC Design Group Principal and Director of Interpretive Planning. “We’ll organize them into a hierarchy of core and supportive messages to be communicated through design. We couple these goals with those of the institution: things like use of the collections, integration of programs and live demonstrations, curriculum guidelines, and needs for outdoor and interior space. With a solid foundation of intellectual messages and physical design goals, we can explore organizations options by using diagrams and content maps.”
Phase 1 will be packaged as a formal document and submitted to the PPDA Board in mid-July. Phase 2 – Design Planning – will present a plan for what the YORKTOWN will offer in 3- to 5-years. It will orchestrate a singular, comprehensive vision for the YORKTOWN experience, including themes, key messages, signature experiences and visitor flow). Phase 3 – the Implementation Plan – will hone a phased plan for implementation, including a first year plan and subsequent moves. This plan is expected to be delivered in September.