Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Towe Auto Museum

Although the Towe Museum is fast becoming one of my favorite places to take people to in the Sacramento area, there are some real problems that need to be addressed before they can be considered a first class museum, in my thinking. With a new Executive Director on board they are in the process of changing in several ways including changing their name to be consistent with their mission. The new name is the California Automobile Museum. That gives them pretty big hubcaps to fill.

  • Some positives: there are dozens of cars, all of them well kept at least by appearance. The Museum is also clean. Although there was construction going on it was fenced off well. There were lots of signs making a self-guided tour almost feasible. The staff were all friendly and helpful. The gift shop was stocked with a good variety of merchandis and handy to both the entrance and the exit.
  • Some negatives: We were told when buying our tickets that we should just start somewhere looking and a man with a blue vest would be by to help us shortly. It was a half hour before one man showed up, told us a story about the car we were currently looking at, then disappeared telling us over his shoulder that we should look for the men in blue vests. I wondered if we had to wait for the next midnight to get a visitation from the spirit in a blue vest. Luckily Jim came alone within 5 minutes and stayed with us for the whole tour. In fact, he acted like we were his new best friends and he really didn't want us to go.
Suggestions: Have a guide waiting for the next visitor or visiting group. He/she can be doing something else while waiting but he/she should be available and standing by the group within a minute of their buying their tickets. He/she should ask the following questions:
  • Have you been here before?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What have you already seen here?
  • Is there something you'd particularly like to see?
The answers to those questions should allow the docent to structure a tour that is timely and meaningful to the visitors and they will feel like they have had a personal tour. Obviously, the larger the group, the less this can be done. But if a large group can be split up, there will be some data to base the split on.

In these times of economic strain and engineering challenges, cars should have original sales price, price in today's dollars, actual MPG, and cost per mile in today's dollars and gas prices.

I have heard a demo of the organ there but the guests with me had not. A recorded demo would have been impressive. Also a list of organizations and events that have used the museum would probably be impressive.

I don't want to end on a negative so I'll repeat my beginning statement: The Towe Museum is fast becoming one of my favorite places to take people to the Sacramento area. Go there. You'll enjoy it.

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