A Pleasant Surprise for Meetings and Events

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A Pleasant Surprise for Meetings and Events

By Blair Potter | Oct 8, 2018

Photo courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Mueseum

In the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the eponymous hero tries to recover the Cross of Coronado from a longtime adversary during a wild fight sequence at sea.

“That belongs in a museum!” Jones implores the villain, dubbed “Panama Hat.” “So do you!” Panama Hat retorts, before ordering his henchmen to throw Jones overboard. Not surprisingly, our hero prevails and the fictional artifact makes its way into a museum collection.

But nearly 30 years later, it seems Jones could have just as easily been referring to meetings and events. Around the world, many impressive museum facilities are available for groups, and the range in subject matter and types of events that they can host is seemingly infinite.

Let’s take a look at a few museums that are serious about group business. Maybe you’ll decide that your next event belongs in a museum. 

Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee

Amanda Ridout (MPI Wisconsin Chapter) says many planners are drawn to the Harley-Davidson Museum because it’s “quintessentially Milwaukee.”

“What always turns out to be a pleasant surprise to our planners is that the museum collection tells a fantastic story about the growth and tenacity of an American icon,” says Ridout, the museum’s sales manager. “Many of the stories told in the museum exhibit about the Harley-Davidson Motor Company are relatable and inspiring to our corporate clients.”

The museum is set among 20 acres in downtown Milwaukee and surrounded on three sides by the Menomonee River. Various indoor and outdoor spaces can host events ranging from intimate gatherings of 10 to 10,000-person, campus-wide bashes.

Ridout says the museum recently hosted a corporate group that was merging three different companies into one.

“They chose the Harley-Davidson Museum because we offer both a space to host their town hall meeting for 300 guests as well as a post-meeting networking environment with multiple team-building opportunities to enjoy,” she says. “This event chose The Garage space due to the indoor/outdoor feel it offers.”

The Garage is a 10,000-square-foot space with polished cement floors and open ductwork, featuring three large glass garage doors.

“The group utilized our picnic tables, bags games, oversized Connect Four and tumbling tower games,” Ridout says. “In addition, the guests were invited into the museum to experience Gallery Talks, which are offered in four locations throughout the museum for private events of more than 100 people (in place of guided tours). Each talk takes 15 to 20 minutes, and current topics include ‘H-D Beginnings,’ ‘H-D & the Military,’ ‘Board Track Racing’ and ‘Women Behind the Handlebars.’”

She says the museum recently renovated MOTOR Bar & Restaurant and added a craft beer bar called the Can Room.

“These renovated spaces made the restaurant more open and made it easier to host large gatherings,” Ridout says. “In addition, we added large glass garage doors to make the flow between the restaurant and our riverside patio seamless. The MOTOR patio has lounge seating, fire pits and a grassy lawn that is perfect for yard games.”

The museum’s new “Taming the Road in Style” exhibit takes visitors through the transformation of the bicycle to the Harley-Davidson motorcycles that we know today.

Country Music Fall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, Tenn.

“Our exhibits evoke emotion, such as childhood memories regarding your favorite song or artists your parents used to listen to, and create intrigue about the overall genre from its creation to present day,” says Nando Rodriguez, senior director of events and hospitality for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn. “The exhibits rotate regularly, combining elements of texture, visual and sound to allow guests to interact with the story and timeline.”

The museum offers 55,000 square feet of event space for everything from formal galas to live concerts to board meetings, and executes approximately 400 corporate events each year. One of the largest events in 2017 was for a Major League Soccer (MLS) announcement.

“Over 1,200 attendees cheered as the Tennessee governor, the Nashville mayor and the MLS president announced the coming of a professional soccer team and stadium to Nashville, set against the backdrop of an unparalleled skyline, viewed through 30-foot windows,” Rodriguez says. “The Southeastern Conference (SEC) and American Idol also hosted nationally televised events at the museum in 2017. The SEC did two days’ worth of coaches’ interviews for ESPN during the SEC tournament in our main lobby while open to the public so fans and museum guests were able to spectate. American Idol hosted their Nashville tryouts in the sixth floor Event Hall and Terrace with celebrity judges Luke Bryan, Katie Perry and Lionel Richie.”

The museum opened a 210,000-square-foot expansion in 2014, which brought its footprint to 350,000 square feet. It rotates six exhibits of original content per year and houses a collection of more than 2.5 million artifacts.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

“The Amon Carter is home to one of the most important collections of American art, including paintings, sculpture and works on paper,” says Kimberly Daniell, the museum’s head of marketing. “The collection spans early 19th-century expeditionary art to mid-20th-century modernism and includes masterworks by artists such as Stuart Davis, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and John Singer Sargent. The museum is one of the nation’s major repositories of American photography and holds the archives of luminaries such as Nell Dorr, Laura Gilpin and Eliot Porter. It is also home to nearly 400 works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, the two greatest artists of the American West.”

The Fort Worth, Texas, museum can host events ranging from a dinner for 40 or fewer guests to a reception for more than 300. An auditorium can accommodate 160 lecture-style. Daniell says one of the most beautiful views of downtown Fort Worth is available on the building’s front porch, and that its connection to the city and the American West is attractive to many groups.

“A corporate client once chose the museum for a reception and dinner for their internal clients because we were able to provide their desire to share a part of Fort Worth history through the museum’s iconic building as well as a tour of a collection begun by one of the iconic figures of Fort Worth, Amon G. Carter,” she says.

The museum is currently embarking on a plan that will reimagine the upstairs galleries and lounge. Areas of the museum will not be accessible for periods of time through summer 2019.  

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago

Marc Miller, vice president and chief development and marketing officer for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, says the museum’s strength is connecting groups with nature and science, “whether it’s identifying a Blue Morpho in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, taking a photo with the polar bear or sipping a cocktail surrounded by wild flowers and prairie grasses.”

“The museum spaces create a positive relationship between people and nature, which guests take with them long after the event concludes,” he says.

The museum is located just north of downtown Chicago, nestled between Lake Michigan and North Pond. Miller says this allows groups to enjoy “the best of both worlds” with a lush, natural prairie surrounding the museum and stunning city skyline views, whether the event is a seated dinner for 200 or strolling cocktails for 1,200. Event spaces that include floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive outdoor terraces enable the museum to host a wide range of groups.

“A major bank hosted their top wealth management clients with a butterfly-themed event featuring a guided wine tasting and seated dinner,” Miller says. “A large advertising firm hosted a summer cocktail reception. Guests mingled and dined under the stars on our outdoor terrace before gathering in the adjacent South Gallery for an awards ceremony, celebration and dancing.”



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Blair Potter

Blair Potter is director of media operations for MPI. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).