Saturday, August 02, 2008

Marketing Lizzie

I've already stated in a previous post that I'm opposed to the idea of a Lizzie Borden museum being located in Salem and really anywhere outside of our area. My view is simple, the history happened here and so this should be the place where people come to experience it. My view on this is pretty much set in stone. However a blog post over at Fall River Community brings up an excellent point, that Fall River fails to market itself very well. It's a great point, and I urge you to read the post.

So, on the eve of the 116th anniversary of the Borden murders, the question is how do we market Lizzie?

The problem is, FRC is right, we do a horrible job of marketing. In the case of Lizzie Borden so much could be done with little investment and the payoff could be significant. To start with let's focus on August!

Every August 4th all the local papers run some blurb about the Borden murders. It's not uncommon for the Borden case to get some national attention once the anniversary roles around. First, let's move Fall River Celebrates America to mid-July or late August so we're not clashing events. Now let's promote the re-enactments that typically take place at the Borden B&B. Let's dust off the trolleys that the Mayor has been talking about and have tours of all the relevant Borden sites. This would include the Borden House, and a drive to Oak Grove, and Maplecroft, the former Congregational Church, maybe the Highland homes of Lizzie's friends and relatives. The Abby Grill could host breakfasts of johnny cakes and bananas . People could take walking tours of Andrew Borden's morning routine and follow his final footsteps.

A 'temporary' museum could be set up, perhaps in a downtown location. Large photos of the main characters, biographies, maps of the city and more would be on display. Lectures could be held on a variety of topics, from in depth looks at the lives of the people involved, discussions of the various theories, the science of the case and more. A mock trial would certainly be a feature.

This shouldn't be gimmicky or hokey, it should simply be a few days or a week were Fall River draws back the curtains and let's the world in to examine a mystery that has fascinated people for over a hundred years.

Of course there are the natural tie ins. The Fall River Historical Society & the homeowners in the Highlands that might want to offer a tour of their homes. Then there's the not-so natural tie ins. This is the opportunity to promote Battleship Cove, Almac's Diner, Fall River's textile history, festivals and all the other noteworthy stuff about our city. This is the time to plant the seeds for a return trip. This could all be put together with donations from area businesses. It just needs to be well thought out and well executed.

Every August people's interest in a century-old murder is renewed and their curiosity piqued. We've been looking for a way to get people to come to Fall River, let's give Lizzie a whack at it!


FRC said...

Well, my post was written after listening to Keri's show and some of her criticism of the Historical Society and the Bristol County Visitors Bureau, so I guess she can take some credit for the flurry of blog activity on the poor marketing in FR.

All the ideas in your post are excellent. The annual anniversary of the murders is a starting point to focus on Lizzie Borden and attract people to the city. Trolley ride from the B&B to Oak Grove, Historical Society, Maplecroft, Abby Grill - excellent!

I mean, 1 full week dedicated to Lizzie.

We have a City Council Committee on Economic Development and Tourism. Let's put them to work and get them started for next year.

Anonymous said...

These are all excellent suggestions for making more of the history of the city. Every year the Victorian House tour at Christmas is fantastic, but last year the snow and bad weather was abyssmal on the day and only a few brave souls ventured out (I was one of those). Many cities which boast superb architecture, gardens, etc. have a fair weather event such as Newport's Secret Garden Tour to boost positive city image, marketing, local participation, tourist interest, etc.
Some of us have suggested history tours of the Lizzie Borden sites within the city for years- some of us even give these privately for weekend guests at the B&B. Guests are also given a map of these places to visit on their own. There is much to be celebrated and showcased within the city of Fall River. I am all for a tour featuring mill architecture, historic waterfront/Fall River Line site tours and lectures, gardens and Victorian Painted Ladies, historic walking tours of Oak Grove Cemetery with accompanying commentary on notables there (ideal for October). Maybe Fall River Little Theatre could dust off one of many Lizzie plays and run with it in August. Ditto BCC theatre department! Do it in summer when school is out, tourists are around and advertise state-wide. Packaging is everything- and the internet is where most people go to be persuaded while planning leisure time weekend and summer activities. FR municpal sites could use a little glam and more photos. If you only go looking for the negative elements in any city, you will surely find it.

Faye Musselman said...

Lefty, virtually everything you and “anonymous” suggested had been planned for a Lizzie Borden Conference (co-chaired by Shelley Dziedzic and myself) which was to have been held THIS YEAR, including speaker presentations at BCC -

On my visit in April of 2007, Shelley and I even got the support of Chief John Souza and his willingness to participate -
Venues were set, speakers lined up, attendee reservations and deposits received, a gala banquet scheduled in the Main Hall of Abbey Grill, a forensic exhibit, art exhibit, walking tours through Oak Grove and Main Street, etc. All of it. But planning came to an abrupt end when the Fall River Hysterical (whoops) Historical Society who, not having committed to anything in terms of sponsorship or participation, wanted to censor content on the Conference information forum - - before they would present proposed participation to their Board. This stunning turn of events happened AFTER the FRHS had initially indicated they would give support in a variety of ways, including a speakers reception, and would tie in the publication of Parallel Lives with the August 2008 event. Indeed, it was because of that previously stated support that Shelley and I decided to go forward with the event planning in the first place. However, I refused to be censored and bowed out from any further planning and wished Shelley all the best going forward. To my amazement she was not able to get anyone else to step in to partner with her in planning this 4 day event and she decided to cancel the event altogether. So you see, all that is mentioned in those posts was in the works and would have been a reality this year.

But why do we always think of marketing Lizzie with expanded events on the anniversary day? I suggest a better way to market Lizzie AND FALL RIVER is for the City and several other entities involving tourism, economic development, etc. come together with a strategic plan that involves converting one of the old mills into a museum that celebrates Fall River’s past and present. I would envision a whole floor devoted to the mills, mill equipment and machinery; another floor devoted to the founding families; another to Lizzie Borden; another to the immigrant labor and ethnic diversity; the Battle of Fall River, etc. Something permanent, operating year long, and sufficiently revenue producing to off-set operating costs.

Tourists who go to the FRHS find very little visually to inform or educate them to the mills or mill families, the contributions of those from the Azores, Ireland, or the French Canadians. Visually, they are swept away with how the upper crust lived. They might as well as call it The Fall River Hill People Society because it’s all about cotillion gowns, Tiffany lamps, the greater Bordens, Braytons, Durfees and Remingtons. The upper crust didn’t make Fall River. For those that did, their descendents populate the city from one end to the other – above the Hill and below the Hill. And many are an untapped resource for rich remembrances (oral histories) that can be utilized within a wonderfully vibrant and exceptional Fall River History Museum.

Faye Musselman

FRC said...

Just out of curiosity, what was the content that the Historical Society wanted to censor?

Lefty said...


I certainly wouldn't claim that my ideas were exclusive. Lots of people have made the same or similar suggestions in the past.

I applaud your efforts, and Shelley's, in trying to put together a Lizzie Borden conference. It really just emphasizes my point all the more. Neither you or Shelley is from Fall River, and this really needs to be something backed by the city of Fall River, the businesses of Fall River, and the people of Fall River. I think a Borden Week, Borden-fest, Lizz-apalooza or whatever needs to be billed and organized as a major event.

I like your idea of a mill-seum, to be honest I've had similar thoughts myself. Fall River has a rich and interesting history that really just isn't being done justice by the Fall River Historical Society. However I don't think there is enough interest in the Spindle City to make such a venture viable, yet.

There are tons of cities in our area with textile histories, Revolutionary War histories, notable families, and immigrant stories. What makes Fall River stand out?


The point of my post is that Fall River could very easily market the fascination that people have in the Borden case with very little investment. An August event takes advantage of the time when that interest in piqued. If done right people might come back year after year, and from all parts of the world. That's something I don't see happening with a permanent museum.

An August event would generate traffic, buzz, interest and excitement in the Spindle City, perhaps enough where people would be interested in learning about the rest of Fall River's history.

Faye Musselman said...

frc: email me and I'll tell you. I don't want to clutter this site about it. Suffice to say the "content" and the FRHS reaction only goes to solidify their own very proprietary and elitist POV regarding Lizzie.

Lefty: Oh yes, I agree the museum idea is not at all original and has been talked about for years. My suggestion of a FR History Museum that incorporate all elements of its rich history is that it would be easier to get financial backing, grants, individual contributions, etc. is the concept is expanded beyond Lizzie. Many cities have history museums that attract repeat visitors because they are well done, have changing as well as permanent exhibits, and marketed successfully.

The purpose of getting the FRHS behind the idea of a Lizzie Conference was to show community support - as would have been posted on the now defunct website. Because yes, who the hell are Shelley and Faye anyway? BCC, the FRPD, FR Little Theater, and the Culinary Institute were already on board. The City of Fall River had not yet been approached but I think if Shelley had talked with them they might have lent support as well as access to their resources.

As to Lizzie and August 4th. Well, its been high profile for 116 years and I believe will continue to me. The trick is, as we've been talking about, is how to capitalize and market that to boost tourism to FR. I just think a well done, first class Fall River History Museum would have longer legs, so to speak. :)

Shelley Dziedzic said...

(I will make sure to check off the right I.D.catagory this time, Lefty- .)

I think it speaks well for the city when non-residents are supportive and enthusiastic about a city which is not their home.

Jules Rykebusch, who planned the 1992 Lizzie Centennial and who was on staff at BCC, did a great job with the help of many people,- a veritable army in fact, drawn heavily from BCC staff and volunteers. He said it took over 3 years in the planning even with an energetic team of many.

There were actually several issues which led up to the early cancellation of a conference attempt for this year-not the least of which was liability insurance for offsite functions.

Having the support and backing of an institution(s) is crucial to any undertaking of this magnitude-it is not something for a single individual to take on lightly and shoulder solo. The decision made to cancel was the right one under the circumstances at the time. Unfortunate-but no regrets.

That being said, the '92 Centennial was very successful and enjoyable for all who attended. I should like to see this revisited someday with a large planning team, financial and institutional backing from folks who have experience with this sort of undertaking, and across the board city support. I will be the first to register for such an event! I understand a Lizzie conference is being planned for New Hampshire in the near future. Like the new Salem Museum, I would most wish for Fall River to benefit from Fall River history, but as the interest in the case has outgrown the bounds of Massachusetts other venues popping up for the Lizzie focus is not surprising/ Shelley