- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Opening a staging area and gift shop, and having the technology to finally accept credit cards has made a big difference in visits to the Rosenbaum/Frank Lloyd Wright museum.

The number of visitors in the first quarter of the fiscal year, compared to the same period a year ago, is up 57 percent, while total revenue is up 93 percent, according to the city Arts and Museums Department.

“The staging area is a different concept from the way we had taken in guests,” Barbara Broach, director of Arts and Museums, said. “We give them an orientation with exhibits on the walls, then we send them over in groups of 12.”

The staging area and gift shop is in a former classroom across the street in the Richards Center, which is owned by the Florence Board of Education. It includes rest rooms, brochures, and souvenirs. It opened last summer. Before, visitors had to wait outside the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house for tours, and a small portion of an interior room had souvenirs for sale.

Broach and house curator Libby Jordan said a billboard on Interstate 65 directing visitors to the house has helped increase ticket sales.

While the museum has a website and other social media presence, Jordan said she has learned from other Wright museums that social media is not the only tool available.

“Recommendations from the staff at other Wright sites are important,” she said. “I direct visitors to other Wright sites when they are here, and the directors at other sites do that for us. That is the number two marketing tool for us.

“Those who like Frank Lloyd Wright are like a club or fraternity,” she said, “Everyone visits here comes through my office, so we are able to find out how they found out about us, whether they are staying overnight, and where they are going. Our data is reliable because it is face-to-face.”

Wright was commissioned to build the Usonian house in 1939 by the Rosenbaum family. It was completed in 1940, and an addition was built a few years later for the growing family. The city purchased the house a decade ago and invested $700,000 in its restoration. It is the only Wright structure in Alabama, and one of the few in the South.

Jordan said networking with other Wright museums and organizations has been important, as well.

The city is also participating in an iconic houses network based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

“They focus on iconic houses across the globe, and we are the only house in the southeast United States, with the exception of the Umbrella House by Paul Rudolph in Sarasota, Florida,” Jordan said.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Rosenbaums moving into the house, and special events are being planned, Jordan said.

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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