Reaching and Serving
a Larger Museum Audience

CLIENT: The J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum
PROJECT: J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Website and Virtual Exhibit

Teleologic Learning Company worked with the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum in Atlanta, Illinois to develop an integrated website and Web-based virtual exhibit which would help visitors understand the roles, functions, and relevance of this small rural grain elevator. Since many visitors to the museum or its website would have little knowledge of agricultural history, a solution was designed to help visitors consider how the elevator relates directly to their own life: a virtual exhibit area based on a commonplace narrative thread that answers the question "Where do your corn flakes come from?"

The J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum website opens with an animation introducing the path of a single kernel of corn within the inner workings of this restored 1904 wooden grain elevator.

The website consist of three main areas:

1. Virtual Exhibit: "Where do your cornflakes come from?"
2. Museum Info Section
3. Teacher Resources

Through photographs, cutaway illustrations, animations, and interactives, visitors can explore both the interior and exterior parts and functions of the elevator, its buildings, grounds, and socio-historic context.

"Try it yourself!" activities give visitors the opportunity for hands-on learning, such as calculating how much corn is in a farmer's wagon. "Listen Back in Time" audio vignettes give listeners a slice of Central Illinois rural life from the elevator's heyday circa 1920. Teacher resources offer pre- and post-visit lessons, based upon Illinois state standards. The Museum Information section tells about the elevator's historic restoration, provides visitor information, and offers membership opportunities.

Business Challenges

Since its opening in 1999, the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator has been supported by a loyal group of members and visitors sharing an interest in agriculture and history. To grow and develop itself, the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator needs to reach beyond this core audience and involve members of the general public. It also needs to reach individuals who have little or no knowledge of agricultural history and how a hundred year old wooden grain elevator has any relevance to their own lives.

The challenge for Teleologic Learning Company was to design the content and presentation form of the website and virtual exhibit in a manner relevant to this broad audience. New potential visitors to the website were identified as:

  1. Individuals and groups preparing for a visit to the physical museum, such as tourists, Route 66 travelers and tour groups, families, school groups, and local and regional residents.
  2. Virtual visitors interested in "history," "elevators," "agriculture," "corn," etc. This latter group includes teachers, students, historians, hobbyists, farm families, and the general browsing public.

How could Teleologic creatively and effectively expand the reach and relevancy of the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum beyond its "traditional" agricultural audience?

Teleologic Solutions

The Teleologic team developed a communications message and a virtual experience based on its understanding of the needs and goals of the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum. The solution included attention to the following principles:

Purposeful: What is the client trying to achieve?

  • Increase the number of people and groups who visit the Museum.
  • Expand the types of people and groups who visit the Museum.
  • Allow people who cannot physically visit the Museum to virtually experience it.

Outcomes-based: How can the site help accomplish the Museum's goals?

  • The site speaks directly to the Museum's new target audience and makes a personal connection with it.
  • The site purposefully involves visitors by engaging them in "Try It Yourself" interactive activities.
  • Organic to the Network: How can the site enhance the way a visitor experiences the Museum?
  • Cutaway drawings and animations enable visitors to see inner workings of the elevator which are not easily seen at the physical location, thus using the website to present something quite different from a visit to the physical museum itself.

Visually/Aesthetically Meaningful: How can the site present visitors with an "immersive" experience?

  • The site aims to present an authentic sense of place both of the historic and contemporary grain elevator through the website's design style (site graphics), photos, and imaginative audio vignettes.