by Jorie Thuon
The Keeler Tavern Museum is a historic home and museum located in the town center of Ridgefield, CT. Once a farmhouse, tavern, stagecoach stop, post office, hotel, and home to famous architect Cass Gilbert, the house has a long and rich history as well as a strong connection to the local community as demonstrated by its tireless outreach efforts, including through school programs, exhibits, and events. These outreach efforts and more are outlined in the museum’s newly updated website, which serves as an introduction for new visitors or those limited by travel constrictions by focusing on the tavern’s importance, history, physical and electronic collection, and various social events.
Upon entering the website, the visitor is greeted first by an enthusiastic description of the museum and its history accompanied by photos of highlighted events; in this case, the museum’s newly minted digital learning programs and an upcoming village exhibition. A bright red banner across the top of the homepage draws attention to the museum’s most recent advocacy efforts, including funding they’ve secured to make improvements to their collection and grounds. This flashy display serves the dual purpose of allowing the visitor to see the museum’s growth and to publicly acknowledge those who made the growth possible.
The search bar divides the website into ten separate tabs, each with subdivisions. These tabs break up the mass of information given on the website into different areas of use. The visit tab, for example, appeals to in-person visitors by providing information about hours of admission, walking tours, and local attractions while the education tab appeals to educators, guardians of young children, and those searching for professional development workshops. Bulkier than the others, the history & research tab directs researchers and those interested in exploring the museum’s collection to search through the archive and its large electronic database.
Although Keeler Tavern Museum is, at its core, a historical attraction, the website also promotes the social events hosted by the museum and gives information on how different parts of the campus, such as the garden house, can be rented out for weddings and corporate events. In this way, the website serves not only to advertise the historic site but also those attractions which support and fund it.
This trend of self-advocacy continues throughout the website as constant attention is placed on the role of the museum in the community, its long history, and even its economic impact on the town, state, and country. The support tab, headed by a paragraph describing the importance of funding to the museum’s running and accompanied by scrolling pictures of education events, serves to garner an effective emotional plea to visitors while simultaneously collecting donation information into one place. In addition to the support section, volunteer and collection donation descriptions are scattered throughout the site and links to donate resources pop up at various points while exploring.
Museum websites are constantly evolving objects and the Keeler Tavern’s online platform is no different as is made clear by the abundance of pandemic news present throughout the site. Rather than condense their response into a single announcement, however, the museum has made a great effort to insert relevant information into the already existing tabs as well as developing explanations for newly implemented programs, such as the digital learning programs for K-8 students. These explanations are often lengthy, however, and can become overwhelming for the visitor by making it difficult to sort out important information.
Beyond the main website, the museum has made an effort to highlight their mailing list, social media outreach, and trip advisor accounts in order to stay connected with their patrons on all platforms. Additionally, a link to Destination Ridgefield, a website showcasing the town’s culture and destinations, and a description of the locally famous Battle of Ridgefield serve to further ground them in the surrounding community and into their visitors’ lives.
Keeler Tavern Museum: https://keelertavernmuseum.org
Destination Ridgefield: https://www.destinationridgefield.com