Hats Off to the Lightner Museum!

Awarded First “Tourism Impact Award” for Dressing Downton™ Exhibition

Written by Andrew Gapinski

At the St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau annual State of the Tourism Industry meeting, the Lightner Museum was awarded the first ever Tourism Impact Award.  Upon receiving the award, the Lightner Museum was recognized for its vision and act of bringing the Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times™ national touring exhibition to Saint Augustine as its final stop on the national tour.

While hosting the exhibition, the Lightner Museum attracted over forty thousand visitors in a four month span.  Due to the exhibit, the Museum was successful in gaining an international spotlight that increased awareness of Florida’s Historic Coast.

About two weeks before the opening of the Dressing Downton exhibition, Hurricane Irma paid Saint Augustine a visit.  The museum staff was standing in two feet of water in what used to be the swimming pool of the Alcazar Hotel.  Director Robert Harper’s response was, “What was I thinking?”

A week later, with no electricity, phones, internet, or air conditioning, the staff scurried to prepare for what would soon be the largest blockbuster exhibition in the museum’s history.  No electricity meant no elevator was accessible as the large crates containing elaborate mannequins and costumes were being brought in, needing to be placed in the top floor ballroom gallery. “Lets just say it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to pull it off,” said Harper.

“There was an overall sense that the entire community wanted to see the Lightner Museum succeed and it was quite touching.  The community was rooting for us and we could feel it.” – Jennifer Jordan, exhibition manager.

“During the exhibit, records were set across all kinds of measures for October, November, and December. Occupancy was up 4% to 64.6%. Average Daily Rate went up 8% to $131.28. Revenue for available room (hotels) was up 12% to $84.90. In January occupancy was flat, but all other measures also broke records.” Taken from Shannon Lake, Chairman of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“One of our initial goals when we started this project more than two years before the costumes ever arrived to the museum was that we wanted the entire community to benefit from the exibition.  Now that the exhibition is behind us, we are so pleased that the museum was able to deliver on its goal.” – Barry Myers, Lightner Museum Curator

The St. John’s County Visitors & Convention Bureau is non-for-profit and the official marketing organization for St. John’s County tourism. For more information on the VCB visit http://www.sapvb.org/

The Lightner Museum is a not-profit cultural institution sustained by the generous support of individuals, businesses, and sponsors.  For more information about Lightner Museum visit www.lightnermuseum.org.