Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Continuing Passion For Curation

The first task for any community-destination marketing organization (DMO) has always been the on-going responsibility to curate a community, which essentially means to “pull together, sift through and organize,” in other words to give visitors (including 80% of newcomers and relocating entrepreneurs and execs) the context from which to explore and hopefully be transformed by sense of place.

This most elemental and essential responsibility of a DMO is not new, although curation has become something of a buzz word recently, especially in social media circles. This is because, while the Internet puts more and more sources of data at our fingertips, this has only renewed understanding of the pivotal need to have that data authenticated and curated.

Curation can be as simple as authenticating with context complete and searchable list of accommodations and restaurants and venues for entertainment or enrichment, to but stop there will result in only the most superficial and routine form of tourism as a sort of long distance shopping trip that reveals more of how a community is the same than how it is distinct and worthy of exploration.

A pivotal part of curating a community for visitor-centric economic and cultural development is the distillation and interpretation of a community’s distinct personality including its most temporal values and traits often termed as its brand.

This element of curation is the core of a community’s genuine story and the essence of any further communication with prospective visitors such as other elements of marketing.

Curation also includes comprehensive, community-wide wayfinding signage that provide a coherent means of moving from neighborhood to neighborhood and visitor feature to visitor feature without prior knowledge, including pointing the way back home.

Any community that stops with wayfinding only its downtown area is merely a tease.

Paradoxically, curation makes it more not less feasible for visitors to plumb the true potential of the freedom to travel including tourism as a means to search and explore and illuminate.  By facilitating the tactical elements of a visit, it empowers a search of mysteries.

If a community seeks to inspire its community-destination marketing organization or if a DMO is seeking to better illustrate its relevance, there are no better references than this seven-page essay by Dr. Scott Russell Sanders of Indiana University or by extension this more recent, two-and-one-half page op-ed co-authored by Dr. Ilan Stavans of Amherst College and journalist Joshua Ellison.

As I set out on my next 6,000+ mile cross-country venture with Mugsey, my English Bulldog, I will be at the mercy of those responsible for providing context and authenticated curation including a navigation system hopefully authenticated by DMOs, wayfinding along the National Highway System including exit logo signs, and apps for exits such as “Find It On The Road Ahead” and  “Find Pet Friendly Hotels.”

My journey is one of self-discovery and communion with my roots, curated both by my own family history research, the journal kept by one of my great-great-great grandfathers as well as the National Park Service’s Historic Trails.

During a layover west of the Continental Divide to collect my daughter and grandsons, I will fulfill a promise to show them the curated monuments honoring four sets of their great-grandparents x 5, three on a plaque placed in 1900 while they were still alive and another near the Utah State Capitol honoring the members of the Mormon Battalion before we head north through Idaho for time at a lake in the Pacific Northwest.

In part I guess you could say that I will be doing a little curating of my own on their behalf, as my grandparents on both sides so patiently did for me beginning with my early years on the Idaho ranch they had homesteaded along side my great-grandparents and in whose abandoned house I often played, including on an old buggy, on a roundup chuck wagon (mini-covered wagon) and along a hillside used for refuse which was littered with very cool antique bottles and other artifacts.

It could be said, and I like to think that curation was my profession during my now-concluded, nearly-40-year and extremely fulfilling career in community-destination marketing and that I am still curating now in retirement with this blog.

No comments: