MEETING IN A MUSEUM provides a distinctive setting for events and a fresh atmosphere. At museums, attendees are surrounded by art and artifacts, or they find themselves in a place where they can experience both history and nature.
The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, was founded in 1987 and was originally located on Jackson Town Square until moving to its new building in 1994. The 51,000-square-foot stone building looks like a rocky outcropping on the hillside overlooking National Elk Refuge and Gros Ventre Mountain Range. “It’s such a spectacularly gorgeous and remote place,” says Jennifer = Weydeveld, director of marketing.
The museum, just 2 miles from the entrance to Grand Teton National Park, received its national designation in 2008, an honor that took an (actual) act of Congress. The museum’s collection dates back to 2500 B.C. and includes Warhols and O’Keeffes, all of which “celebrate animals you see in this area,” Weydeveld explains.
In addition to its 14 galleries, the museum has several event rooms. Johnston Hall is the 4,900-square-foot main lobby that can accommodate 130 for dinner or 400 for receptions. The 2,500 square-foot Cook Auditorium can seat 200 people, and the Members’ Lounge, which is available for events, offers views of both the elk refuge and museum’s Sculpture Trail Terrace.
Pam Bode booked the 910-square-foot Members’ Lounge for a 21-person safety education session in November. Bode, a resources staff officer with Bridger-Teton National Forest, chose the space for its feel. In addition to tables and chairs for the meeting, the room also has a fireplace, couches and club chairs.
“I wanted an atmosphere where we could move the day-to-day discussion to a higher plane,” she says. “The view from the room was overlooking the elk refuge and looking toward the national forest that we manage.”
The museum’s on-site restaurant, Rising Sage Café, was a great asset, and attendees enjoyed wandering through the galleries during breaks, Bode adds.
Debra Watkins organized the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s second annual Thirsting For a Cure fundraiser at the 23,000-square-foot Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson, Washington, to showcase her town.
The museum sits on the Washington side of the Columbia River and is 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon, making it ideal for the event that drew 170 people from around the country.
“You get to see the river from it, and we are right here in the (Cascade) mountains,” says Watkins, a support group leader for the association. “It’s a beautiful part of the gorge.”
From the museum lobby, which is available for functions, a winding hallway opens to the Grand Gallery. There, a 1917 biplane hangs overhead, a 20-foot waterfall cascades in the corner, and a wooden fish wheel looms over guests. There’s also a giant 1895 steam engine like those once used to power sawmills in the region.
The gallery can hold up to 175 people, and the museum has a theater with seating for 45. The museum’s glass walls deliver views of Table Mountain, Wind Mountain and Bridge of the Gods, says Director Robert Peterson.
Watkins’ event used both the lobby and Grand Gallery, where they had three speakers and a PowerPoint presentation. Organizers overcame the challenge of connecting the two spaces by lining the hallway with silent auction items to draw people through. They also hired a string quartet, which played above guests on the mezzanine level.
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces is more than antiques and artifacts behind glass; it’s a working ranch. With the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains looming on the horizon, the 47-acre museum preserves and showcases 3,000 years of the region’s agricultural history.
The 5,000-square-foot Ventanas Room (Spanish for windows) delivers “majestic” views of the Organ Mountains, says Public Relations and Events Coordinator Rachel Garcia-Banegas. The room can hold about 330 people for a banquet, or it can be broken into three 1,600-square-foot spaces. The Tortugas Room provides another 5,800 square feet of event space.
The 14,000-square-foot courtyard also offers views of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, which President Obama designated a national monument in May 2014. Despite its name, the Organ View Terrace is not a terrace, but the 1,400-square-foot meeting room does deliver scenic vistas and can hold up to 280 people, depending on the setup. The museum also has a 150-person theater.
When the museum hosts events such as the Spaceport America symposium, attendees can elect to visit the museum’s ranch, where they will see sheep, cattle, horses and other livestock. Or guests can stroll over the historic bridge to watch cows being milked in the Skaggs Dairy Barn and see a blacksmith forging tools.
The American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, was once the city’s high school. Today, the historic brick building houses several mountain organizations, including American Alpine Club, Colorado Mountain Club, Outward Bound and Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum.
Nestled at the base of the Colorado Rockies, about 30 minutes west of downtown Denver, the center has a great view of Table Mountain. “We always say that the center is like visiting the mountains without having to do the drive or deal with parking or weather,” says Shelby Arnold, museum director. “The museum especially has the feel of a mountain getaway.”
Receptions in the museum allow guests to wander through galleries and take in exhibits; the visual centerpiece is the large-scale Mount Everest model. The 3,000-square-foot museum is in the former gymnasium, although “you could never tell it was a gym,” Arnold emphasizes.
In 2002, the center built an annex for conferences and events. The 3,200-square-foot conference room can be split into four smaller rooms and has an attached kitchen, and the climbing wall in the lobby is often used for team-building. Foss Auditorium can hold 350 people, and the center also has a classroom and boardroom for small meetings.
Museum of Northern Arizona is located at the base of the San Francisco Peaks along scenic State Highway 180 that leads to the Grand Canyon. Although it’s surrounded by mountains and evergreens, the 200-acre campus is only 3 miles from downtown Flagstaff.
“We have walking trails, and we’re right on the Rio de Flag,” shares Marketing Manager Cristen Crujido. “We often see people taking advantage of the wonderful setting here.”
Dr. Harold Colton and his wife, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, founded the museum in 1928, and today it works to preserve the history and culture of the Colorado Plateau. Their original stone home, the Colton House, is often booked for group retreats and small conferences and has two meeting rooms as well as a patio and lawn for events.
The 1936 Museum Exhibition building, which Colton designed, was constructed using local malpais (lava rock) masonry. The Branigar-Chase Auditorium and Discovery Center, which opened in 1995, can accommodate 130 people at table rounds and 175 for receptions. Across Highway 180, which divides the campus, groups also can book Pearson Hall, suitable for up to 40 people.
Having a meeting, dinner or reception at a museum gets groups out of the basic box of most conference rooms. Plus museums by their very nature provide attendees with a new perspective.