AWHC Mission and Goals

(Please do not edit this page; it is for informational purposes only)

You may also be interested in our Programming Summary that outlines all of our programs, goals, and success factors.

Our Mission

The mission of the American West Heritage Center is to educate, entertain and enlighten our audiences by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the heritage and history of the American West, 1820 – 1920 by providing “slices” of life-ways and experiences from the perspective of individuals and families that lived in the Great Basin and Intermountain Region. The Heritage Center is an outdoor museum of history and folk life. One of the greatest resources of any nation is the shared history of its people. The American West possesses rich and varied traditions, but these are currently in danger of being lost in the chaos and confusion of our contemporary lives. The American West Heritage Center exists to collect, preserve and foster these traditions and to create interest in our history among the younger generations by providing hands-on, interactive “living history” experiences, lively demonstrations, engaging exhibits, and other programs. The cultural, generational and ethnic diversity of the United States contributes greatly to the quality of American life; when we explore our diversity, we learn more about each other, and ourselves and as we learn, we become stronger. Through the Heritage Center’s research efforts, public performances, relations with the media, educational programs, on-site exhibits and the associated documentation that we keep concerning these historical projects, we further our mission: To keep the history of the American West alive and, through community education and entertainment, to encourage inter-generational and inter-cultural communication and understanding.

Our Vision

The American West Heritage Center stands on the threshold of becoming one of the most important living history museums both in Utah and in the United States as a whole. The Heritage Center will develop as a source of regional pride, and will become a national educational resource for the study of the history and diverse cultures of the American West. The Heritage Center will become a “destination,” attracting tourism to the state of Utah and helping build the local economy. The Heritage Center’s relationship with its major partners, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and Utah State University, provides powerful connections with both the area’s indigenous people and with an institution of higher learning that is recognized around the world.

To accomplish its mission of educating, entertaining and enlightening visitors about the West from 1820 – 1920, the American West Heritage Center has several programs in place for wide and specialized audiences, and for formal and informal learners.

General Philosophy

Programming includes any ways in which the American West Heritage Center interfaces with the public. Through activities and exhibits, the programs we undertake serve to educate, entertain, and enlighten visitors.

Education – First and foremost, the Center’s programs evolve around education. The historic venues and programs work to educate visitors about the peoples who made up the American West, particularly the Intermountain West region, between the years of 1820 to 1920. The programs are designed to engage people in an entertaining atmosphere to help them recognize the importance of this time period, and the significance of learning the life ways of peoples of the past. Visitors can construct knowledge for themselves through our historical reenactments and demonstrations, workshops, lectures, school outreach, and exhibits.

Entertainment – Research has shown that entertainment is an important factor in today’s learning process. We have found that people will learn more if done through an entertaining atmosphere. More and more museums are facing the challenge of finding ways to integrate entertainment in their programming. The AWHC was founded on the premise of experiential education, or “edutainment” as it has come to be called. Hands-on learning, actual games and pleasant activities, and the arts all contribute to ways in which entertainment is incorporated into our programming.

Enlightenment – Just as important as entertainment is to the education process is the emotional connection visitors can build with curriculum material. By educating visitors in ways that connect with them emotionally, enlightenment can take place. We encourage scholarly discussion, hands-on learning, and life-changing experiences. Visitors are our products where they have the opportunity to construct knowledge, be entertained, simply enjoy the aesthetics of the heritage Center, or have a total immersion or escape experience. Through this process, we can help create an emotional experience for all types of learners.

History and Heritage — There are two main categories into which programming activities fall: history-oriented and heritage-oriented activities. History-oriented activities seek to portray and communicate historical events and activities using authentic and/or vintage tools, devices and methods. Heritage-oriented activities seek to portray and communicate life ways and methods that recall the life ways and methods of the past with or without the use of vintage or authentic tools, devices and methods. While the making of holiday ornaments using vintage tools and methods would be history-based, the mere act of making one’s own holiday ornaments is heritage-oriented, since the activity was frequently done in the past. Both are appropriate for the programs here at the Heritage Center, and both are vital in the creation of educational, entertaining and enlightening experiences. In most cases, the two categories overlap. Certainly, many of the strongest of our programs would include both history- and heritage-oriented components.

Formal and Informal Learning — There are two major categories of visitors to the Heritage Center as well: informal and formal learners. Formal learners visit the Heritage Center with the deliberate intention of learning something. Programs that tailor themselves to formal learners are often deliberately formal in their educational premises as well, such as programs for school classrooms, special workshops, lectures, and other activities in which there is a formal “teacher” and “learners.” Informal learners certainly appreciate building knowledge for themselves, but learning that takes place for these individuals is not as structured. Our programming for 2007 will include activities for both informal and formal learners. Formal learning activities will include workshops, lectures, and our new Heritage Ways Conference, as well as the perennial school groups and summer camps. Informal learning will take place during festivals, daily programming, and other activities.


Management Cooperation & Planning

The approach to any of our programs follows a model that includes each Heritage Center director in the process. While the Program Director usually drives the process by initiating ideas for plans and activities (“This is what we will do…”), the Education Director makes sure a pedagogical component is clearly articulated and achieved (“This is what we will learn…”). The Site Director also adds vital input on any program by initiating the determination of the look and feel of the program as well as the artifacts that will be used (“This is what it will look like, and these are the artifacts that will be used…”). The Development Coordinator or Finance Director, inquires as to how the program could or should be funded (“This is how much it will cost and this is where the funding will come from…”). These four directors working in cooperation with each other will then determine the best possible ways and means for initiating, accomplishing, and improving major programming tasks. Finally, the Executive Director oversees the general process in its entirety and is responsible for procuring support and resources for approved projects and programs and for the Heritage Center as a whole from major partners, stakeholders, sponsors, supporters, and other sources.

Chains of Venue

One of our objectives in our planning is to ensure that the things we do at the Heritage Center is on a clear chain of venue, proceeding from our four main interpretive areas and becoming more specialized and in-depth within these areas: Most of our activities will ultimately be linked to our 1917 Farm, Pioneer area, Fur Trade area or Native American area. Occasional programs that might not fit in these areas might include topics or themes such as ancient Native American lifeways or other folk life areas such as mining or railroading. As activities or events become more specialized, we understand that our audience becomes narrower. Expecting this allows us to use resources responsibly and engage in better planning processes. Festivals have the broadest appeal, but even these large events will usually be linked to our four main areas of interpretation.

Key Strategic Focus Areas

1. We must continue to add and enhance sustainable revenue streams such as activities, events, services and products that continually generate revenue for the center and continue to develop new ideas for development.

2. We will continue to create and develop outstanding programming and visitor experience that encourage repeat sales.

3. We must continue to use the brand for the center that has been established that identifies, sets apart and establishes the American West Heritage Center as a one-of-a-kind heritage destination experience.

4. We will work to increase our market share of Utah’s visitors, school groups, tour bus groups and conferencing opportunities and create and implement pricing strategies that will both increase our market share and financial strength.

5. We will work to improve our customer service through better training of our staff and work to ensure that our customers have the best experience available and that they leave with a desire to come back and also recommend the Heritage Center to others.

6. We will work to maintain our facilities and grounds to make the Heritage Center an attractive place to visit.

7. We must accelerate our investment in our most important asset, staff, through competency development, fair compensation, and increases in productivity.

8. We will continue to invest in the infrastructure and physical facilities as capital is raised and monitor the needs on an annual basis.

9. We must continue to look for opportunities to increase net worth as an organization through development. This includes memberships, annual giving, capital campaigns, endowments, planned giving, sponsorships, grants, managing and expanding constituent base, estates planning and in-kind donations.

10. We must continue to attract quality trustees, committee members, and national advisory council members to promote the Center as spokespersons within their communities and environment.

Key Success Factors

Key Success Factors are resource programs or products that the AWHC must have in order to succeed in this industry.

1. Unique, authentic and culturally exciting products

  • Stimulating programs, including specifically designed programs to attract children
  • Appealing and well presented exhibits from our collection and other reputable sources
  • Comfort services
  • Variety of options including overnight opportunities and adventures
  • Beautiful and well-maintained facilities and grounds
  • Food Services
  • Shopping opportunities
  • Accessibility
  • Signage (interpretive & directional)

2. Development and Funding

  • Constituent database and management
  • Viable membership program
  • Increased donor base
  • Increased government, corporate and individual giving
  • Implemented planned giving programming
  • Increased sponsorships

3. Marketing and Sales objectives that will develop and implement the best growth strategies

  • Market research and identification
  • Develop a customer database and tracking system
  • Customer Feedback
  • Well trained and highly productive staff
  • Strong network with tourism industry
  • Develop and implement new products
  • Advertising and public relations that motivate purchase

4. Information Systems

  • Reservation system
  • Upgraded computers
  • Network capabilities
  • Upgraded Financial Software with backup capabilities

5. Effective management training and continuing education

6. Human Resources

  • Pleasant, courteous and friendly employees
  • Effective labor supply
  • High level of labor productivity
  • Experienced managerial know-how
  • Fair compensation for staff and visiting artists and guests
  • Highly trained and extensive volunteer base and system I
  • Iternships, projects, work-study and other USU student services
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.