In a rapid-fire world of instant communication, the legendary start of the U.S. mail system – The Pony Express – seems to capture more tales of drama and excitement than ever.
No place in the Midwest seems to capture this attention of both young and old like the Pony Express National Museum, 9th and Penn Streets in historic St. Joseph, Mo. Perhaps it’s the marked decline of postal service, leading people to view early postal carriers on horseback with more nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the curiosity (and maybe yearning) toward this more personal, more painstaking and historic process of sending an actual letter across the miles that has spurred high numbers of visitation at the Pony Express Museum. Or maybe it’s our long-held love of the imagery of the horse and cowboy (or cowgirl).
It’s likely a combination of factors, all tied in with ways the museum has been listening to the audience and providing great storytelling. Evidence of the museum’s communication and outreach efforts can be seen throughout the year, but especially with record numbers exceeding 1,200 guests at the recent T.N.T. series (Tuesday Night Talks). Expert speakers covered topics like early railroads, settlers and stagecoaches and the audience couldn’t seem to get enough — prompting an encore presentation set for March 12, 2013. Seats have filled year by year, and the museum staff continues to take requests from guests about topics they want to know more about. It’s working.
New additions to exhibits, such as a blacksmith shop and a life sized oxen team with wagon are also bringing current members and new guests through the swinging wooden doors. Membership has always been a strong outreach tool for the museum, but events like T.N.T., the Pony Express Pumpkinfest and the popular summer Day Camp for children are boosting community members’ connections to the museum and making them feel like a new part of the story.
Perhaps the biggest expansion in recent years is the opening of The Pony School, a meticulously crafted replica of an 1860s schoolhouse. Complete with individual primer books and rows of bench-style desks, the schoolhouse draws groups and organizations to relive the simple but powerful beginnings of our educational system. Re-enactors and volunteers help bring the tale to life first-hand with accuracy and creativity.
Recent enhancements to the website, new video productions and plans for the return of newsletters (in the classic hold-in-your-hand paper format, direct from the mailbox) are also likely to boost support and membership. Even more, these efforts are connecting people across generations to the great elements of the Pony Express story that still hold true today: having a dream, fulfilling it bravely and being bold enough to carve out an exciting vision for the future.
Today, SJC congratulates the Pony Express National Museum on its success and extends our thanks for inspiring so many with great stories of our nation’s beginnings.