And he’s doing it in an appropriate fashion — by going to the people.
In just a few short weeks, Najjar — who came to Cleveland from the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga — has already made personal visits and detailed presentations to a variety of area organizations and civic groups.
Two of his most recent included addresses to the membership of MainStreet Cleveland and just last week he spoke during the weekly luncheon of the Cleveland Rotary Club. His message is one of support for the local Museum Center and its value to the Cleveland and Bradley County community, but also one of vision because he sees opportunity in change. Not only can it breathe new life into the 14-year-old facility, it can embrace the future.
In order to best engage the community, Najjar is asking for input.
To Cleveland Rotarians, he asked, “What would you like to see at the museum? What do you get excited about? One of the refrains I hear over and over again is people say the museum isn’t for them.”
Najjar is giving such sentiments his undivided attention.
He wants to make the museum local. He wants the museum to be relevant. He wants the museum to be a voice of the people. He wants to accomplish these goals by hearing the voice of the people.
“We have a lot of meaningful stories that would probably mean a lot to you,” Najjar told Rotarians. He said these are personal stories that “feel real, versus something that is abstract.”
A few days prior to his Rotarian visit, Najjar brought much of the same message to his downtown neighbors at MainStreet Cleveland.
“We want to make the Museum Center a ‘community experience,’” he said.
He wants to do it with local stories. “Those are the stories we are going to tell,” Najjar stressed. “This is your museum. We want to make ‘people’ connections.”
His audiences are hearing his words and feeling the message.
For instance, at the Rotary Club luncheon one member asked about finding a way to highlight local residents who had donated specific items to the museum. Another asked about bringing artifacts — on loan — from other museums. Still another suggested getting the Cleveland museum on a list for traveling exhibits.
Each suggestion is an excellent one. Each has its own challenges — such as cost, accessibility and local interest — but Najjar believes the downtown Museum Center’s future is a strong one, provided the community supports it and it supports the community.
For now, Najjar is working to update the Museum Center’s marketing techniques and how it communicates with area residents and visitors from the outside.
But much is yet to come.
What would you like to see at the museum? When would you like to see it? How? And would you be willing to help?
Engaging the community is the future of the Museum Center at Five Points. Its new executive director has some thought-provoking ideas.
We encourage area residents to share their suggestions.
We urge all to contribute to the vision.