East Tennessee Historical Society


ethsWhen the East Tennessee Historical Society began planning for the opening of the new signature exhibition, Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee in August 2008, it was clear that no matter how special the exhibition was, it would never be successful if no one knew about it. Sharing the news of the museum’s grand opening was made a priority – not only in the Knoxville market, but to potential visitors in counties all over East Tennessee and beyond.

Susan Arp and Tracy McBroom worked with ETHS to develop a Grand Opening Public Relations Kit for distribution to media during the period of March through August 2008. To promote the Grand Opening of the East Tennessee Historical Society’s signature exhibition, a local and regional public relations campaign was developed, which included brand identity planning, media relations outreach, and collateral development and press kits.

Collateral material written and art directed by Arp and McBroom in partnership with Knox County Library and Media South included a coordinating brochure set which was awarded a Tennessee Association of Museum 2008 Commendation. Other collateral included web site, web banner ads, print ads, streetlight post banners, posters, and tee shirts.

The press kits developed by the SRW team were personalized for each city or county. Specific information was highlighted on the artifacts originating in each county and identified local residents or experts for interviews about an artifact or story featured from that community. This approach was taken for each of the local news outlets and publications throughout East Tennessee and resulted in wide press coverage outside the immediate Knoxville market.

Media sponsors secured included the Knoxville News Sentinel, Comcast, WDVX-FM, WUOT-FM, WBIR-TV, and East Tennessee Public Television. These media outlets provided airtime and space for public service announcements, including web site advertising, print advertisements, radio spots, and a 30-second television PSA produced by Hillman & Carr.


More than 5,000 people attended the two day grand opening events in downtown Knoxville which included a History Street Fair with music, re-enactors, exhibits, history timeline with period re-enactors, vintage movies at the Historic Tennessee Theatre, a history scavenger hunt and free tours of the new exhibit. Earned media coverage of the Grand Opening event throughout the months of  July and August included:

  • Knoxville News Sentinel Sunday edition – Front Page color panoramic photo of exhibit and two page article in Life section
  • Multiple stories and features in region’s daily and weekly newspapers and local magazines
  • Special previews, interviews and event coverage by all affiliate television stations serving the Knoxville area.
  • The Tennessee Association of Museums recognized the special event with a 2008 Award of Excellence.