November 26, 2013 • Sara Eagin
Elements of your corporate history should not be relegated to shelves in the boardroom and award cases in the lobby. They should be more than decoration. Your organization may offer similar products or services as other companies, but how you got where you are today is unique. Owning and displaying your company’s story can differentiate you from the competition, reinforce your culture and values, and demonstrate your ability to adapt to meet clients’ needs.
Corporate headquarters exhibits are most commonly found near entrances, where customers and visitors are most likely to see them, but limiting yourself to one area can add up to lost opportunity. Other spaces, such as the cafeteria and the conference rooms, offer excellent opportunities to share your company’s legacy, inspire creativity among employees and even meet organizational goals.
Heritage as art
One of the biggest missed opportunities we see in corporate headquarters is artwork. Why display generic art when images from your own history are likely more beautiful and inspiring? Stock images of local flowers and “happy clients” may offer color, but authentic images of your brand and people will have a far greater impact. Similarly, every building has that one blank spot or awkward corner. Use it for relevant content. Random niches and lightboxes throughout the hallways are natural spots to display content for internal audiences.
Consider images of your annual founder’s day picnic, your first building, products over the years and each of your different branch offices. Images specific to your industry and company reinforce your culture to everyone who passes through the hallways. These items are not any more expensive to display but provide far more emotional resonance than flowers or blank walls.
Exhibits do not have to be permanent, built-in displays. They don’t even need to be at a single location. Temporary exhibits can convey specific messages at events, special programs and conferences. Traveling exhibits are ideal an ideal way to engage people at multiple offices.
Temporary does not mean disposable. Temporary exhibits are high-quality, durable, reusable displays that can go anywhere. Pop-up display banners, movable freestanding towers and adjustable cases are all elements that can be easily packed, shipped and set up at the location of your choice.
A corporate heritage exhibit at your next stockholder meeting can remind investors of your legacy of growth and demonstrate your stability. A temporary display at your corporate retreat can remind staff members they are an important part of the team. And a history exhibit that moves among multiple offices helps everyone feel like they’re a part of a shared heritage, even if they work on the other side of the country. Whatever the story is—and however recent it might be—it can help you connect with people and accomplish important business goals.
Another option? Go big. A museum or heritage center celebrates your company’s history in a major, visible, permanent way. Whether it’s a room in the headquarters or an entire building on campus, a large-scale display can be a destination for staff members, leaders, retirees, guests and customers.
The History Factory has worked with a number of companies, including a major pharmaceutical firm that recently asked us to design and build a large corporate museum on its campus. The museum is a multipurpose space, used for board meetings, celebrations and employee orientation sessions. Decisions that have a tangible effect on the future are being made in rooms that honor the company’s heritage. Thoughtful curation of exhibits ensured that stories from the company’s past are told in a way that best serves all of its audiences.
Whatever type of display you use—and you can use several—the purpose is the same. You are investing in your history and deliberately sharing your heritage with employees, customers and stakeholders. Tying these unique elements from your past to the present and future gives substance to your space, reinforces your culture and values, and sets you apart from the rest.