Family History Fairs and Expos are wonderful events for an attendee as they have access to speakers on a variety of topics, historic displays, online data providers, books, postcards and other goodies to buy. They are also able to learn more about many smaller specialist societies that are present at the Expo.
People, often, already know something about the larger societies such as their State genealogical society but don’t know much, if anything, about the smaller specialist society. In many cases the specialist society may not have an Internet presence so are not easily found by Google or other search engines. If your ancestor came from a specific area or was involved in a certain occupation you really want to know if a society exists that specialises in these topics.
An Expo or Family History Fair is a great way to gain exposure for the specialist society, both pre-event and at the event. The Society gains positive publicity by being mentioned as exhibitors on the event’s website and on various printed promotional material.
During the Expo/Fair the society gains more exposure as they are seen by a lot of people who are interested in history and genealogy. You can also put a brochure in a goody bag that is handed to all registrants as this will also give some exposure to your society.
Some groups decide not to exhibit as they feel they don’t have a lot to present at an expo, perhaps they don’t have many publications for sale or feel “why would anyone want to talk to us?”
I can understand anyone who has not exhibited before, being a bit fearful at first, but it is important to remember that there is no-one else around who is likely to know more about your specialist topic than your society. Whether it is the history of an area, knowledge about an occupation, knowledge of the contents of a particular museum or about a military unit, your society is the expert in your field.
A local history society may not have a lot of publications for sale but they will know a lot about their area so may have access to a burial register, knowledge about a particular industry in the area, have historic photos of the area, have a collected database of people who have lived in an area, all of which will be of interest to the patrons of the Expo. If any of these resources are able to come to the Expo you would have a lot to talk about with the visitors to the Fair or Expo.
Some societies don’t exhibit because they are fearful of the committment required and volunteer assistance may be difficult to find. This is a real concern but there are ways around this problem.
Firstly, you do not have to have a stall that is manned all the time, of course you will have more exposure if the stall is manned but having a stall with a static display and printed A5 brochures giving information about the society with contact details can still be beneficial for your society.
Static displays of historical photos, year-books, directories, newspapers, postcards of the area, sporting certificates, school registers etc can be very visual and can attract a lot of attention. I attended an Expo last year where the Coffs Harbour Museum had a static display of lovely women’s gowns which attracted a lot of attention and gave publicity to their Museum.
The society may be able to twin with another society where you share a table. You, then, are able to give each other toilet breaks and lunch breaks. I am sure there are many other ways that smaller societies could help each other out at an Expo or Fair
Perhaps once you have set up the table you only man it for the peak times or you say it will only be manned on one day of the fair. Obviously in these situations you would want your display protected in some sort of display case. I have seen a laptop in a protected case with a continuous slideshow of historic photos and memorabilia being shown. You may have display boards behind the table area showing maps and old photos of your area. Family group charts of the first settlers in an area especially with photos works well and there are so many other ways of promoting your society, museum, library or archive.
As an attendee it is the smaller specialist societies or people with a particular passion that I look to find. There was a gentleman at one I attended recently who had a database of people who had been hurt in mining accidents, there was a lovely lady who was collecting information about unmarked graves in a specific geographic location where there had been a number of burials not in recorded cemeteries. These were hugely interesting people to talk to but may not have been what some people would think of as exhibitors at a Family History Fair or Expo.
Then you have your professional researchers, photo restorers, people who transfer video to DVDs, book publishers, postcard sellers all of whom have place at a Family History Fair.
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