Catalogers of the Year
5. Repeat your good efforts. “If things work out well, figure out why, and copy it or learn from it,” he notes.
Consumer Cataloger of the Year
By Matt Griffin
Not satisfied simply with educating her portion of the world, Marilynne Eichinger 10 years ago left her job in the nonprofit world of museums to bring her passion for lifelong learning to a new endeavor: the Museum Tour catalog.
Always interested in how families communicate and interact with their children, Eichinger wanted to bring museum shop-quality educational toys to a nationwide audience, says Marcia Mantz, creative director at Museum Tour, Portland, Ore.
And it’s an interest that’s fostered growth, as the catalog has increased in size from a 32-page book with a circulation of 600,000 when it was founded in 1995, to a 96-pager with a circulation of 1.5 million. Add in the book’s 4.4 percent typical response rate, and Eichinger’s business plan seems sound.
But don’t think she has forgotten from whence she came. In the 10 years the catalog has been in business, the company has donated $120,000 to its 22 museum members. These museums paid an initial fee for membership and lent their names to Museum Tour when it was starting out.
Eichinger’s mission is to sell products not simply associated with a museum gift shop, but with a shared educational experience.
Says Eichinger, “When I was at the museum … I found that parents wanted to help their kids, but they didn’t know how to do it. Maybe they don’t remember math or science or things like that.” To that end, she says, the catalog doesn’t focus on those individuals who wish to homeschool their children, but rather on those simply looking to share in their children’s educational experiences.
In speaking of her 10 years as director of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry prior to starting the catalog, Eichinger notes the goals of a museum as an institution are to both enrich its visitors and act as a supplement to the school system. “Our catalog is trying to take that a step further and help parents and family members enrich their children’s lives,” she says.