The goal of the Iowa Barn Foundation Barn Tour was to allow people access to historic barns, but what I enjoyed more than seeing the building was the farmer who provided our “tour.” Jack Smith is the proud (and I do mean proud!) owner of a barn built in 1917. It is a formidable structure and in great condition, but the real treat was hearing Jack get giddy over being able to share his history with visitors.
Jack has amassed quite a collection of antique farming implements and machines, tinkering with them to learn how the contraptions functioned. Some are still a mystery today. He has scoured old equipment catalogs to research the origins and usage of pieces that he inherited. He has a collection of flour bags with ancestors’ names stamped on them and even purchased a sign from the sawmill where the barn itself was first milled. Rather than display the goods as in a museum, Jack entertained guests with stories that brought the history to life. He said: “Isn’t it cool” more times than a kid on Christmas.
I would bet that there are “Jacks” in many organizations – or in the ranks of their former members. Think of how you can capture the enthusiasm and knowledge of these passionate historians. Could you ask them to become ambassadors and provide in-person storytelling to groups of new employees or guests? Perhaps you need to record their tales to immortalize their observations and reflections. Maybe you just need “your Jack” to walk through your facility and identify its background so that you can create signs or ways to share it with others.
That barn became so much more than a grand old building because of the love the owner imparted. Find ways to communicate the love that formed your organization in a way that shows its heart, not just its words.