Many locals appreciate the combination of quirkiness and scientific rigor that is just SO Bellingham — the frightening fun of the 9-foot-tall MegaZapper coil, the hair-raising activities in the Static Electricity Laboratory, the incredible array of early scientific experiments and radio artifacts, and many more.
But while SPARK has captured the imagination of Bellinghamsters and others from throughout Whatcom County, an additional market has been crucial to its success: People who come to Bellingham on vacation or those who are looking for something fun to do on a Puget Sound day trip.
The SPARK Museum has attracted more regional visitors in recent years due in part to new media that allows consumers to find cool things to do in the cities they live in or visit. That new media includes:
Consumer reviews on travel sites such as TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor’s website, which lists attractions for destination cities, ranks SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention as one of the Top 10 things to do in Bellingham. These reviews help visitors to Bellingham work a stop at SPARK into their plans — or even plan entire trips around the facility itself. One recent visitor from Canada wrote that SPARK is a hidden gem in Bellingham: “You can learn so much about the history of electricity and see the real stuff as the developments advanced. … Suggest to budget at least two hours. Definitely will bring friends and family to visit again.”
That brings us to the next point: Word of mouth. The Pacific Northwest is a haven for college students, lovers of the outdoors, tech workers, retirees… pretty much anyone who lives here has family and friends throughout the region. SPARK capitalizes on this by encouraging visitors to spread their enjoyment of exhibits and other attractions through word of mouth.
Social media also has been huge, especially of late. With active engagement on both Facebook and Instagram, SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention encourages visitors to take photos and share their experiences online. So much of SPARK is picture-perfect for social media — Theremin musical instruments, gorgeous vintage radios, ancient electrical devices (have you seen the first batteries or the first transcontinental telephone?) — and SPARK has been encouraging online sharing so potential visitors can get a glimpse of what’s there before they set foot in the door.
SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention in the NW corner of Washington state is a success story for many reasons, and one of them is that they provide visitors with a great experience that is fun, educational and shareable in today’s world of new, digital media.