Twin Towers Art Helps Historical Society Mailer Surpass Goals

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Though the New York Historical Society's direct mail strategy for its end-of-year 2001 campaign resembled that of previous years, the organization won't be surprised if response rates surpass goals because of its choice of artwork.


"We always put some kind of artwork from our collection on the cover of the card," said Abigail Katz, development associate at the New York Historical Society.


In 2000, the society had opened a new wing of its museum and used a collage of some of items on display. This time, it used "Downtown Sunset," a painting by artist Lawrence Kelsey that depicted an image still at the top of most people's minds -- the Twin Towers.


"This painting came along, and we just saw it and it was perfect," Katz said. "Being a New York institution, we felt it necessary to connect with the September 11 tragedy."


The painting was created in 2000 and donated to the historical society shortly after Sept. 11 to be a permanent part of its collection. It now hangs in the lobby of the organization's museum.


The mail piece, which dropped the week of Dec. 10, went to 16,000 house file names and no prospects. Inside the card, a message from society president/CEO Kenneth T. Jackson addresses the Sept. 11 tragedies and touts the "History Responds" project that the organization created in response to the events. The text also notes that city funding for the organization was postponed and reduced in the aftermath of Sept. 11.


History Responds consists of several exhibitions at the museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 events, including a current exhibition called New York September 11 by Magnum photographers comprised of photographs taken Sept. 11 and for a two-week period afterward. The Magnum Photography Agency has a monthly meeting, which happened to take place in New York on Sept. 10, Katz said.


"I will say that I am certain that the cover art on this card and the exhibition have had an impact on the response," she said. "We're already at 1 percent, which was the goal, and not everything is in yet so it is very conceivable that we will go above that."


In addition, attendance at the historical society museum has risen markedly since Sept. 11. The rise in visitors cannot be attributed directly to the mailing, though Katz said she thinks it contributed.


The organization plans no follow-up to the mailing. It mails only twice a year, with its next effort coming in the spring to support its annual gala.


Even so, Katz said that the society is pleased with the response to this campaign.


"We've experienced a membership surge," she said, "and the museum attendance is going through the roof."


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