Jackson, Michigan has a long history of being known as a prison city. While locals always saw this as a source of jobs for many, residents across the country were more inclined to look down on that moniker. The opportunity to help turn this known liability into something that could drive tourism revenue and help turn the image of the city and the penal system, RJM couldn't say no. We worked with Experience Jackson, the Michigan Department of Corrections, and Ella Sharp Museum to craft the original launch of this museum to the world.
Prison isn't exactly what you think about when you think tourist attraction, especially one on the grounds of an operating penitentiary. But it happened to be one thing that Jackson, Michigan was known for, and a cell block sat empty. Different stakeholders in the project all had different problems to be solved - the Michigan Department of Corrections wanted to remove the stigma around the penal system; Experience Jackson wanted to build a world-renowned tourist destination; and Ella Sharp Museum was looking for a way to continue their mission of telling Jackson's history.
Coordinate various entities including Experience Jackson, Michigan Department of Corrections, and Ella Sharp Museum to align message and mission of the to-be-formed museum.
Work with Ella Sharp Museum staff to take their initial graphical branding guidelines and extend these into messaging and marketing communications.
Develop marketing plans and advertising strategies to launch the museum including website, digital advertising, outdoor, collateral, and more.
Integrate Cell Block 7 into all Experience Jackson marketing materials and promotions. Bundle the new asset with existing prison attractions and tours to form an additional community marketing effort.
Unfortunately, due to high operating costs, Cell Block 7 closed to visitors at the end of December, 2019. In its five year run of being open, the museum saw over 35,000 visitors come through the doors. The museum rose to the #4 ranked attraction in Jackson on TripAdvisor with a 4.5 star rating. More importantly though, Cell Block 7 gave Jackson a way to showcase an important community partner that had shaped so much of its history in a positive light. Tours continue through the original Michigan State Prison in Jackson, which is now an artists community, and we continue to show the world why we chose to be the home of a prison.