Skip to content

Examining the Small History Museum’s Impact on Place Identity

Research Thesis by Grant Rommel

This study described the extent to which local history museums established place identity among museum members. Understanding the small history museum’s role in shaping place identity could be beneficial to developing and sustaining museum audiences and could be vital to a museum’s success. The intent was to establish whether local history museums were able to develop place identity among members of and subscribers to local history museums and historical societies who did not have strong relationships to those small institutions, as might be demonstrated by volunteer hours or employment. Prior research in large institutions demonstrated that museums were influential in developing a sense of identity among their communities. However, little was understood about how small institutions, particularly small history museums and historical societies, influenced place identity among members and subscribers. This research study used a case study methodology, examining three small history museums in Washington State. The design of this case study included survey and document analysis methodologies to examine place identity among museum members or subscribers. The findings revealed that small history museums fall in line with the results of prior research on larger institutions and their power to influence place identity. The results of this research study supported that local history museums and historical societies impacted one’s perception of self and that museum members identified closely with the places in which these institutions were located. Limitations of this case study included the availability of documents for analysis and the change in the sample from nonmember visitors to members due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Rommel, G. (2020). Examining the small history Museum’s impact on place identity (Order No. 28001861). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2437219086). Retrieved from


History museum, Museum, Place, Place identity, Small museum