Meet the Team: Heather Witt

November 29, 2011

Welcome back!  We hope you had a great Thanksgiving Weekend, survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and are all geared up for the last few weeks of 2011.

Speaking of people and projects we have to be thankful for, our Senior Project Manager, Heather Witt, is off supervising the installation of an exciting new children's museum (which you'll learn about in 2012)!  Because we miss her, we thought we'd give her a special shout-out in today's Meet the Team segment.

Known for her professionalism, efficiency and overall work ethic, Heather Witt serves as one of JRA’s senior project managers for a wide range of museum and corporate clients. Heather’s versatility and organizational skills enable her to work with clients in all industries, as well as work on many projects at one time.

Most recently, Heather served as a project manger for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, assisting in the management of design and production across multiple disciplines including scenery, graphics, lighting, media and audio-visual control. This assignment necessitated a three-year commitment to live and work in the United Arab Emirates for the duration of the project.

Past projects include the renovation of the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel exhibit located at the distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. She also was the project manager for the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, Texas, the Tibbals Learning Center in Sarasota, Florida and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Among other projects, Heather’s most recent assignments include C’MON - Children’s Museum of Naples and The Jim Beam Distillery and Production Tour.

Thursday, we'll resume our series on the 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences with VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy.  Until then, have a great week!

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Conference World Tour 2011: IAAPA Expo Wrap-Up

November 22, 2011

Another IAAPA Attractions Expo has come and gone, and this one proved to be the most successful yet. The 2011 Expo welcomed a record 25,800 attendees, of which 15,300 were qualified buyers. Participants enjoyed over 80 educational sessions, miles of exhibitor booths, and festive evening receptions over the conference’s five days.

JRA's Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Shawn McCoy, helped to kick off this year's IAAPA conference by participating in a presentation developed especially for attendees from museums and science centers.

Shawn McCoy speaks as part of IAAPA Museum Day panel.

Shawn was part of a panel of experts who provided an overview of trends and projects from the past year. His 10-minute presentation focused on the top theme parks and attractions that had opened in the past twelve months. Specific highlights included an overview of Disney’s new Star Tours attraction, the new LEGOLAND® Florida theme park, and the opening of the Evergreen Wings & Waves educational water park in McMinnville, Oregon. After the panel, guests capped off their Museum Day experience with a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Orlando and a JRA-sponsored reception outside its Jurassic Park Discovery Center®.

The JRA team at the Museum Day Reception

Tuesday, JRA was delighted to receive the 2011 Brass Ring Award for Best New Product (Exhibits) for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The award was given in the Productions and Entertainment/Displays and Sets category for the park’s Formula Rossa Attraction.

Keith James accepts the 2011 Outstanding Service Award.

Wednesday morning, the JRA team, along with friends and family, gathered at the General Managers and Owners Breakfast to salute JRA Chief Executive Officer/Keith James, who received the 2011 Outstanding Service Award. According to IAAPA, the award “is presented in recognition of a member individual that works to foster the spirit of goodwill, professionalism, and higher levels of performance within the industry regionally, nationally, or internationally.” James thanked his mentors, co-workers, and most importantly, his wife Patti and daughters Chloe and Alexis for this honor.

CEO Keith James and COO Dan Schultz meet with a visitor at the JRA booth.

The 2011 Expo was an uplifting experience not just for JRA, but for the industry as a whole. “We won’t know for three or four months how much new business the 2011 Expo generated,” said Dan Schultz, Chief Operating Officer. “But I can tell you that we had very positive meetings with both current and potential clients, and there was an air of optimism among those on the show floor that hasn’t been seen in quite a while.”

As we enter the holiday season, news like that is definitely something to be thankful for.

Interested in seeing more pics from IAAPA 2011? Check out our Facebook album!

Tags: Outside the Studio

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Conference World Tour: Five from the Floor - Charles Read

November 16, 2011

Charles Read, Managing Director -

Charles Read, Managing Director -

Hello!  We hope you are enjoying JRA's coverage of the 2011 IAAPA Expo.  It's been a wonderful week so far, and we look forward to two more days of meeting and greeting with diverse professionals across the industry.

Speaking of meeting and greeting, for today's "Five from the Floor" series, we're chatting with Charles Read.  Charles is the Managing Director of, the premier resource on what's new and now in the attractions business.  So...

If I weren't managing director of Blooloop, I would be...

...involved in forestry. I've always had a great love of nature and wildlife and would love to be surrounded by trees as part of my profession.

When I have a creative block, I...

...get all of my ideas down on paper and then chisel the rubbish out.

The aspect I enjoy most about the IAAPA expo is...

...meeting friends and new people.  Social media and websites are great, but nothing beats sitting down with someone over dinner or a drink.

I wish I had invented...

...a totally safe chainsaw.

Random fun factoid?

The Rolling Stones once played a concert in my mum's front room.

Thanks, Charles!  Check back tomorrow for another Five from the Floor with a special mystery guest.  Happy expo!


Tags: Outside the Studio

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Conference World Tour: Five From the Floor at IAAPA 2011 with Adam Sanders

November 15, 2011

Adam Sanders, Natural History Museum of London

Adam Sanders, Natural History Museum of London

Hello, and welcome to our daily coverage of the IAAPA 2011 Expo.  We hope you enjoyed our photos of Museum Day at Universal Island's of Adventure.   Today the red ribbon was cut, the expo doors were opened, and the show floor is now abuzz with exhibitors and buyers alike.  As part of this Conference World Tour Special Edition, we're asking industry leaders (and JRA friends) five questions from the show floor, ranging from the serious to the, well, not-so-serious.

First up is Adam Sanders, Business Development Manager - Planning and Design for the Natural History Museum of London. 

The best advice I ever received was...

...Be true to youself, and be honest.

The best thing about my job is...

...Working with such diverse and creative people in the industry.

What is the best attraction/exhibit you've ever experienced?

After last night's Museum Day Reception, I would have to say the Wizard World of Harry Potter!

I wish I had come up with...

...A self-cleaning house.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Again, after being on the Harry Potter ride, the ability to fly would be pretty spectacular.

Thanks, Adam!  Stay tuned tomorrow for another Five from the Floor, as well as some other special surprises.  And if you have any questions you'd like us to ask our surprise guests, be sure to write them below. Happy Expo!


Tags: Outside the Studio

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Outside the Studio: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

November 10, 2011

The convention floor at the IAAPA Attractions Expo

The convention floor at the IAAPA Attractions Expo

Programming Note: Our “Ten Keys for Museum Successful Museum Experiences” series will resume December 1.

The third week of November means one thing for JRA – it’s time to leave the crisp fall Cincinnati air behind and fly south for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in sunny Orlando, Florida.

Established in its current form in 1972, IAAPA has roots all the way back to 1918, when a group of amusement park and other outdoor park representatives founded the National Outdoor Showman’s Association (NOSA). As the industry has grown, so has IAAPA: the organization now represents more than 4,000 facility, supplier and individual members in over 90 countries, from amusement parks, theme parks and waterparks to museums, zoos and science centers.

The Orlando expo, along with IAAPA’s annual expos in Europe and Asia, are the premier industry shows in their respective regions and offer over 100 educational seminars and behind-the-scenes tours of local attractions. As of today, there are 22,000 registered attendees, and over 1,100 of these participants are exhibitors, presenting everything from plush animals to food, rides to water slides. Each day closes with one or more special events, and this year’s festivities include a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and a reception at Disney’s Hollywood Studios featuring the re-imagined Star Tours® attraction.

“Everyone at JRA really looks forward to the annual IAAPA conference,” states Shawn McCoy, JRA’s Vice President of Marketing & Business Development. “Not only do we have the opportunity learn more about the latest techniques and technologies being used in the attractions industry, but we also have the chance to catch up with old friends, meet with current clients and introduce ourselves to potential new clients. IAAPA does a wonderful job organizing the show each year, and I’m sure 2011 will be better than ever.”

Your JRA social media team will be blogging, Tweeting and Facebook-ing daily coverage of the IAAPA Expo’s people, places and events, so be sure to follow us. And to many of our friends out there, we’ll see you in Orlando!

Tags: Outside the Studio

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Meet the Team: Training the Best

November 08, 2011

Lauren Weir

Lauren Weir

We've always known that our co-ops are some of the hardest-working and best-trained emerging designers in the nation (you'll meet one of them in a moment), but don't just take our word for it.  A national survey of employers has - for the 13th straight year - ranked the University of Cincinnati's Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) programs as some of the best in the nation.

An annual survey by DesignIntelligence asks employers of recent university design graduates which school they feel best prepares its students for the real world.  DAAP's industrial design undergraduate program ranked 1st, while its graduate industrial design, undergraduate interior design and undergraduate architecture programs ranked 2nd, 3rd and 10th, respectively.  See the full article here.

"JRA has continuously employed co-op's through The University of Cincinnati's DAAP cooperative education program for 18 years," says Senior Project Director and Co-op Program Director, Matthew Wheeler.  "DAAP co-ops encompass a fantastic level of talent, experience and a level of professionalism which brings a unique and fresh element to JRA."

So, with that said, let's ask five questions of another of our talented DAAP co-ops, Lauren Weir.

Best stress buster...
Boxing class.  The workout and active nature of the class gives you no room to think about anything else. Of course, punching (the bags, not people) is a huge stress reliever in itself!

Dream vacation...
A couple weeks in a place that had everything: A warm beach with hiking trails, places to camp and swim, maybe even some snow to snowboard. I haven't found this spot yet but when I do, I'll be there for a while.

My iPod/iTunes is full of...
A little bit of everything. One day I will be listening to Notorious B.I.G... and the next it will be Ray LaMontagne, or Hall & Oats. There are a lot of influential variables on my listening choices. I keep my iTunes loaded with a wide variety of it all. It doesn't get boring.

For ideas, I read ...
A lot of design blogs. A few of my favorite are Under Consideration, Looks Like Good Design, and Fast Company. They all help me with new thoughts or processes. I don't always read design articles. I think it's important to get inspiration from outside of the design world... almost anything can be applied to design.

Favorite board game...
I'm not sure if it counts as a board game, but my pick would be Pictionary. Even in college, I still play frequently with my friends. It ends up being competitive and too funny when you see how people draw the clues.


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10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences: Only Here

November 03, 2011

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JRA created an "only here" experience in Singapore Science Centre's entry atrium by integrating existing off-the-shelf exhibits into a high-energy, high-impact live show that communicates a strong message about the thrill of science.

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It's Thursday, and that means it's time for another JRA Blog and Learn.  In parts one and two of our 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences, VP of Marketing and Business Development Shawn McCoy has counseled us to:

  1. Design for the audience
  2. Accomodate various ages, demographics and learning styles
  3. Connect on an emotional level by telling authentic, personal stories
  4. Deliver strong takeaway messages

But what makes people come back for more?  And how do you keep museum content fresh?

STEP 5 - Make the exhibits flexible and updateable

Today’s audiences are used to having access to ever-changing information, therefore your exhibits should be able to accomodate that change. While the historical elements of your experience will rarely, if ever, have to change, a portion of your exhibits, graphic panels and media, should be designed to allow you to keep the content up-to-date.  For example, you could feature a number of media-based displays so that you can easily update with current information or relevant news stories. Or, more simply, you can design your display systems so that new artifacts can be added over time.

The content for the JRA-designed Reds Hall of Fame is updated as new members are inducted.

STEP 6 - Provide “only here” experiences

Given that your guests have access to most of the information that you will be presenting within your museum via the internet, you have to give them a reason to leave the comfort of their home. The way to do this is create “only here” experiences. These could range from the display of unique artifacts or physical interactives, or immersive environments or media presentations that they could only experience at the museum. You could also provide “only here” merchandise that will not only give your guests to purchase a unique take-home gift, but will also help increase your retail sales.

Remember, higher repeat visitation equals increased ticket revenue, higher per caps on food and retail, and potentially more members and donors, all of which add up to greater long-term fiscal stability.

Next time, Shawn shares the secrets of how to make your museum a true community steward, as well as how to create events and programs that will keep your content relevant and exciting.

Thanks for reading.  Until then, take time enjoy an "only here" museum experience with your friends and family, and feel free to send us your feedback.


Tags: Blog N Learn

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