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Heritage Tourism Project History

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The Project History

Seeding the Future


The success of a Missouri Extension regional rural tourism development conference in 2010 was the beginning of wanting more! Capitalizing on Your Community Heritage, Chamois, MO, April 2010, initiated conversations and activity that seeded a multi-state effort to grow heritage tourism resources. Julie Avery (Michigan State University) and Larry Dickerson (University of Missouri) began a conversation to identify needs, expand awareness, and develop resources and capacity around heritage tourism ‚Äďespecially in rural communities. Quickly others became involved.


This project will help organizations and communities become more effective at tourism.
While we will not be developing sites, a result of this work is that others will develop more effective sites,
communities will plan and promote together, customers will be engaged and understood,
and organizations and communities will impact their own sustainability.    
Connie Mefford, University of Missouri


Image of Child in the marsh Image of Tillers Internationals Cook Education Center, Scotts, MI Image of Iron County Museum, Caspian, MI
Child in the marsh. Tillers Internationals Cook Education Center, Scotts, MI. Iron County Museum, Caspian, MI.


Outreach to North Central States

After a failed grant proposal, seeded with encouragement and a couple thousand dollar planning grant from the North Central Center for Rural Development we began to identify tourism interested professionals. Outreach was conducted across the 12 North Central states in 2010/11. Contacts were made with Extension programs in tourism and community and economic development  and with state and regional tourism and arts and humanities agencies.

 More than 80 individuals with heritage tourism interests were identified. We shared ideas and identified programs and contacts. Three Adobe Connect conversations were held to explore topics and identify issues. About 25 participated at each session. An online survey drew responses from 21 people. 

These connections identified needs and a process for moving forward emerged. This partnering process suggested a region-wide and cross discipline activity identifying heritage tourism as a viable community and economic development process that would benefit the region and beyond. 

In 2011 a core planning team from five states with a rich variety of experience and expertise emerged to consolidate and prioritize input and develop a plan. A small grant from the North Central Regional Rural Development Center further seeded, communications and the development of resources supporting and encouraging community or regional tourism development. During 2012 our core team researched issues and sought existing resources. We met together three times and shaped a concept for module ‚Äď web ‚Äď based resources to assist others in developing their own tourism efforts focused on using heritage elements already existing within their communities or regions.


Heritage tourism encompasses elements of living culture, history, and natural history of place
that communities value and steward for the future. These elements are very specific to a community
or region and can contribute to stability, growth, and economic development.
The role of heritage and culture are especially critical in rural settings.
The Heritage Tourism Initiative Core Team


Priority needs emerged:

1. Networking among region Extension faculty, regional and state stakeholders, and key partners 

2. Finding a common definition for heritage tourism

3. Developing ‚Äėplace based‚Äô modules of resources for curriculum and planning around heritage tourism¬†

4. Providing professional development on heritage tourism

A heritage tourism initiative began within the North Central Region with goals of networking and developing resources to strengthen heritage tourism and connections within the region and beyond. 


Project goals include:

‚ÄĘ Investigating and growing an eXtension or other network ‚Äďcommunity of practice‚Ästwith and for universities, practitioners, research, stakeholder organizations and communities -- to further heritage tourism in the North Central region

‚ÄĘ Suggesting a common definition and language for understanding heritage tourism

‚ÄĘ Raising awareness about community building and economic potentials for heritage tourism¬†

‚ÄĘ Developing resources that can assist capacity building and implementation in communities with partners and stakeholders¬†

‚ÄĘ Creating evaluation methods to assess impact and articulate success¬†

‚ÄĘ Investigating and securing funding partners with rural development interests to advance this work


Networking and $upporting a Future     

We want to initiate future collaboration and partnerships for heritage tourism development. Please step in and help us to create future growth and a continuing effort, that will research long-range funding resources. We think that identifing partners and funders with articulated rural development interests such as financial institutions, utilities, and community and regional foundations is a step towards the future. This support could support pilot trials of our materials and seed or sponsor implementation in communities and regions within the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development ‚Äď and beyond.


Do you want to get involved?  

Contact us!


 Image of PhotoMorgue photo Image of PhotoMorgue photo Image of visitors at the MSU Museum, East Lansing, MI

PhotoMorgue photos and visitors at the MSU Museum, East Lansing, MI.