A Couponing Light Bulb

Megan Olver
This summer was a time of exploration and discovery. I had been flip-flopping all spring semester about my original thesis topic, but decided to give it a chance over the summer. I began interning at Historic Germantown, hoping to evaluate their methods of historic site collaboration for my thesis project. However, after a few weeks with the organization I reverted back to questioning my choice of topic. It became very evident that at this point I was exhausted with analyzing historic sites and further research showed me that Historic Germantown staff had been discussing collaboration in news and journals for many years.

Once I accepted that I no longer wanted to research historic site collaboration I spent weeks researching other possibilities, but nothing seemed to keep my attention for very long. From experience I know that to produce a well-written thesis the topic must be of great interest to the writer. I felt lost and confused; like I was trying to force these puzzle pieces together just to cement a topic quickly. This is not the most productive use of time or a good way to establish a thesis topic. Finally, I came to the point where I just gave up and accepted that my thesis would have to wait until the fall.

After stepping away from thesis for a while, all the puzzle pieces began to fit and a new thesis topic emerged. Historic Germantown sells Passports to Freedom’s Backyard, which give people access to all 15 sites at a discounted rate. The Executive Director began a new strategy of selling them on Groupon and Living Social, as well as their website. Groupon and Living Social sold the passports for $7 (individual) and $12 (family) instead of $15 and $25. A conversation with a staff member peaked my interest in social couponing and its uses in the museum field. I, along with family and friends, have purchased many admissions tickets to museums, but we had no idea how that impacted the museum. 

My breakthrough “light bulb” moment came when I was given a Living Social credit for $10 and was able to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Visions of Arcadia exhibit for just $2. As a future museum professional I am shocked that a ticket to such an exhibit would cost that little. But as a graduate student on a limited budget I am thrilled that I was able to see such an exquisite show without worrying about my bank account. After redeeming that ticket I began to question what exactly social couponing is and how it affects the museums that use their sites. How does a third party offering deals and discounts for their services affect the museum? How did museum staff make the decision to utilize social couponing sites and how did they find their services? These are the questions that led me to gather any and all information on social couponing sites and museums that utilize their services. My thesis journey has finally ended and now the research phase has begun. This breakthrough moment completely changed my thesis and I am very motivated to investigate social couponing and its relationship with the museum field.