Enhancing the Visibility of the Maria Mitchell Association


Sponsor:  The Maria Mitchell Association I think it's this one
Sponsor Liaison: Jascin Finger
Student Team: Eva Barinelli, David Cadilek, Patrick Meehan, Corey O’Malley
Abstract: The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is a science organization with multiple sites dispersed around the island. Visitors have difficulty navigating between sites and understanding how the sites relate to the MMA’s mission. The goal of this project was to determine steps the MMA could take to improve visitor wayfinding and clarify its identity. Our team identified and evaluated wayfinding and identification strategies used by the MMA and other organizations. Through our own observations on the island and interviews with various stakeholders, we identified areas for improvement. We developed recommendations for the MMA’s branding, marketing strategies, signage, and online presence to promote a consistent identity for the MMA and improve visitor wayfinding.

MMA Final Project Report

MMA Social Media Guidelines

MMA Google My Map Manual

MMA Final Presentation

Executive Summary

Nantucket presents many challenges when it comes to improving wayfinding and organizational identity. Historic preservation is regulated by the town and Historic District Commission (HDC), and affects the appearance of buildings and the usage of signage. These restrictions limit the potential wayfinding and branding strategies an organization on Nantucket can use. Wayfinding and branding become even more important for an organization that has a dispersed campus so visitors can make their way between the locations and recognize each belongs to the same location. The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) currently struggles with wayfinding and identity, utilizing inconsistent logos and signage.


Project Goals and Objectives

Our overall project goal was to determine steps the Maria Mitchell Association could take to improve visitor wayfinding and promote its organizational identity. In order to achieve this goal, we pursued four objectives:

  • Objective 1: Identify wayfinding and identification strategies used by other institutions.
  • Objective 2: Determine the perspectives of key stakeholders regarding the wayfinding and identification challenges the MMA faces, identify previous efforts to address the challenges, assess current signage and marketing materials, and evaluate potential solutions.
  • Objective 3: Examine budget, design, and regulatory constraints as well as wayfinding and identification approaches others have used on the island.
  • Objective 4:  Propose a set of recommendations that includes materials and designs the MMA can implement to improve visitor wayfinding and identification.


Research Methods

In order to learn more about the nature of the wayfinding, identity, and identification challenges faced by the MMA, we contacted key stakeholders on the island. Because these stakeholders focus on different parts of the MMA’s wayfinding, identity and identification challenges, we conducted specifically tailored interviews for each stakeholder. We conducted interviews with representatives of the following stakeholder groups:

  • MMA board members, staff members, and interns;
  • The Nantucket Historical Association;
  • ReMain Nantucket;
  • Egan Maritime Institute;
  • The Office of Culture and Tourism;
  • The Sign Advisory Committee of the Historic District Commission;
  • Architects on Nantucket; and
  • Others, including local businesses, involved in identification and wayfinding on Nantucket.

Additionally, we gathered feedback from MMA board members, staff, and supporters using a Google Forms survey. MMA staff selected a sample of 119 MMA staff, board members, members, and active supporters. Out of the 119, we received 24 responses. We used this survey to generate data on visitation trends, wayfinding preferences, and wayfinding concerns at the MMA. We also wanted to gauge whether QR codes and typing a web address into a phone would be practical means of informing visitors.

In order to preserve the historic nature of the island, the Historic District Commission (HDC) has created a list of regulations that we reviewed and took into account when choosing which options would be suitable for Nantucket’s historic atmosphere, including regulations for signage, landscaping, hardscaping, and lighting. We compiled a list of the relevant regulations and other restrictions into a comprehensive list of limiting factors. This list of limitations served as a checklist of the standards each possible solution needs to meet to be considered viable. Some of the most relevant were the signage and architecture guidelines.

In order to propose a plan of action for the MMA, we asked what staff members wanted, what the board of directors would consider when presented with a recommendation, and what solutions are feasible for the organization. We also considered limitations like number of signs at locations, costs of our proposed solutions, and how the MMA may fund any of our recommendations. We held an exit meeting with the MMA staff to present our final recommendations. We aimed to make our proposed solutions as cost-effective as possible when compared to the increase in visitation they achieve.


Findings and Discussion

The following section includes findings about the use of different logos by the MMA, signage that should be improved, landscaping options, and the MMA’s online presence.

Logo and Marketing Collateral

The MMA lacks a clear identity and the use of two logos causes furthers confusion. Additionally, inconsistencies in the use of each logo makes the organization seem unorganized and less professional. The MMA’s logo usage guidelines are outdated and often ignored, leading to a lot of variation in marketing collateral. Currently, the only overarching marketing collateral for the MMA is a 30 page programs book, which day trip visitors are unlikely to read in its entirety.


The signs on MMA facilities are in various conditions from pristine to barely readable. There are other types of signs the MMA could consider using like rock signage and post signs to improve the signage at Loines Observatory. Notice boards used by the MMA have unorganized paper flyers, some of which are outdated, have no map, and appear unkempt.


The landscaping varies between the MMA properties, which can cause a lack of visual unity. Indigenous plants are maintained for their ecological significance, but often make the properties look unkempt. Benches and picnic tables can be used to make a property appear less residential and more inviting.

Online Presence

The MMA’s presence on various social media sites has been developing in the past years, but still has the opportunity to improve. Additionally, the MMA’s website uses an outdated format, created between 2012 and 2013, that is difficult to navigate, is not mobile-friendly, and does not meet the expectations of a contemporary website. The MMA has three different pages on TripAdvisor: one for the Aquarium, one for Loines Observatory, and one for the MMA as a whole. Currently, MMA staff do not respond to all TripAdvisor reviews.


Conclusions and Recommendations

From our findings, we conclude that there is significant confusion surrounding the MMA’s identity, which has been a source of many of its problems. With this in mind, we recommend the MMA determine how it wants to identify itself and solidify its brand around one identity. More specifically, we suggest the MMA consider improving: branding; marketing collateral; signage; landscaping; online presence; its maps; and its organizational image. The conclusions and recommendations for each of those specific topics are as follows:


The use of multiple logos causes confusion. We highly recommend the MMA choose one logo and eliminate the usage of all other logos in its signs, marketing materials, and other belongings. This implies a lengthy process, and will be a long-term goal for the MMA which may entail creating an entirely new logo.

Marketing Collateral

The MMA has a variety of marketing material with inconsistent formats. We recommend the MMA develop an overarching brochure that targets daytrip visitors to Nantucket, and that it place these brochures at locations the majority of visitors must pass by on their trip to Nantucket, such as the ferry terminals. Developing and enforcing a set of guidelines for marketing materials will ensure consistent formatting.


Some of the signs are in poor condition and should be replaced. When these signs are replaced, we recommend they be consistent with the one logo the MMA has chosen as its visual representation. Additionally, we suggest the MMA create signage closer to the street at Loines Observatory.


Many of the MMA properties appear unkempt, and landscaping varies between facilities. We recommend the MMA maintain a crisp and clean appearance by ensuring the vegetation is cut back and repainting the trim of the buildings. To create a visual unity on the MMA campus, we recommend the organization use benches, picnic tables, uniform fencing, and consistent plantings at each location.

Online Presence

The MMA’s online presence has increased over the years but can be improved. We recommend the MMA continue to improve its social media pages using the set of guidelines we have created. Specifically, we suggest the MMA respond to all TripAdvisor reviews in a timely manner. The MMA’s website currently uses an outdated framework and lacks plugins that could make the website mobile-friendly and improve ease of use.


The MMA has a very simple digital and paper map. We recommend the MMA adopt and maintain an updated version of the Google My Map we created. To increase visitation to Vestal Street, we suggest the MMA consider using a walking tour map that guides visitors to Vestal Street while educating them about Maria Mitchell’s life.

Organizational Image

Staff have numerous time-consuming responsibilities, which causes a lack of communication between the departments. This lack of communication is detrimental to the organization. We recommend the MMA work to unify its departments and increase the levels of communication and cooperation between them by following all guidelines created for the organization.


Although there are a variety of wayfinding and organizational identity challenges to address, we hope the recommendations in this report will help the MMA clarify its identity and improve visitor wayfinding.