Lighthouse Stewards · Queries

Query on Lighthouse Visitor Registers

Extract from the 1881 Instructions to Light Keepers
Extract from the 1881 Instructions to Light Keeper

Lighthouses have always been tourist attractions. At some point keepers were instructed to track the number of visitors to their stations. This may have been when the practice of guests signing a register started.

Jennifer Niemi, program manager at Split Rock Lighthouse, a state historic site maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), submits the following query to other lighthouse stewards:

Our site has been gathering DATE, NAME, CITY, STATE & ZIP literally forever (starting with the USLHS, then Coast Guard & now MNHS) and then the filled registries get stored to never be looked upon again. We are trying to figure out if we can use the information for something useful or if we should just scrap the whole practice, as in its current state it’s quite useless information. The only real reason for doing it is because it has been done historically at the site.

Jennifer would like lighthouse stewards to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you use guest registers for visitors to sign in where they are from?
  2. If so, what do you ask them to share (name, city, zip, etc.)?
  3. And what do you do with that information?

Please submit your responses directly to Jennifer at She will prepare a summary for a followup post.

Based on query submitted by Jennifer Niemi on January 9, 2017.

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3 thoughts on “Query on Lighthouse Visitor Registers

  1. We do the same thing at Muskegon South Pierhead Light and I’ve always wondered if they would ever serve a practical purpose! We request on the liability waiver sign up registry, the visitor’s name, email, if they wish to be added to e-news, and address. Other than the email (when its legible) which we add to our e-news database, we store away tons of these pages annually without any other use and always feel badly about the amount of paper we’re wasting. Looking forward to the summary of responses! Thanks for raising this topic for discussion!

  2. It was always my understanding that visitor counts were considered important information when applying for grants in many instances. Perhaps to show how many will potentially benefit from as a result of receiving the award.

  3. Reblogged this on U.S. Lighthouse Society News and commented:

    Jennifer Niemi provided this followup to your responses regarding her query on visitor registers:

    “To give my inquiry a little bit more perspective I will share more detail into our situation. We see approximately 150,000 visitors a year. Our ‘season’ where we offer guided tours runs May 15- third weekend in October. During this time we do charge admission to the site. The historic property is fenced in so in order for people to access the station, during this time, they must come through the Visitors Center. We have a new CRM system that will capture zip codes so we can track where people are coming from. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we have a Membership drawing each month. Visitors sign up and at the end of the month two winners are randomly choosen. So we are collecting information to push out to visitors on events, becoming a member, etc. The Visitor Registry we had was located in our Fog Signal building so people who have paid admission and logged their zipcode, may or may not signin. So going back to my original quiry we were wondering if there was a reason for us to collect this information? Once a log book is filled it goes into storage to never be looked upon again. We do get the occasional visitor that is curious about a family member, “who visited here sometime between 1990-1992 and signed in,” but there is no way to cull through that unless we want to set them up at a table with 6+ log books.

    So from all the wonderful LH folks that responded here is what I found.

    1. Some use it as a way to solicit membership, share event information and track the number of people visiting the site.
    2. The don’t use one at all.
    3. They are in the same situation as our site.

    So it sounds like it really depends on the needs of the site. For Split Rock Lighthouse, we have a system that captures data and numbers, which it sounds like others do as well. So with all of this we have decided to retire the Visitor Registry and turn it into a more meaningful way for visitors to share in their experience with us. If anyone has ideas please share. ”

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