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UFO Museum plans interactive exhibits

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The International UFO Museum & Research Center plans on technology-driven exhibits for next year’s UFO Festival, organizers said, and it was reported attendance for this year’s festival broke records.

At the Roswell City Council meeting on Oct. 11, Kathy Lay, director of MainStreet Roswell, said the UFO Museum was looking into more interactive exhibits when she answered city councilor’s questions regarding the UFO Festival. The 2019 UFO Festival was approved by the city council to receive $21,100 in lodgers’ tax funding.

When the Daily Record asked about plans for the exhibits, Jim Hill, director of the UFO museum, said the museum is working on a multiyear plan to update all exhibits. Hill said the museum hopes to have at least one new exhibit in time for next year’s festival to draw interest.

Within the next 30 days, Hill said the museum plans to work on a $200,000 project to allow visitors to use smart-phones or other devices to interact with exhibits. Hill said the museum should sign a contract this week with a project manager to develop this with resources from around the country.

“We do recognize the fact that we do need to catch up with modern technology,” Hill said.

For children, Hill said they would use a smart-device to provide the experience of a treasure hunt in search of an alien. If visitors find the alien, Hill said a small prize will be given.

“They’ll go on a treasure hunt, for example, (to) look for aliens and they look at the floor and then a crack opens — and an alien pops out,” Hill said.

A potential filmed reenactment of Jesse Marcel’s account of allegedly finding a flying saucer in 1947 was another example of a future update Hill shared.

The exhibits are not the only part of the museum heading in the direction of technological advancement. Hill said the map used to chart where visitors come from is planned for upgrades to become an interactive electronic map that will use zip codes with visitors’ names as pins. Hill said visitors will be able to see a list of people from their own zip codes that have visited.

Reflecting on the past year’s UFO Festival, Hill said 9,168 people visited the UFO museum during the three days of the festival, a total of 10,252 visitors over the course of four days (including the day before). Hill said this is a 17 percent increase over the previous year, which had the largest turnout in the history of the museum.

Hill also said visitors from 49 states and 13 foreign countries were present during the festival. For year-to-date numbers, Hill said he is certain the museum will exceed 230,000 visitors. Lay shared that the festival had local paid lodging booked at 97 percent capacity, and Hill said registered guests at the museum usually say they spend one night in Roswell in paid lodging. However, Hill said this year the numbers showed that 60 percent of visitors paid to stay in Roswell for one night.

“I think that’s kind of the importance of the festival,” Hill said. “The festival also keeps the buzz about Roswell going all year long.”

In regards to feedback on the festival and the museum, Hill said the museum’s Facebook page has over 2,000 reviews with a 4.1 rating out of five stars, and with websites such as Trip Advisor and Travelocity, the rating is around 3.5 stars with a couple of thousand reviews.

“I didn’t get anything negative about the festival itself,” Hill said. “And then, with 230,000 visitors a year, we’ve got some folks that just love it and we’ve got some folks that it’s not their cup of tea.”

One issue Hill said was brought to his attention: the speakers’ sessions filled up on a first come, first served basis. Hill said it was difficult to fit everyone in for certain speakers, such as Travis Walton, and some people were disappointed when they weren’t admitted once capacity was reached. For each UFO Festival, Hill said to bring in speakers and other expenses costs $40,000 for the museum annually.

Hill said the former director said it cost the museum over $100,000 per year to run the whole festival alone — and now the museum partners with the city of Roswell, MainStreet Roswell and the UFO Festival Committee.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.