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Checking in with Henry Moy

Fast Facts about Henry Moy

Henry Moy is the Quintus H. Herron Director at the Museum of the Red River in Idabel, Oklahoma.

The Museum of the Red River highlights the artistic heritage of the native people of the Americas and around the world. In 1998, the museum began offering small group tours, generally with a limit of 18 travelers. Though Idabel, Oklahoma’s population is 6,800 people, the museum’s travelers hail from across the country. The museum allows anyone interested to join the tours.

Born: Chicago

Education: Master of Arts in teaching from Beloit College

Employment:  Moy worked at Beloit College eight years after graduating to become director of museums. He established a student exchange program with Brazil before joining the Museum of the Red River in 1997.

Hobbies: Moy enjoys traveling and reading. One country he has returned to repeatedly is China.

Exclusive Encounters Make an Impact

When Henry Moy first visited China in 1979, the country had only recently opened to travelers. Handlers restricted the tour to certain areas, including one visit to a model village.

“The people living there had to scavenge for firewood, so at one place I saw them chopping up 17th-century furniture that had been in their family for years to use as firewood,” said Moy, Quintus H. Herron director for the Museum of the Red River in Idabel. “That just broke my heart. They didn’t seem to care.”

The China trip helped teach Moy, a fourth-generation Chinese-American, the power of travel to connect people to another culture. Moy returned to China seven times, including a few years ago on a tour with the Museum of the Red River. He wanted to create a similar cultural experience for the museum’s travelers, so he arranged some personal home visits.

“It was at a time when the country was allowing people to own art again,” said Moy. “People were digging family heirlooms out of their backyard that they had hidden so they wouldn’t be confiscated. These private museums were popping up in people’s homes. We visited someone’s living room filled with art. These were things that had never been catalogued or seen. Cultural experiences like that are so exciting and mind-boggling.”

Moy weaves these types of exclusive encounters into the tours he plans for groups traveling with the Museum of the Red River.

Travel Background

Moy grew to love travel early because his family prioritized travel and cultural experiences.

“My parents had a limited financial background but were committed to going to museums and traveling whenever possible,” said Moy. “I was very fortunate.”

Later, Moy traveled while attending Beloit College. He then took a job at the same institution creating international experiences for students.

“I took students around the world,” said Moy. “I helped establish exchange programs in Brazil, so I had a familiarity with that.”

The Museum of the Red River hired Moy in 1997. He started the travel program a year later to spread the love of travel with the local community.

“We are in rural southeast Oklahoma,” said Hoy. “Most people will live here and never leave the country. We are a museum with international exhibits. We are bringing the world to a smaller community, then letting our community be a part of that larger world with our travel program.”

Modeling the Way

The museum’s travel program first ventured to Brazil, since Moy was familiar with planning trips there. Though Moy carried with him a wealth of travel knowledge, he didn’t have other museum travel programs to imitate.

“We introduced the concept of a museum travel program to Oklahoma, as far as I know,” said Moy. “There are some now. I mostly looked to universities for examples of international travel programs.”

After Moy’s successful first museum trip, the travel program continued to attract new and repeat travelers, first from the community, then from farther away as more out-of-town museum visitors started signing up for tours. The museum now sends tour announcements to a mailing list of people across the country. Some people who haven’t even visited the museum have signed up for trips strictly from word of mouth.

The museum typically plans two international trips a year: one in the spring and one in the fall. The groups usually stay small, with a maximum of 18 people.

Each tour ties in with a museum exhibit. For example, an exhibit on Amazonian feather work inspired a trip to the Amazon. Though the museum focuses heavily on Native American pieces, in the past 20 years it has expanded its collection to include items from Africa, the South Pacific and Latin America.

“The world has opened up for us,” said Moy. “We can easily match our trips to our collections. Last year, we did a trip to New Zealand because we received a small New Zealand collection. We want to broaden the experience of our exhibits with these cultural travel programs.”

Gaining Ground

Through the travel program, donations and other initiatives, Moy has seen the museum grow from 2,800 square feet to its current 58,000 square feet of space during his time there.

“We are currently on our fourth renovation and expansion,” said Moy. “The museum is now a big presence in the town. We aren’t in a big town, but we are on a major tourist route. We serve a wider area than just our local community.”

For each museum trip, Moy crafts an initial itinerary with added exclusive experiences, such as early access to museums, special meals and behind-the-scenes tours. He then selects a tour operator to arrange the itinerary’s logistics.

“With smaller tours, you expect more perks than a trip with 40 people,” said Moy. “Our trips will cost a little bit more, so we try to make sure our travelers feel like they are getting value for their money. We now have a core group of travelers who try to go on one trip a year with us. Travel has built loyalty to the institution. Travelers’ personal contributions have increased.”

Yet Moy’s motivations for the travel program aren’t financial. His greatest joy is giving people a chance to interact with the world the way he was able to on his trips to China and beyond.

“I love our ability to provide these opportunities to those who want to have their hands held a little bit while traveling,” he said. “Then, after the trip, people will sometimes go back to that country by themselves to go to their favorite destinations or the places they missed. That’s gratifying.”

Travel Tips

Focus on value-added tours by traveling with your group.

Your tour’s broad offerings should include standard trips plus special-access opportunities.

Convince participants to travel while they are young.