What’s the first thing you think of when we say: HD South?

High-definition TV? Nope. That’s not what the Gilbert historians were going for when they renamed the Gilbert Historical Museum to HD South.

Think southern gateway to the Heritage District, the southeast Valley town’s increasingly popular downtown strip buzzing with trendy restaurants.

So will the new name catch on or be a bust? Branding experts say it could take some effort.

“It could be a successful name if they really educate people on what it is and take steps to really own the name … but it’s probably going to take a little work,” said Todd Brenard, a chief strategy officer at a New York-based marketing agency called BrandTuitive.

Brenard, a New Yorker, said the name might be meaningful to local residents, but it doesn’t mean anything to him as someone unfamiliar with the area. 

Even some Gilbert residents weren’t quite sure what to make of the name. 

Brenard suggests brand names should give a sense of what the facility does, evoke emotion and tell the community how it makes their lives better. “The Gilbert Arts and Cultural Center might have been a better name,” he said.

New name, new offerings

The new moniker comes as the museum expands its offerings. 

The museum, owned and operated by the non-profit Gilbert Historical Society, now boasts science workshops, storyteller sessions, art exhibits and other activities. It will hold a series of grand re-opening events Dec. 1-2, including Breakfast with Santa catered by Snooze Eatery and the Festival of Trees with free admission.  

“We will always do history. That’s our heart, that’s how we got started,” Kayla Kolar, president and chief executive of HD South, said. “But since we’re doing so much more, the name ‘Gilbert Historical Museum’ didn’t fit anymore.”  

Kolar said HD SOUTH, near Elliot and Gilbert roads, aims to become an anchor of activity on the southern end of the Heritage District, where there’s plenty of places to eat, but not much to do.  

She said conversations about re-naming began a few years back with a series of community meetings. “Legacy Station” and “10 South” were thrown around as possibilities, too.

Kolar said she hasn’t heard any criticism from residents, although some have questioned its meaning, mistaking HD for “Home Depot” or “high-definition.”  

Beyond the expanded activities, the old name hurt fundraising efforts, Kolar said. Corporations and foundations would look at grant applications and think “Gilbert is too small” and “history” is too niche.

“History by itself is not sustainable,” Kolar said.

Future expansion

Kolar said the organization is in the early stages of raising money to build a new building across the street for more museum program space. The vision for the expansion will include an arts and culinary school, an outdoor amphitheater, conference space and more.  

The goal is to raise $2 million and have the expanded museum across the street from its current location opened by 2020. 

Museum officials conducted a feasibility study last spring to look at how much this idea would cost and how community leaders felt about the initiative. The initial goal for the campaign was set at $5 million. 

While the organization received positive feedback, community leaders were scared of the price tag and plans were scaled back, Kolar said. 

“Because of how Gilbert grew, there aren’t the non-profits here so nobody’s done it here. And so we’re kind of blazing new ground,” she said.    


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