When I left my previous job with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, one of my colleagues said he suspected one of my motivations for taking up my new job in Virginia was my interest in the American Civil War. While I will admit it was a positive influence, it was far from the determining factor. Nevertheless, I noticed an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (link no longer available).
The article talks about the decision to move the current Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, and divide its holdings among three sites. The two named today were the Appomattox Court House National Park, and the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitors Center, located in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. A third will likely be named later this month.
I was struck by the clear examples of some basic economic concepts in the story. The concepts I was immediately aware of were "place utility", "supply", and "complimentary goods." Allow me to explain my thinking.
Place utility is one of three types of utility that are added to resources in the production process. (The other two are form and time utility.) Place utility simply is putting the good or service in a place where it is more easily consumed. It is utility that gives a product value, whether good or service. Indeed, the same product can have different value depending on the type of utility. This explains why a gallon of milk at a 24-hour convenience store may have a higher price than a gallon of the same brand of milk located at a large supermarket. In the former case, additional utility in the form of place and time (more convenient) make the product add more value. In the case of the Museum relocation, moving the collections to various spots adds more place utility. It makes the "product" easier to consume by increasing the number and locations of the product.
Supply is increased by the fact that the new locations will have combined exhibit space that is more than twice the space the Museum has now. Quantity supplied is increasing, this could reduce the cost (notice I didn't say price) to the Museum of displaying the collection as more should be able to be on display without changing the displays.
Finally, we come to the concept of complimentary goods. These are goods that increase their respective values when consumed together. (Think about peanut butter and jelly here.) The value of both the parks and the Museum holdings are increased by proximity. The Museum collection can be more relevant if in the setting where the various pieces were found. And the park becomes more relevant and interesting through the addition of actual specimens.
I suspect there are other lessons to be garnered here. But these are the first that jumped out at me. I invite your observations and comments.