On Friday, I was fortunate to be part of a small group of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame representatives that was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Seven of us – including the Hall’s director of operations Scott Crawford, board members Harry Gundy, Charlie Hammond, Tammy Adkin and Phil Parkinson and St. Marys councillor Lynn Hainer – made the trek to the hallowed baseball shrine in upstate New York.
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is fundraising to build a new museum in St. Marys (For more information, visit www.baseballhalloffame.ca) and Phil Parkinson organized this trip to establish a relationship with the American museum and to tap into their wisdom and expertise on museum and artifact management.
We met the museum’s librarian Jim Gates at 9:30 a.m. and were given an in-depth look at the museum’s research center, library and how their documents are organized. Jim also shared several historic documents from their archives, including some with a Canadian connection.
At around 11 a.m., Jim introduced us to Susan McKay, the museum’s director of collections, where she opened the doors to a room that housed thousands of 3D artifacts – including countless historic Canadian pieces – that aren’t currently on display. I was like a kid in a candy store and probably would still be in that room if we didn’t have a schedule to follow. Photos of some of these artifacts will be forthcoming in future blog entries.
Jim, Erik Strohl (the museum’s senior director of exhibitions and collections) and Jamilyn Cole (who heads the museum’s education program) then joined us for lunch at The Pit, a restaurant in the historic Tunnicliff Inn, where they generously answered our questions about everything from who their average visitor is to how they connect with students to the technologies they have embraced.
In the afternoon, we were treated to a remarkable tour of the museum by senior curator Tom Shieber – not to be confused with one of his favourite baseball players Tom Seaver (but it has happened). Tom was a fountain of baseball knowledge and shared some of the do’s and don’ts of setting up exhibits with us. He also provided some information about Jackie Robinson’s tenure with the Montreal Royals that I’ll touch on in a future blog entry.
We ended the day by having supper at the Hawkeye Grill in the breathtaking Otesaga Hotel, where we dined with Jim, Tom and the mayor of Cooperstown, Jeff Katz, who’s not coincidentally a baseball author and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
This short blog entry doesn’t appropriately convey how grateful we – the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame representatives – are to the generous Hall employees and mayor Katz for selflessly sharing their knowledge, experience and expertise with us. This was an experience I’ll never forget. To Jim, Susan, Erik, Tom, Jamilyn, mayor Katz and all of the other employees whom we met, thank you for the wonderful hospitality.
Hopefully, we’ll see you in St. Marys at the grand opening of a new museum in the next few years.
(Author’s Note: In the coming weeks, I will be featuring some Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal Expos and Jackie Robinson photos from our tour at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.)
That was my 4th trip to Cooperstown and the best trip yet by far. I can’t wait to take my kids some day. One of my favourite parts was seeing the tree the CBHFM planted at the HOF back in 1989 to honour their first 50 years!
Thanks, Scott. Thanks for letting me tag along. Yes, I have a photo of the tree that I’ll post on the Facebook page soon.
Sounds like a great trip!! Can’t wait to hear some of the stories
Good to hear from you, Zach. Yes, it was a great trip. More details to come. Hope you are doing well.
Everything at the Hall and Phil who helped organize this trip should take a bow. Making links with the National Hall and other groups who can help the CBHFM realize the dream of a new hall is absolutely vital. I’m sure that displaying and preserving artifacts is a difficult and immense job. It’s also the foundation of drawing people to the museum. Recently I toured the Grey Cup train. I would imagine most of the displays came from the Hamilton based CFL museum. It was an outstanding exhibit. Visiting the CFL Hall is now on my bucket list. The Grey Cup Train was interactive, colourful and exciting right down to the free photo with the Grey Cup from Tour staff that was immediately emailed to my home address. I think we could do that at the next Induction Ceremony if we have the right display.
Thanks for the comment, Dave. Yes, Phil deserves kudos for organizing the trip. I didn’t make it down to see the Grey Cup train, but I have been to the CFL Hall of Fame. It’s outstanding. I highly recommend it.
From Devon Teeple:
Sounds like an amazing trip!
Kudos to the work you guys put in. Great stuff Kevin.
Thanks, Devon. The new museum in St. Marys should be spectacular.
We enjoyed having you with us and look forward to working with you in the future.
Thanks for stopping by, Jim. And thanks a million again for the tour of a lifetime.