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.)