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Atlantic City forum considers ideas for exhibiting city’s past in proposed museum

ATLANTIC CITY —  Visitors to the resort will be able to travel
back to Atlantic City’s glory days and experience the sites and
sounds of Club Harlem or witness a diving horse plunge into a pool
of water if plans for a new museum in the city come to
fruition.

The public heard for the first time some of the ideas for a
proposed Atlantic City Experience museum and research center during
a public forum Wednesday at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.
The center would be dedicated to preserving the city’s history and
multicultural heritage.

The museum — a project spearheaded by library employees — would
also include exhibits, an event place for book signings and
concerts, classroom space, a research center and a museum store,
said Heather Halpin Perez, the library’s archivist.

No cost or timeline for the project has been determined.

Mills + Schnoering Architects has been hired to conduct a
feasibility study for the project. The study will examine
everything from the museum’s size to visitor demographics and
potential competition.

“It takes a whole village to do this type of project,” said Michael
J. Mills, partner in charge of Mills + Schnoering Architects. The
firm’s credits include the redesign of the Alton Auditorium at
Richard Stockton College.

No decision has been made on a location for the museum, Mills
said.

Sites under consideration include the Absecon Lighthouse, inside
Boardwalk Hall and Garden Pier, said Alison Baxter, a senior
associate with Mills +Schnoering Architects.

Some of the museum’s centerpieces would be multimedia and
interactive exhibits that will virtually transport visitors back to
Club Harlem in the 1930s or the diving horse shows on Steel
Pier.

Interest in building a museum and research center comes at a time
when there is growing emphasis for offering more than gaming in the
resort. A tourism promotion study done last year found that a very
large percentage of travelers and tourists rate the arts and
performing arts as particularly important when making travel
decisions. This survey was conducted by the Lloyd D. Levenson
Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Richard Stockton
College.

“More than 50 percent of the people who responded to the survey
indicated that arts and cultural amenities are important when
making travel decisions,” said Israel Posner, the institute’s
executive director. Posner said the proposed museum would be a
welcome addition to the city’s offerings

“Based upon our research, it’s something that is a very important
opportunity,” Posner said.

Members of the city’s community also support the project.

The Atlantic City Historical Museum, located on Garden Pier, is
temporarily closed for renovations.

“We are very supportive of what the library is doing. We are often
in partnership with them in different exhibits, and we would love
to see them really create a major space. Everyone who is interested
in history would lend a hand,” said Vicki Gold Levi, co-founder of
the historical museum, said Wednesday evening.

“I would personally love to see a really major space devoted to
Atlantic City history,” Levi said. “Atlantic City has such great
history, there is room for more than one space.”

About 60 people attended the meeting to share their ideas about
what the museum should include, where it should be located and how
it should operate.

Several members of the public mentioned that the museum should
reflect the city’s history of cultural diversity.

Anthony Cox, who co-owns property on the corner of Kentucky and
Arctic avenues — the historic hub of nightlife for African-American
residents of the city — asked those assembled to consider a
satellite building to the main museum where the city’s black
history could be highlighted.

Jean Muchanic, the executive director of the Absecon Lighthouse,
said her historic location is a two-acre site with a 10-foot fence
making it a secure location for the museum. She felt putting the
museum at a location where the lighthouse and Historic Gardner’s
Basin already exist would boost the Inlet section of the
city.

Tony Marino, a former Atlantic City resident living in Egg Harbor
Township, suggested the museum feature a high-tech hologram that
could explain how railroad service helped the city develop into a
world-class resort.

Stellzene Roberts, of the Casino Reinvestment Development
Authority’s Special Improvement Division, said exhibits inside the
museum should change every six months to keep it fresh. The museum
should be open every day, and employ people who know about the
city’s history, Roberts said. Exhibits could include some of the
many things that people may not know about Atlantic City history,
he said. For instance, Roberts said, the late big band leader Glenn
Miller used to perform every weekend in the city.

Contact Vincent Jackson:

609-272-7202

VJackson@pressofac.com

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