Thursday, April 19, 2007

Big doin's

The Roanoke City Council voted unanimously to give the Nickel Plate Locomotive #763 to us. This kick-starts the chain of events involved in making the sale finally happen. The Ohio Central Railroad Historical Society will pay us once we have written confirmation that Norfolk Southern will move the engine for them. With all of that in place, #763 will pull out of Roanoke for the first time in about forty years.

Meanwhile, the Advance Auto Parts Auto Gallery is nearing completion. The museum will be closing to the public this Sunday, April 22nd, to host a private event for Advance's team members in honor of Advance's 75th anniversary. After that, the gallery will open the following week. We're not sure when the grand opening will be as there's still a lot of work to do, but the public will have access before the month is out. How wild is that?! And it's only seven months late... pesky storms.

On a slightly personal note, this blogger just returned from a trip to the Museum Store Association Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado. Coming out of the contacts made and research done there, look for a unique product line to be introduced this fall in VMT's store, Destinations. These items won't be available anywhere else, so be sure to check back for more information.

Finally (ah... finally), the museum may be acquiring a U.S. Army Cobra helicopter for display outside the museum. The hope is to place it about twenty feet in the air in front of the building with its running lights on to attract attention. Unfortunately, and for obvious reasons, we can't keep the rotor running. One flock of birds with bad depth perception and we've got a mess.

Stay tuned for more, and some pictures of our fearless leader trying to operate a Zamboni machine in a shirt and tie!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Change is a-comin'

We've got some fairly big doings happening right now worth mentioning. Our featured exhibit, "Starlight on the Rails" has finally come down and is on its way back home to the Robert Mann Gallery in New York.

Though the Lawrence Gallery which housed that exhibit here is closed, we're excited to report that our Auto Gallery will be opening this Friday! Ok, let's put aside the glamorous press release stuff and talk about what's actually going on.

The Auto Gallery was supposed to open in October of last year. After the roof came off, everything got put on hold. Gallery openings, annual fund raising drives, newsletter mailings -- everything. Resultantly, the Auto Gallery got pushed back and pushed back while the "Starlight" exhibit got held over and held over. Now, entering the final quarter of the museum's fiscal year, with a firmer grip on finances than at any time in the museum's recent history, things are finally back on track (if you'll forgive the pun).

The Auto Gallery will not be finished by the time it opens on Friday, but it will at least be presentable. It houses nearly a dozen automobiles ranging from the 1900s to the 1980s, along with a set of license plates covering almost every year of Virginia's auto history, a set worth more than $5,000 in itself. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) donated a substantial collection of photographs, signs, and other materials for the first exhibit in the gallery. All of these things will be up and running on Friday.

What isn't ready is the building itself. Because the Auto Gallery is contiguous with the rest of the museum, though divided from it by a fire wall, a certified fire door has to be in use. We don't have one of those (though Advance Auto Parts has generously donated the funds for such a door's installation). Also, the gallery is in a portion of the building that still retains most of the original rolling doors from the building's construction in 1918. That's right -- these doors are almost 90 years old. While they keep people and animals out, that's about all they keep out. This museum has never been properly renovated, and as a result, air gets in everywhere. Heating and cooling costs harken back to your dad telling you not to leave the front door open with the air conditioner running. Dad was right. So, those doors have to be replaced, either with new doors or walls or a combination of the two.

We won't have all of the signage done yet, either. Thanks to the efforts of the VMT Intern, we have well-researched, engagingly written signs for each automobile, but they're still not back from the printers, and the clock's ticking.

What this means is what we call in the biz, "a soft opening." We'll have a grand opening once the whole thing's ready, but as of Friday, all guests entering the museum will have access to this gallery. Hopefully, a room full of beautiful automobiles will serve as a substitute for a room full of railroad photography.

And what of that room? This summer, we hope to have not one, not two, but three new exhibits in that room. We've posted about two of them before -- the Grayhound Bus exhibit, and the Virginian Railway exhibit. The third exhibit is devoted to Star City Motor Madness, an annual antique car celebration held in Roanoke (and, not without mention, a generous contributor to the museum).

Anyway, come out Friday. See the cars. See the trains. See the three-block long museum run by four people. Marvel.

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