ATLANTIC CITY - The New Jersey Hall of Fame is planning to establish regional museums in Atlantic City and Newark to complement its main facility in Trenton, museum officials and city leaders said.

The Hall of Fame, which annually honors a wide range of successful individuals who have lived in New Jersey, is scheduled to open its main facility in Trenton this fall. The regional museum in Atlantic City would feature historical items related to the organization's inductees, with a "South Jersey twist," said Don Jay Smith, the Hall of Fame's executive director.

"We want to make our sites more accessible to all New Jersey residents," Smith said. "Atlantic City is obviously our first pick for the southern part of the state."

And Smith has large aspirations for where to build the regional museum: "We would love to be right on the Boardwalk," he said.

Smith said the Hall of Fame is targeting the defunct bath house adjacent to Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City's historic entertainment venue. Smith said he has not directly spoken to city officials about the site yet, but projected meeting with them in the spring with hopes of agreeing to a long-term lease.

Officials with the organization have had discussions with City Council's Planning and Development Committee, which is expected to send a resolution to City Council soon to endorse the broad plan of the organization establishing itself in the resort.

"We should be receptive to something like that," said Councilman Frank Gilliam, who has headed discussions with the organization. "We need more excitement and we need to bring a different energy down here."

The New Jersey Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization that only accepts private funding. The group, founded in 2005, held its inaugural induction ceremony in 2008, with Bruce Springsteen and Toni Morrison among the inductees.

The organization's plans for regional museums, which originally also included one in Asbury Park, is part of an ongoing effort to expand its educational value. The Hall of Fame also has plans to launch a mobile museum that would visit New Jersey schools to teach students about the state's successful natives, while helping the schools to keep field trip costs down and preserve class time. The mobile unit is expected to be launched in 2012.

Gilliam said part of his discussions with the organization included the idea of murals of inductees being painted on the side of Boardwalk Hall. However, Smith said plans for the contents inside the regional museum in Atlantic City are still far from being discussed.

"We would like to have the regional museum in Atlantic City be different enough so that people would travel from different parts of the state to see it," he said. "But we haven't gotten so far to figure out what the content would be."

With the Hall of Fame's official museum opening slated for the fall, Smith said he would like to see a regional museum open some time in 2012.

"We'd like to see Atlantic City open first," Smith said. "But we have to see how things go."

Contact Michael Clark:

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