ATLANTIC CITY — Trump Water, Trump Steaks, Trump Ties and now possibly a Trump Museum in the resort where the president-elect dominated headlines for more than two decades.
Donald Trump cut most of his ties with the city by 2009, and the last vestige of the billionaire’s casino empire in the city fell with the October closing of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, currently owned by Trump friend Carl Icahn.
But now, a group of locals has launched a campaign to start a Trump museum. Organizers are seeking artifacts and stories from people who worked at Trump’s properties over the past three decades.
“Let’s face it, the subject of Donald Trump in Atlantic City is going to be of historical interest, especially now that he has been elected president,” said Bob Blaskiewicz, assistant professor of critical thinking and first-year studies at Stockton University and a member of the group trying to make the museum happen. “People are going to be interested in what his long-term impact has been on the city.”
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A museum dedicated to the history of the billionaire could help bring tourists to the area, said Levi Fox, a doctoral student at Temple University and owner of Jersey Shore Tours, who also is a member of the group.
As an example of the possible impact of a museum, Fox pointed to Sevnica, Slovenia, the birthplace of first-lady-to-be Melania Trump. Since the election, people have been flocking to the town to get a glimpse of where she grew up.
“This is something that could drive people to the city,” Fox said. “You look at what is happening in Melania’s hometown, and why couldn’t that happen here?”
Trump has deep roots in the resort, including multiple bankruptcies. Trump once owned three Atlantic City casinos but ended most of his business dealings in the city by 2009. His career in the resort began when he opened Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in 1984. By the end of 1991, Trump’s three casinos employed more than 12,700 people, nearly one-third of the entire Atlantic City casino workforce.
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The museum would not be affiliated with Trump business dealings or any political party, Fox said.
“This is something that is meant to bring all voices together,” he said. “It’s a bipartisan project. It’s not going to be biased in any way. We want to give the complete story.”
The biggest issue the group is going to run into is securing the funding needed for a project of this scope, said Bryant Simon, a professor of history at Temple and the author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”
“The first and biggest question is who is going fund the project?” Simon said. “Secondly, what is the narrative and what are the artifacts going to be? Atlantic City offers a dramatic way to explore Trump’s failures and success as a business person.”
“Maybe they could use the lobby of the Trump Taj Mahal,” Simon joked of the shuttered property once called the “eighth wonder of the world” by Trump.
Fox is no stranger to Trump’s history in the resort. Earlier this year, his company launched a Donald Trump Gambling Heritage Tour to educate people on the mogul’s influence on the city.
“One of the first things that you see when you come into the city is the Trump Plaza logo,” Fox said. “I hope something like this can bring the grandeur back to Atlantic City.”
During the 90-minute walking tour, Fox, 35, of Somers Point, details how Trump got his start in the resort and the issues that led him to leave the city. The tour focuses on Trump’s history in Atlantic City rather than the political rhetoric and name-calling that dominated the recent presidential election.
“The legacy of Trump is an asset to the city. I would not be opposed to turning this project into a research facility and allow people to access them,” Blaskiewicz said. “His story in Atlantic City could tell us what he is going to do in the future.”
Right now, the project doesn’t have any artifacts or location, Fox said, adding he would like to find a location near Boardwalk Hall.
“We hope that we will be able to start the project with an exhibit and then start developing a museum,” Fox said. “We are looking for anything that people have from towels to playing cards to signs. We also want the stories from people who worked with him.”