Is it just us, or is there something special, something especially rich, poignant and just plain fascinating about Atlantic City's past?
We think it's the latter. What a place. What a rich varied history.
The current Atlantic City Historical Museum on Garden Pier does a good job presenting some of that history. But it has always been a modest operation, and its location at the far end of the Boardwalk has always held the museum back. Few Boardwalk strollers get that far uptown.
Certainly, that end of the Boardwalk will see a major change when Revel opens. But still ... Atlantic City's unique history would be better served by a new, larger, more centrally located museum that could become a major tourist draw in the city. It is time - past time, actually, considering how exciting and helpful it would have been to have a new museum open for the debut of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" - to capitalize on the city's rich history and the public's fascination with it.
Maureen Sherr Frank, the executive director of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, is pushing exactly this idea - a new, interactive museum that would do justice to the city's past and that would be called The Atlantic City Experience.
There is plenty of material available to fill a museum. But right now it is scattered all over Absecon Island. There is the Atlantic City Historical Museum's collection and the library's Alfred M. Heston Collection, which is jammed into a tiny space of less than 300 square feet in the library's archive room. Amateur Atlantic City historian Allen "Boo" Pergament has his own "Boo-seum" in his Margate home, not to mention the unknown artifacts scattered in attics all around Absecon Island.
Put all of the these various historical collections together under one roof, in a modern, interactive facility such as Frank is proposing, and it would be a home run for the city. (Speaking of baseball and local history, did you know that in the spring of 1944 the New York Yankees trained at Bader Field and the Boston Red Sox trained in Pleasantville?)
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which oversees Atlantic City's new Tourism District, should make The Atlantic City Experience a top priority.