Heather Perez, left, of Absecon, and Katie Sundra, of Northfield, right, prepare last week for Saturday’s opening of a museum sports exhibit in Atlantic City. Perez, an archivist for the Atlantic City Free Public Library, said the Smithsonian Insitution’s Hometown Teams exhibit ‘is about Americans’ relationship with sports.’

ATLANTIC CITY - The Atlantic City Free Public Library has contributed to a national touring museum sports exhibit called Hometown Teams that is free and open to the public for the next six weeks.

The interactive exhibit, brought to Atlantic City by the Smithsonian Institution and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, celebrates American sports and sportsmanship. It opened Saturday at the Noyes Art Garage Stockton College, which is located in the Wave parking garage at 2200 Fairmount Avenue.

Also at the Noyes Art Garage, the Atlantic City library put together a companion exhibit, Devotion and Determination, that highlights sports in Atlantic City.

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"Hometown Teams is about Americans' relationship with sports," said Heather Perez, an archivist at the library. "It's not necessarily a history of sports, and instead it's on how Americans interact with sports, how they watch sports, how they love sports and how they play sports."

The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Wednesdays through Sundays through May 4.

On display are examples of how sports interact with American culture, from baseball cards and video games to language and clothing. There also are displays that allow visitors to see some of the country's most famous sports venues, as well as how sports equipment has evolved.

The library's Devotion and Determination exhibit featuring Atlantic City's sporting history may be the biggest draw. Items on display include artifacts of past pro sports teams, including the Atlantic City Surf, and jackets and jerseys worn by Atlantic City and Holy Spirit high school athletes over the years.

A large interactive video map allows visitors to tap different icons with descriptions and pictures of sporting events that took place in and around Atlantic City, including Atlantic City Race Course, Bader Field and Boardwalk Hall.

"It's so interactive," said Beth Ryan, museum coordinator at the AC Historical Museum at Garden Pier. "It's current, and it highlights all the special places around Atlantic City."

Also, a series titled Pep Talks will feature local sports experts discussing various Atlantic City-related topics. Guest speakers will include former NBA player and head coach Chris Ford, ex-Atlantic City High School star basketball player and coach Laurie Carter, and legendary local crew coach Stan Bergman, who currently coaches the Holy Spirit boys team.

"They're all going to be interesting," Ryan said. "I think it's going to be attractive to anybody who wants to come out and hear about Atlantic City sports."

Perez said the talks will be informal, and those who attend will get to interact with the speakers, sharing their favorite memories of the athletes and sporting events they witnessed in Atlantic City.

Atlantic City is the second of six New Jersey stops for the Hometown Teams exhibit, which is on a nationwide tour. The Bridgeton Public Library will host it from June 28-Aug. 10.

The exhibit at the Noyes Art Garage is a breeze to walk through - an interesting look at sports culture locally and nationally that will appeal to many whether they are sports fans or not.

"It is a sports exhibit, but it's a Smithsonian exhibit," Ryan said. "It's wonderfully attractive, it's got great stories, and it's more than just sports."

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