Whole New Ballgame: Same space, new place

Written by: Craig Muder

'Whole New Ballgame' gives Museum timeline a fresh feel

For years, it remained one of the high-traffic areas of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – thrilling young and old alike with the newest artifacts to come to Cooperstown.

Today’s Game was situated at the end of the Museum’s second-floor timeline, it’s white mesh lockers – representing each of the 30 MLB teams – surrounding a center exhibit filled with caps, bats and jerseys from no-hitters, milestone moments and record-breaking games.

And suddenly – early in 2015 – it was reshaped, with the iconic lockers moved to other second-floor space. By Labor Day, the redesign was in full force, with a November 7 date for the opening of Whole New Ballgame on the horizon.

Now, a little more than two months later, the change is complete. And for many frequent visitors to the Museum, it’s difficult to fathom how so much change happened in so little time.

“It’s like changing the layout of your living room in your house,” said Mary Quinn, the Museum’s director of exhibits and design and one of the primary forces behind the look of Whole New Ballgame. “You’ve got the brown sofa here, the green chair there, the blue ottoman over there…and even if you move them all around, you still know where the windows and doors are. But when you can design an exhibit where thousands of people who know a room suddenly can’t figure out where they are – even in a room they’ve been in multiple times – that’s a success right there.”

New Look at History

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Whole New Ballgame, as part of the Museum’s new Janetschek Gallery, opened in November to rave reviews. The exhibit tells the on-and-off-the-field story of baseball’s last five decades, made possible by a generous gift from Hall of Fame supporter Bill Janetschek Jr. in honor of his father, Bill Sr.

Quinn and the Museum’s curatorial team, led by vice president of exhibitions and collections Erik Strohl and Whole New Ballgame lead curator John Odell, began generating ideas more than a year ago. Once the story began to take shape, Quinn went to work on ideas for presentation – based on the space that was available on the second floor.

“Sacred Ground (the Museum’s exhibit dedicated to ballparks which opened on the third floor in 2005) might have covered a bit more space, but Whole New Ballgame is one of the biggest exhibits we’ve curated in my time,” Quinn said. “The exhibit starts out narrow, winding around the back of the Pride and Passion exhibit. But then it opens up into a bigger space for the second part of the exhibit.

“As a designer, you have to be able to envision what the exhibit will look and feel like. We do 3-D modeling and mockups, because we can’t have any surprises. That can be expensive.”

Installations for Whole New Ballgame began less than a month before the exhibit's opening on Nov. 7. The hallway seen here is one of many drastic spatial changes that visitors will notice when they walk through the Museum's second floor. (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Planning ahead

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The layout of Whole New Ballgame was done with an eye on the future as well as the present. Space for expansion remains (as more stories unfold in the coming years), and a modular design will help curators when more exhibit change comes in the future.

But for now, visitors may find their familiar home on the second floor a Whole New Ballgame.

“This is absolutely awesome,” said longstanding Museum Member and supporter Kerry DeMarco, who lives in Erie, Pa. – about four hours from Cooperstown – and is a regular Museum visitor. “I’ve been in this room hundreds of times over the years, but it looks completely different.

“It’s like a whole different experience from just a few months ago.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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