Rockaway Museum: Moving Into The Next Decade
In July 1999, the Rockaway Museum found a permanent home in the Wave Building. Since that time, it has kept the history of Rockaway alive with exhibits touching on some of the most important happenings in area’s past.
The first exhibit was "Playland, A Retrospective." Other exhibits have been "Time In A Bottle," a display" of antique Rockaway bottles dating back over 100 years, archival photos from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels collection and aerial photos of the Rockaways taken in the 1970’s. The NC-4 exhibit of the first plane to fly across the Atlantic has been a mainstay in the museum. Children’s art shows were featured several times at the museum.
Many of Rockaway’s school children have been on field trips to the museum to learn first hand about where they live. Museum trustee Steve Yaeger, provided students with a tour of the museum in November of 2000 and wrote about it for The Wave.
On that trip, Steve Raaf’s ALPS class from MS 180 was the guest of the museum. They were taken through the entrance walkway by then acting director, Harold Cornell.
Yaeger wrote that, "As the students made their way along the "boardwalk," Cornell pointed out the mural, photos, and reproductions, which lined the walls on both sides. The students’ enthusiasm was obvious as shown when they stopped to examine the photos and the large reproductions of postcards depicting the famous Rockaways’ Playland."
Yaeger took over the tour when the students reached the main museum room. Again the students were "intrigued" with the collection of old bottles and "inundated" both their hosts with numerous questions on the exhibits they were shown.
In order to continue the mandate of being the keeper of Rockaway’s history, the museum is undergoing reorganization and the members of the board of trustees have begun to plan for new exhibits. The first is due to be a much more in-depth remembrance of Playland. The museum is asking for the public’s help in putting this exhibit together.
"[Residents and former residents of Rockaway] also can help us with stories, remembrances and personal photos of Rockaways’ Playland," said Susan Locke, the director of the museum.
The museum wants to make use of current technology by having remembrances on tape so that visitors to the exhibit can see and hear first hand about Playland.
Another potential exhibit is Far Rockaway High and Beach Channel High Schools as seen through the school’s yearbooks.
Besides new exhibits, the board would like to spruce up the place. There have also been discussions of finding a larger home for the museum.
The hard work of categorizing the many historical pieces that the museum owns has begun. Thanks to the generosity of many people in the area the museum has many pieces in its archives. Yet, the trustees may not be able to mount a new exhibit as soon as they wish. Money for the museum is running very low. There is an extremely good chance that the museum will have to close down for two or three months at the beginning of 2004 because of financial concerns. Locke says that the time will be put to good use by redecorating the museum.
"We’re not closing up for good," said Locke. "When we reopen, probably in March, it will be a new and exciting vision of Rockaway."
But redecorating and new exhibits cost money. The museum is now offering one-year memberships for $25.
Besides becoming a member, any donations to help the museum are appreciated and are tax deductible.
As The Wave’s managing editor pointed out in his October 3 editorial, there is so much history here in the Rockaways and therefore so many potential exhibits that the museum could present.
Such subjects include transportation in the Rockaways – from the long-gone Long Island Railroad trestle to the development of the "A" line to the bus service that continues to dismay residents; storms, blizzards and shipwrecks; the immense crowds that came to the peninsula in the summers that made "summer" big business for Rockaway merchants; the crash of Flight 587; the World Trade Center attacks and the Golden Venture ship that brought hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants to the shores of Rockaway.
The museum is calling on both current and former residents of the Rockaways to help preserve the past. You can contact the museum through The Wave’s office at 718 634-4000.