The Hoboken Historical Museum has a lofty goal – to raise $100,000 for a new research and storage facility. The museum, at 12th and Hudson streets, hopes to secure an additional 3,000 square feet to house its growing collections of more than 100,000 items.
The artifacts range from World War I German soldier helmets, to old city record books, to the 12-foot-high neon “Last Drop” from the Maxwell Coffee House “Good to the Last Drop” sign that was a landmark on Hoboken’s waterfront from 1938 to 1993.
“The museum desperately needs more space,” said Melissa Abernathy, head of public relations for the museum. “We can’t accommodate everything people come forward with…We are out of space.”
Abernathy said fundraising to expand collections began in 2015 after David Webster, their collections manager, passed away.
“We have racks and racks and stacks of stacks of boxes. We are maxed out.”—Melissa Abernathy
Since then the museum has raised about $65,000 for the David Webster Memorial Fund, currently called the Collections Campaign, primarily through private donations.
At the moment, the museum stores most of its collection in a storage room in one of the Shipyard residential buildings, with roughly 2,500 square feet.
“We have racks and racks and stacks of stacks of boxes,” said Abernathy. “We are maxed out.”
Abernathy said the museum got some relief when the Hoboken Business Center on the opposite side of town allowed the use of an empty room to store boxes.
Rand Hoppe, the museum’s current collections manager, said that space donation gave him and some of his volunteers a little more room to operate. They have been busy reorganizing, digitizing, and cataloging the collection.
“I’m currently looking at historical videotapes,” said Hoppe. “That’s my current favorite thing right now. A week from now who knows what it will be. I’m always finding new favorites.”
Hoppe said he is in the process of digitizing the old videos, which include band performances from the ’80s and ’90s, tapes of the “Today Show” about gentrification in the area, home videos, and commercials filmed in Hoboken.
“I think my biggest and main goal really is this reorganization that I am involved in,” said Hoppe of his past year in the role as collections manager. “It’s something that is always a challenge to make the collection accessible with the space we have.”
According to Abernathy, the museum hasn’t found a new space yet. When it does, the space will need to be climate and humidity controlled to store and preserve the artifacts properly.
Abernathy said they also plan to include a digitization studio for photographs and video, conservation workspace, an archival research library, public space to view the archives, laptop stations, a research library, space for lectures and slide shows, space for educational purposes, and some displays of more popular exhibits.
“The Sinatra Exhibit we had last year was really popular,” said Abernathy. “We had tourists coming to town from all over the world who wanted to see that exhibit. We had visitors from Europe who said they learned English by listening to his music. That is the kind of exhibit I would expect should be displayed at the Collections and Research Center.”
Hoppe said he would like the new facility to have the same sense of community the museum currently has, “whether through lectures or story time with kids. The new space could also hold events such as lectures or act in a classroom function.”
Hoppe and Abernathy said they believe the new space would allow researchers to access the material more easily.
“People will be able to request an item and take time to spread out and really examine it,” said Abernathy.
“We are two thirds of the way towards our goal, but our goal may change once we identify a space,” said Abernathy.
To donate go to http://store.hobokenmuseum.org/donations/ .
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.