Article from today's The Star Ledger
Museum website posted below
BIKE MUSEUM NEEDS A BREAK
Long a fixture in Somerville, it's now homeless
Friday, May 23, 2008
BY BEV McCARRON
From the heavy steel bike used by racing champion Alf Goulet in 1914 to the lightweight carbon cycle Greg LeMond rode to his third Tour de France victory, from old trophies to race jerseys worn by world-class cyclists, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame has what it considers the country's most historically significant collection of cycling memorabilia.
But for the last 18 months, the cash-strapped organization has had no place to display the collec tion and has had to stash it in a toolshed in Somerset County while searching for a new home for its museum.
"It's upsetting," curator Vince Menci said. "All the stuff is stored, where it should be seen."
A fixture for many years in downtown Somerville, the Hall of Fame museum's big moment had always been Memorial Day weekend, when cycling's oldest major road race in the United States, the Tour of Somerville, brings thou sands of bike enthusiasts into the small borough. Spectators, in turn, would pack the museum, which had been housed over the years in various locations along Main Street. The race was the reason the museum originally opened in Somerville.
When the 65th annual Tour of Somerville is held on Monday, a few items will be temporarily on display in the nearby Bridgewater Commons Mall. Most of the collec tion, however, will remain packed away.
"Is that where my medals and trophies are ... in a toolshed?" asked Jackie Simes III, a two-time winner of the Tour of Somerville and an Olympic competitor who now lives in Breinigsville, Pa.
"It's too bad," he said, that the display of cycling memorabilia do nated by many of his peers has disappeared from view.
The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, established in Somerville 21 years ago to spotlight competitive cycling and advocate for the sport, first set up the museum in a corner bank on Main Street with the help of a $150,000 state grant.
Relying mainly on donations and corporate sponsors, it was parked the longest at a a rent-free storefront in a Somerville shopping center. But in 2004, after five years, the museum was forced to leave because the center was slated for demolition. The museum then moved into the historic county- owned Van Horne house in Bridgewater.
Two years later, bumped out for space reasons, the bikes, trophies, photos, medals and jerseys went into storage in a shed on an old farm in Branchburg.
The Hall of Fame thought it would be a temporary move.
Corporate donations have dwindled over the years, and no one is willing to donate space, said Rusty Schommer, president of the Hall of Fame's board of directors. Spon sors like AT&T are no longer around or have moved on to other causes.
"Everybody is very supportive but when it comes to dollars and cents, that's a whole other issue," Schommer said, noting the organization, which holds the annual Hall of Fame induction dinner, runs on an annual budget of $50,000.
Despite having a collection that tells the history of bike racing from its heyday in the early 19th century , the museum was never high profile -- one organizer calls it "a well- kept secret"-- except for during the Tour of Somerville weekend. Last year, a local landlord allowed the museum to use an empty storefront on Main Street during the race, but nothing was available this year.
The next move may be to take the collection out of New Jersey.
The Hall of Fame has put out requests for proposals and says possible future locations include Davis, Calif., where the 2008 Hall of Fame induction dinner will be held this year, and Worcester, Mass., home of Marshall "Major" Taylor, an African American cyclist who holds seven world records. His bike has been lent by the U.S. Hall of Fame to the ADT Velodrome in Carson, Calif., to be displayed.
Ron Czajkowski, former board member for the not-for-profit Hall of Fame, said most of the group would like to see the museum re main in Somerville, but the ultimate goal is to get the display somewhere it can continue to tell stories of the sport's greatest cycl ers.
In the toolshed, which is heated and air conditioned, Menci, himself a former cycling champion, points to boxes filled with items donated by biking greats who were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Bikes, including LeMond's green and black racing machine, are lined up as if they are in somebody's garage.
Occupying its own separate box is LeMond's maillot jeune, the yellow jersey worn by the champion during the 1986 Tour de France. Trophies bearing the patina of age are stacked on tables or in cases, along with promotional posters for big races and old photos.
And things keep coming.
"We have all these unbelievable artifacts that are doing nothing but collecting dust," Czajkowski said. "We have to find someone who will embrace them."
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Museum website www.usbhof.com