David Madeira intends to do things differently at LeMay – America’s Car Museum, an interactive auto showcase set for a fall 2011 opening in Tacoma, Wash. Madeira, the museum’s president/CEO, announced today that instead of hiring just one person to manage the facility’s collections, there will be a series of guest curators “telling the story of the automobile in a fun, refreshing way.” And the first guest curator will be award-winning author and journalist Ken Gross.
“We want to avoid being a staid, stodgy museum and one way to avoid this is to break from the traditional curator structure,” says Madeira. “America’s Car Museum will be all about storytelling, and a writer and auto aficionado like Ken Gross is the logical person to help us begin this approach. His passion, appreciation and knowledge about the 100-plus year history of cars are unrivaled, and he has significant experience working with other museums.
Gross, a 38-year automotive journalist whose work regularly appears in Playboy, The Robb Report, AutoWeek and dozens of other publications, has also curated exhibits for several fine art museums, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Phoenix Art Museum, as well as for the Saratoga Automobile Museum and the Petersen Automotive Museum.
“I’m very familiar with the challenges of starting and operating a successful museum,” said Gross. “As the old saying goes, ‘you only have one chance to make a good first impression.’ It’s important that the initial exhibit clearly shows the museum’s capabilities and serves as an attraction that will ensure audiences return over and over to see what will follow.”
America’s Car Museum, located 30 miles south of Seattle, was founded by Harold and Nancy LeMay, who amassed the largest privately owned collection of automobiles, motorcycles and trucks in the world – reaching a peak of 3,500 vehicles in the 1990s. The LeMays ultimately decided the public should have access to their collection, which served as the impetus for the 165,000-sq.-ft., $60-million museum project. It will feature a 3.5-acre show field, theatre, gift shop, banquet center and cafe, an educational center/library and rotating, interactive exhibits through multiple galleries using cars, music, film and photos.
Gross said he was attracted to the project because “it’s ambitious and won’t be just another car museum. The scope and sheer scale of the LeMay effort is very intriguing. This institution dwarfs its peers in size, so it’s important that the first exhibits reach beyond anything ever done for an automotive museum. America’s love affair with the automobile shows no sign of abating and America’s Car Museum celebrates this passion. We’ll ensure it’s a happening every car enthusiast will want to see.
“At the same time, we also have to attract the general public. A woman once wrote in the Petersen Museum guest book, ‘my husband had to drag me here, and then he had to drag me out.’ I took that as a mantra. We will build on that indefinable connection that nearly everyone has with the automobile, and present it in a fascinating way.”
Let the storytelling begin….
LeMay – America’s Car Museum, set for a fall 2011opening in Tacoma, Wash., explores how the automobile has fulfilled a distinctive role at the core of the American experience and shaped our society. The spacious Museum with rotating exhibits is designed to be the centerpiece for automotive history as well as an educational center and library. The campus also contains a 3.5-acre show field, theatre, café, banquet hall and meeting facilities. To become an ACM member, volunteer or make a donation, visit (www.lemaymuseum.org)