If you like vintage architecture from the 1960s, you’ll like the surroundings of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The building was ultra-modern in its day with its interior spiral ramp (like the one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City), glass curtain wall (a nod to the urban architecture of Mies van der Rohe) and football inspired roofline indicative of the mid-century modern style of American architecture.
Canton, Ohio was chosen as the site for the Hall of Fame for many reasons. However, we focus on football’s legacy there as opposed to some other locale because of the Native American athlete named Jim Thorpe who signed a football contract there.
Thorpe, the star of the 1912 Olympic games, signed his first contract to play football with the Canton Bulldogs in Canton in 1915.
While the vintage building is good looking, the museum is in the midst of completing a major construction/expansion project to host more football fans. The completion of the museum expansion will coincide with the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary in 2013.
The new facilities will not only host a world of football fans but it will also offer the Ralph Wilson Jr. football research and preservation center, the researchers’ reading room, an event center and meeting room in addition to exhibition galleries focusing on the history of the game dating back to the early 1900s, state-of-the-art interactive displays featuring game footage and player videos, the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl exhibition gallery with the Vince Lombardi trophy on display, the Super Bowl ring display (for the jewelry lover in the family), and the popular Hall of Fame gallery.
While the Super Bowl ring display was one of my favorites (who doesn’t like all those diamonds?), the Hall of Fame gallery speaks to the core of the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Gallery houses interactive displays and an impressive assemblage of fine art bronze portrait busts resembling the likeness of each Hall of Fame inductees through the years.
The bronze busts are the work of Utah sculptor, Blair Buswell and they capture the likeness of each football great. As a display, the gallery is awe inspiring as visitors search for their favorite Hall of Famer.
At the Pro Football Hall of Fame, exhibits trace the history of professional football with unique objects like the Baltimore Colts marching band’s bass drum, press wood posters announcing the 1962 AFL championship game between the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Texans, and early helmets worn by various players.
The exhibits highlighted player uniforms from the Pro Bowl as well as equipment and apparel worn by Walter Payton, Joe Namath and Dan Marino among others.
The exhibits focused on the impact of stars like O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills’ Electric Company. Some displays showed a player’s love of the game by focusing on great plays made by Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo or Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman. And, who could forget the famous Immaculate Reception made by Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Franco Harris (a fellow Penn Stater), on Dec. 23, 1972. The museum, through its diverse exhibits, showed visitors the heart of the game of football.
I discovered one last interesting thing about sports museums during my visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No matter how much information is available to a visitor in a sports museum, fans always search for more.
I noticed many visitors standing in front of very good, informative displays — even interactive displays — who were still searching for additional stats on their cell phones. I even found myself doing it.
As a former museum curator and director, I bet you think I’d be appalled by this, but in fact, I think when a museum display prompts visitors to find out more, that’s a pretty cool museum.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on the hit TV show, Auction Kings on Discovery channel. Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call (888) 431-1010.