Smithsonian sports exhibit headed to Noyes Arts Garage

Posted: March 07, 2014

WHETHER or not you are a sports fan, there's no denying that sports have come to define America as much, if not more, than any other social institution.

With the possible exception of a monster snowstorm, nothing unites a city or region more than a winning home team, collegiate or professional.

Sports' crucial place in our society is the focus of a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit called "Hometown Teams." The display runs March 22 through May 4 at the Noyes Arts Garage Stockton College, on the ground floor of the municipal parking garage in Atlantic City's Ducktown neighborhood.

It's part of the Smithsonian's "Museum on Main Street" series, a program that develops touring exhibits for smaller facilities and rural areas. The New Jersey Council for the Humanities helped bring "Teams" here.

"It's not technically a history of sports," offered Beth Ryan, museum coordinator for the Atlantic City Free Public Library. "It's more about how America views sports, and the idea that teamwork and preparation and winning and losing are [part of the nation's fabric].

"It's not just about the athletes. It's also about the spectators and fans."

The Smithsonian exhibit's photos and artifacts attest to America's love affair with athletic competition.

A companion installation focuses on Atlantic City's long, if undersung, sporting history.

"The Atlantic City Experience: Devotion and Determination" is "about the people and places around Atlantic City that have sports stories," Ryan said. "It's going to be focusing on locations around the city like Boardwalk Hall, which hosted the first indoor college-football bowl game [the Liberty Bowl] in 1964. It's also had hockey and auto racing and rodeo and wrestling - just a rich history of sports."

There are a few surprises here, too, for visitors unfamiliar with AC history.

"The Atlantic City Marathon is run on the Boardwalk, which is kind of unusual," Ryan said. "We have volleyball down here. Bader Field was at one time an athletic field. Baseball, football, track and tennis were all played there."

Special mention, she continued, will be made of Atlantic City's hometown female athletes, from those who participated in the Olympics in the 1920s and'30s to Colleen Callahan, a recent Atlantic City High School grad who's arguably the town's greatest scholastic swimmer ever.

During the run of "Hometown Teams," the Arts Garage will host a series of Thursday night "Pep Talks" on various sports topics, featuring local experts and athletes.

Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton College, 2200 Fairmount Ave., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays March 22-May 4, free, 609-345-2269,

On Twitter: @chuckdarrow


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