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Renfrew curator takes job at auto museum

January 27, 2003|By RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Renfrew Museum's curator for the last five years said last week he will leave the job Jan. 31 to oversee a new $6.7 million auto museum in Hershey, Pa.

Jeffrey Bliemeister, 39, has been hired by the 60,000-member Antique Automobile Club of America to run its new museum scheduled to open in June.

He said he wasn't looking for a job when he came across an ad for the Hershey auto museum.

"It was in the same magazine that I found the Renfrew job in five years ago," he said.

Bliemeister came to Waynesboro from Cooperstown, N.Y., where he was director for a mansion owned by the state of New York. He had just completed a master's program at the State University of New York's Cooperstown Graduate Program.

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Among Bliemeister's accomplishments at Renfrew was establishing a computer database for the sorting and cataloguing of the museum's more than 5,000 items.

Every item was photographed with a digital camera and its image downloaded onto the new database, he said.

"It took me and volunteers more than four years to do it," he said.

Bliemeister also established the museum's version of television's popular "Antiques Road Show." The annual local antiques appraisal day enters its sixth year this year, he said.

Jon Griggs, a member of the auto club's board of directors in Hershey, said Bliemeister was picked from among 35 applicants.

Griggs said Bliemeister is a focused thinker.

"He's organized, has a good work history and is graduated from one of the best museum graduate schools in the country," he said. "He made a good presentation to the board."

Dave Hykes, a Renfrew board member, said a search for a replacement for Bliemeister is under way through ads in museum trade magazines and the Internet.

"We're going to take our time to get the right person," Hykes said.

He praised Bliemeister for leaving the museum in good condition.

"He was the right man for us. We're fortunate that he finished the inventory."

Hykes said applicants will need experience in grant writing, plus a good historical background.

"We probably won't be interviewing until late March or April. We don't expect to have someone on board until June or July, Hykes said.

The salary will be in the $30,000 range, he said.

According to its Web site, the AACA is dedicated to the preservation and display of all forms of historical motor vehicles and related memorabilia.

The Antique Automobile Club of America has 400 chapters. The Mason-Dixon chapter is in Hagerstown, Bliemeister said.

The new Hershey auto museum is expected to be the largest of its kind on the East Coast, Bliemeister said. One of its three galleries will cover 22,000 square feet.

His job will be to develop it in stages, he said.

Renfrew, at 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro, began as the 150-acre farm of tanner Daniel Royer in 1790. Today it is 107 acres of farmland, woodland and meadow.

Fifty acres are dedicated to a wilderness and wildlife preserve with 50 tree species, 100 wildflower species and 120 species of birds. There is also a 5-acre picnic ground and 150-seat pavilion.

Its centerpiece is an 1812 stone farmhouse that houses the museum. There is a visitors center, barns and other structures.

The Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies, the educational arm of the museum, has its headquarters in a refurbished barn on the property.

Renfrew is owned by the Borough of Waynesboro and is run by a seven-member board of directors.

Bliemeister said he and his wife, Jennifer, will miss Waynesboro. They bought a home here and their two children, ages 5 and 6, attend local schools.

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