Hancock museum to show Sideling Hill exhibits

May 09, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy describes the new museum in Hancock filled with artifacts from the former Sideling Hill Exhibit Center. A scale model of the Interstate 68 cut through Sideling Hill mountain is in the foreground.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HANCOCK -- How do you move an extensive geological and taxidermy display that was not designed to leave the state visitors center that had been its home? Very carefully.

The state, as a budget-cutting measure, last summer closed the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center, situated where Interstate 68 passes through a deep rock cut west of Hancock. Hancock officials stepped up and the state agreed to loan the center's exhibits permanently to the Town of Hancock for display in a museum on Main Street.

When the time came to move the exhibits, town officials borrowed a trailer and headed up Sideling Hill to get them, according to Mayor Daniel A. Murphy and Hancock Marketing Director T.R. Weaver Sr.

Some of the display cabinets weighed more than 1,000 pounds and parts of displays were bolted to the exhibit center floors, Murphy and Weaver said.

Formica on some of the cabinets was broken as town employees worked to get them out of the building, Murphy said.


"We'll try to dress it up the best we can," Murphy said as he ran his hand over a piece of cracked Formica on a cabinet.

Despite the challenges, Murphy and Weaver expressed satisfaction with how the effort has turned out and are ready to open the museum Tuesday as part of an event that will spotlight other improvements in town.

The museum along Main Street will officially open at 2 p.m. Tuesday, said Murphy and Weaver, who recently showed the inside of the museum. Afterward, town officials will show improvements to the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the C&O Canal, Murphy and Weaver said.

Kevin Brandt, superintendent for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., are among those who are expected to be on hand for the festivities.

Officials in the Western Maryland town that has lost more than 800 manufacturing jobs with the closings of Rayloc in 2008, Fleetwood Travel Trailers in 2005 and London Fog in 1994, hope the museum will play a role in revitalization efforts.

Town officials already were studying ways to make the C&O Canal and the Western Maryland Rail Trail in town more attractive to tourists.

"This will hopefully be a piece of that puzzle, to get them (tourists) in here," Murphy said.

The museum is in the former Secrets store in a building owned by Town Manager Dave Smith, who is allowing the town to use the space for free.

Geological exhibits from the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center now line one wall of the museum. Taxidermy displays of wildlife, including a bobcat, squirrels, deer and a black bear, are near the back of the room.

The museum also houses exhibits about town history and racks near the front of the room will be stocked with brochures.

State tourism workers will train volunteers at the museum on how to assist tourists.

State highway crews started erecting new signs along Interstates 70 and 68, notifying motorists about the new museum.

If you go:

What: Grand opening ceremony for Hancock Town Museum and Sideling Hill Exhibit

When: Tuesday, 2 p.m.

Where: 42 W. Main St., Hancock

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