The National Baseball Hall of Fame is a nonprofit committed to preserving the history of America’s pastime and celebrating the legendary players, managers, umpires and executives who have made the game a fan favorite for more than a century.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an American history museum and hall of fame, located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York, and operated by private interests. It serves as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.”
The word Cooperstown is often used as shorthand (or a metonym) for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Hall of Fame was established in 1939 by Stephen Carlton Clark, the owner of a local hotel. Clark had sought to bring tourists to a city hurt by the Great Depression, which reduced the local tourist trade, and Prohibition, which devastated the local hops industry. A new building was constructed, and the Hall of Fame was dedicated on June 12, 1939. (Clark’s granddaughter, Jane Forbes Clark, is the current chairman of the Board of Directors.)
According to the Hall of Fame, approximately 300,000 visitors enter the museum each year, and the running total has surpassed 14 million. These visitors see only a fraction of its 40,000 artifacts, 3 million library items (such as newspaper clippings and photos) and 140,000 baseball cards.
Prior to Dreams Park, a room might be filled for a week by several sets of tourists. Now, that room will be taken by just one family for the week, and that family may only go into Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame once. While there are other contributing factors (the recession and high gas prices among them), the Hall’s attendance has tumbled since Dreams Park opened. The Hall drew 383,000 visitors in 1999. It drew 262,000 last year.
Baseball at the Movies houses baseball movie memorabilia while a screen shows footage from those movies.
An Education Gallery hosts school groups and, in the summer, presentations about artifacts from the museum’s collection.
The Grandstand Theater features a 12-minute multimedia film. The 200 seat theater, complete with replica stadium seats, is decorated to resemble old Comiskey Park.
The Game is the major feature of the second floor. It is where the most artifacts are displayed. The Game is set up in a timeline format, starting with baseball’s beginnings and culminating with the game we know today.
Whole New Ballgame, the Museum’s newest permanent exhibit, opened in 2015 and is located in the Janetschek Gallery. This exhibit completes the timeline of baseball through the last 45 years into the game we know today. It features environmental video walls and new interactive elements to go along with artifacts from the Museum’s collection.
Autumn Glory is devoted to post-season baseball and has, among other artifacts, replicas of World Series rings.
Sacred Ground is devoted entirely to ballparks and everything about them, especially the fan experience and the business of a ballpark. The centerpiece is a computer tour of three former ballparks: Boston’s South End Grounds, Chicago’s Comiskey Park, and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
The Hall has seen a noticeable decrease in attendance in recent years. A 2013 story about the village of Cooperstown and its relation to the game partially linked the reduced attendance with Cooperstown Dreams Park, a youth baseball complex about 5 miles (8 km) away in the town of Hartwick. The 22 fields at Dreams Park currently draw 17,000 players each summer for a week of intensive play; while the complex includes housing for the players.