You might say horse racing is a family tradition, though I come from a family of spectators. My grandpa used to take my dad to the racetrack, and my dad used to take me. I have fond memories of afternoons spent at Arlington Racecourse (thoroughbreds) in Arlington Heights, Illinois, or Maywood Park Racetrack (harness) in Melrose Park. So I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga, New York.
The Saratoga Race Course opened in 1863, during the American Civil War. It is the fourth oldest racetrack in the country. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1950 and moved to its current location in 1955.
The museum takes you on an extensive tour of the history of thoroughbred horse racing, including the lineages of the horses. All thoroughbred horses can trace their ancestry back to three stallions originally imported to England from the Middle East in the 17th and 18th century: Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Arabian. Ninety-five percent of all male Thoroughbreds today trace their lineage back to Darley Arabian.
The National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia is an incredible experience dedicated to the American soldier, with state of the art dioramas, displays, and hundreds of artifacts. While in Georgia away from my computer, I decided to experiment with making travel videos entirely with my iPhone. This video was shot with my phone, edited in iMovie, and I even recorded the voiceover here. I think it turned out pretty well, do you?
In this installment of my video blog documenting my recent trip to Gettysburg National Military Park, I explore the Borough of Gettysburg. While Gettysburg is noted for its history, and I certainly spent a lot of time on the battlefield, it’s also an interesting destination itself. Shops selling antiques and memorabilia line the streets, and of course there are several historical and haunted tours. I can’t imagine a more picturesque town, keep alive by over one million visitors to the battlefield each year.
I completely overlooked the Witch History Museum on my first trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Located at 197-201 Essex Street on the pedestrian mall, this is not the same as the Salem Witch Museum, located on Washington Square. Like a half dozen other museums in Salem, this also features dioramas/wax figures, though of a slightly higher quality.
An actress in period costume gives a short introduction to the Salem Witch Trials before taking you down into the museum. I came in early spring, just before the tourist season started, so I was the only one in the audience that day. My host was gracious enough to show me around anyway.
The Witch Dungeon Museum is one of many diorama/wax museums in Salem, Massachusetts, with the added twist of a live performance. I didn’t get a chance to see it on my first trip to Salem, so I made sure to check it out on my second.
The museum appears to occupy an old church, but instead of the stations of the cross, numbered plaques bearing facts about the Salem Witch Trials line the auditorium’s back wall in sequential order. The tour’s highlight is a live performance of a dramatic moment from the trials, with lines drawn from an eyewitness account.
Established in 1950 by Roscoe William Smith, Museum Village in Monroe, New York is a unique open-air historical museum exploring daily life in the nineteenth century through historical dress and reenactments. Visitors can not only interact with people portraying daily life in the period, but also see an extensive collection of nineteenth century material culture, including tools, carriages, fire engines, and household items. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Roscoe William Smith founded the Orange and Rockland Electric Company and lived to be 99 years old. During his long life, he collected hundreds of artifacts, with a particular interest in historic craft tools and mechanical devices. Finally, his wife told him to do something with this stuff or get rid of it, so Smith created the Museum Village as both a way to exhibit his collection and as a window into the past.
In a way, this reminds me of a more organized and purposeful version of Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, which was also created by an obsessive collector. Smith custom built most of the buildings in Museum Village, but there is one log cabin he purchased for $10 and shipped to the site. He died in 1976, but volunteers and employees have kept his dream alive. Many grew up taking field trips to the museum before later deciding to work there.
The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York is not just a great horse racing museum, it is one of the most interesting and innovative museums I’ve ever visited. Exhibits on two floors of this modern facility tell the story of the sport of standardbred harness racing. It’s easy to see the love the trainers, owners, jockeys, and fans have for these magnificent animals. Incredibly, admission is free!
Opened in 1951, the museum and hall of fame sits behind the Goshen Historic Track, the oldest continuously operated horse racing track in North America. The museum has a balcony on the second floor overlooking the half-mile dirt track. This corner of New York was also the birthplace of Hambletonian 10, the ancestor of all American Standardbred horses.
Part of the museum is located in a former stable used by horses at the race track. Today, the stable space is devoted to exhibits telling the history of the sport from its beginnings in carriage races to the present day using artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays. The museum has more than 40,000 harness racing artifacts in its collection.