New Exhibit at Yogi Berra Museum Set to Shed Light on a “Hidden” League

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Published November 6, 2019
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The Montclarion
A family walking past the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. Photo courtesy of James D'Addio from Yogi Berra Website

The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center at Montclair State University opened up its brand-new Negro Leagues exhibit with a technological twist not many have seen before.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the controversial leagues, which were made for African American players before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, this exhibit is set to let audiences explore the realm of baseball they may have never known about.

“This show about the Negro Leagues is our way of showing [Yogi Berra’s] values and what he believed in, shining a light on these heroes of the game that are lesser known to young audiences,” Eva Schaenen, the museum’s executive director, said.

In addition, one of the main goals is to promote new and enticing features within the museum. The exhibit has approximately 90 black and white photos across the board, and with new technology, a handful of those photos are able to be viewed in color via an app utilizing the camera on iPads.

“Anything in black and white, particularly for young people, can feel very remote and very distant,” Schaenen said. “One of the goals of this exhibition is to bring these players to life in the modern era.”

Since Berra’s passing in 2015, the museum has faced new challenges. Berra was the life and soul of the museum and brought the attention with him. His passing also meant the loss of much of the museum’s lure and appeal.

Because of these factors, the museum’s board of trustees decided to move in a new direction. About two years ago, Schaenen, along with other staff, were hired in an attempt to bring some fresh content to the table.

A good chunk of the university’s current student body has never been to the museum, let alone are aware of its existence. Although the museum sits on the edge of Montclair State’s campus, it is not technically run by the school. It is a nonprofit organization and survives only on donations.

Shane Nourie, a junior finance major and campus resident, commented on how he was not aware of the museum.

“I’m not really much of a baseball fan at all so I’ve never stepped foot inside the stadium,” Nourie said. “Up until recently, I honestly thought it was just a stadium. I didn’t know there was a museum at all.”

This statement is all too familiar for the museum.

Many residents of the campus are in the same boat as Nourie. They are not necessarily aware because there is not much of a reason for them to be down in that particular section of campus.

Riyad Mustafa, a fifth year finance major, was aware of the museum.

“I’m a commuter, so I know about it because I drive past it every day to get on campus,” Mustafa said. “But I can see how someone who lives on campus may be [unbeknown].”

The museum’s new technology does intrigue Nourie, however. He spoke about how he feels a bit more inclined to visit the museum purely for the advanced technology factor.

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Negro Leagues Discover Greatness exhibit in the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center.
Anton Specht | The Montclarion

George Jamgochian, a frequent visitor of the museum and a junior television production major at Montclair State, feels as though the new exhibit will shed some light on the museum and draw in a new crowd. A longtime baseball fan, Jamgochian also interned with the New Jersey Jackals this past summer, who share the building and stadium area with the museum.

Jamgochian talked about his initial experience with the exhibit.

“I think it’s a great exhibit,” Jamgochian said. “It’s very poignant and yet very appropriate at the same time. I think it will draw in a new audience. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, but are interested in African American history, you will fall in love immediately.”

In regard to getting people who are not aware of the museum to visit, Nourie believes they should promote more directly on campus or tie it into the campus curriculum.

“I think if they could somehow tie it into the curriculum for classes, maybe going down there for a project or an extra credit assignment, then I think more students may be more inclined to visit,” Nourie said.

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