I have been under a little heat lately. My successor is anxious for me to find a new home for my “antiques.” I want to comply, but I’m boxed in.
I don’t have a second home or a farmette where I could store things, my garage holds two cars only, and I simply cannot afford renting storage space. Soon my only alternative will be a junk yard.
What a shame. I’d love to donate all of my items and artifacts to a museum, a golf course museum. But, as far as I know, there isn’t such a thing. If there is, it is a well-kept secret. For a business/industry as formidable as golf course management, it doesn’t seem possible to lack a museum devoted to the long and rich history of turf management and machinery.
We are a country almost obsessed with museums. There are thousands and thousands of them, and even my hometown of about 2,000 in Southwest Wisconsin has two museums! When the subject comes up, most people think of the Smithsonian Museums, the Field Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry. But here, close to home, we have a cheese making museum, a National Dairy Shrine Museum and one devoted solely to Harley Davidson motorcycles. We have a beer museum close by and a circus museum even closer. Twice a year I visit the National Farm Toy Museum in Iowa, and even more often than that I visit the Veterans’ Museum across from the state capitol. You can visit museums dedicated to the various branches of the military – the Airborne Museum in North Carolina is my favorite among these – ethnic museums (Norwegian, Cornish and Scottish are my faves), and those dedicated to the arts.
It seems every profession has a museum somewhere in the country dedicated to preserving its heritage, history and artifacts. We also have major sports museums at Cooperstown, Canton, Springfield, Far Hills and Newport.
Golf has a wonderful museum at USGA headquarters, but its displays of golf course equipment have been sparse and infrequent. One time they had an excellent – albeit small – area with golf course maintenance in mind, and most of it belonged to Mel Lucas! I am going to visit again this fall and see if anything has changed.
As Vince Lombardi was given to frequently say, “What the hell is going’ on here?”
Some companies in our business have done an admirable job of collecting objects they designed and built and putting them on display. John Deere is the best example; you can spend the better part of a day in Moline visiting them, before driving east to Grand Detour, Ill., and seeing the original Deere foundry and his home at the time. But most of their wonderful collection revolves around plows, tractors and combines. Turf equipment is scarce.
Toro has done a wonderful job of saving some of its history, which we share in. Last year was the company’s 100th anniversary. Part of that celebration was the printing of a book of their history and the presentation of old machines in the headquarters building in Bloomington, Minn. But their devotion to company history is rare.
During a visit to the Turfgrass Information Center at Michigan State University this past summer, I asked Peter Cookingham about donating small items and printed materials. He was polite but mostly declined. “We have a shortage of space,” he said, “and we are a library, not a museum.”
Collections sit, collectors get old, and heirs have little or no interest in our collections.
What can we do with these artifacts of turf? The answer, of course, is to establish, develop and fund a golf course museum. Most museums start out as private collections, so the time is getting short before too much is lost. Years ago, I edited our chapter publication, The Grass Roots, and wrote a fictional piece in each issue under The Back Nine. Once I composed a story about a golf course museum in Wisconsin, had an engineer friend of mine develop blueprints for it and designed a floor plan of displays. There was lots of positive feedback, and one GCSAA staff person was in Chicago on business and contacted me for directions to get there.
I think interest is still high, many collectors are still around, and some veteran greenkeepers and superintendents who were active in the past are still alive. But the artifacts slowly disappear. I saw a machine for sale recently that I would have bought had a museum been in place. It was a Jacobsen Leaf Mill, a machine with golf course application. I’d never seen one before and wanted so badly to save it. But I couldn’t. It’s an often-repeated story.
Will we do anything before it is too late?