Friday, June 22, 2012

National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives Opens Exhibit at Dollywood

Pigeon Forge, TN, USA -- It’s been a long time in the making; however park historians, hobbyist organizations and the general public are all embracing the roller coaster/amusement park exhibit that runs daily, now through September 16, 2012. This is the inaugural exhibit of the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives (NRCMA) in a 1,250 square foot exhibit space formerly occupied by the Dolly Parton Museum, which is now housed in its own building. America’s Roller Coasters & Amusement Parks exhibit is located in Heritage Hall — a space directly above the cave, in the lower end of Craftsmen’s Valley at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Contained in this traveling exhibition are 20 displays of various sizes, covering all aspects on the subject of roller coasters, along with a few related areas of interest. The displays and videos represent a good portion of the current industry as well as historical artifacts, photographs, and other items that represent the past. Many of the displays have a connection to the roller coasters at Dollywood with a balance between old and new.

Click for detailed image
One highlight includes the display of a Prior and Church designed roller coaster car from the Giant Dipper at Belmont Park, San Diego, Calif. alongside a Thunderhead car that is the “rolling stock” on that coaster at Dollywood. The 1925 Frank Prior and Fredrick Church car is what gave Mike Boodley the inspiration to design “Millennium Flyer” style roller coaster cars for Great Coasters International built roller coasters around the world. In the exhibit Boodley is featured on a video where he explains his design process.

Another highlight is the showcase on Arrow Dynamics, one of the major steel roller coaster manufacturers of the late 20th century, headed by the late amusement industry legend and IAAPA Hall of Fame Ron Toomer, who has a panel citing his industry accomplishments as a celebrated designer. A favorite area is sure to be the roller coaster enthusiasts’ room, showing the extent to which aficionados collect and display anything and everything roller coaster related. Other exhibits include: Parks of Tennessee, Wild Eagle (Dollywood’s newest coaster), Hall of Fame coasters, Coasters in Movies, a map of all U.S. parks both in operation and defunct and a roller coaster history timeline.

The museum board has been looking for the opportunity to showcase many of the items and artifacts that are housed in their 2,600 square feet of storage in Plainview, Texas on the Larson International manufacturing site. Until a permanent museum is built, the traveling exhibit is an opportunity to show and share some of the items acquired along with educating the general public about all aspects of roller coasters — history, operation, physics, images, design, memorabilia and more.

"Our expectation is that the industry will look at this as a first step," said Richard Munch, Board Member of the National Roller Coaster Museum and founder of American Coaster Enthusiasts.  "I think the industry will be thrilled with the exhibit, and many will see their parks or coasters highlighted throughout."

"I feel it will be special for Dollywood," said Pete Owens, PR Manager for the Dollywood Companies, who also serves on the National Roller Coaster Museum Board.  "Our employees and management team were very supportive during the preparations, installation and opening of the exhibition.  This unique display is something a little extra for Dollywood guests."

America’s Roller Coasters & Amusement Parks exhibit is open daily, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. through September 16 and is free with admission to Dollywood.  The National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the history of the roller coaster and the amusement industry. Cash and artifact donations can be made by contacting the NRCMA: P.O. Box 5424, Arlington, Texas 76005-5424.