Museum Fields: Q&A with Mary Quinn

Hall of Fame's director of exhibits
discusses her role in Cooperstown


October 14, 2009


Each month, Museum Fields will introduce you to a staff member at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, taking you inside the daily operation of Cooperstown to get inside the thinking of members from the Museum's multitalented staff. For the month of October, we feature Director of Exhibits Mary Quinn.

Mary Quinn is the director of exhibits and design at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

What is a "day in the life" like for the director of exhibits and design?

MARY QUINN: I oversee the development and design of new exhibits in the museum and the maintaince and updating of current exhibits. I also support other museum departments with various projects and graphics. Springtime is our big rush to get the museum ready for the summer visitors. During that time, we are busily getting new exhibits designed, fabricated and installed and updating existing exhibits such as Today's Game and Records Room so we are ready for Opening Day.

What role do you play in the Museum's mission of preserving history, honoring excellence and connecting generations?

QUINN: The exhibits department is continually striving to create interesting, engaging and educational exhibits for all our visitors. This includes interactive and media components as well as presenting artifacts and text that are accessible for all ages. We make sure that mounts used to present the artifacts are well-made and will not be damaging, and we keep the light levels low so artifacts are not harmed. We want to make sure that the kids who visit us today will be able to bring their grandchildren to the Hall and show them the same uniform.

What drew you to working at the Baseball Hall of Fame? Have you always been a baseball fan?

QUINN: I started my career at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Although I loved it there, my husband and I got tired of the Beltway and were looking for a quieter place to settle. I have always loved baseball, so choosing the Hall of Fame and relocating to Cooperstown was a no-brainer. I also love that fact that I am involved in every aspect of the exhibit process -- from developing the ideas for exhibits, to designing, to producing and finally, installing. The variety is great.

Mary Quinn - Director of Exhibits

 Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
 Hall of Fame Debut: 1999
 Position: Director of Exhibits
 Bats: Right
 Throws: Right
 Favorite Team: Cincinnati Reds
 Favorite Hall of Famer: Ozzie Smith
 Fun Fact: Rode on the Goodyear Blimp

How much time and effort goes into each exhibit?

QUINN: It depends on the size and scope of the exhibit. For larger, permanent exhibits, we try to schedule 18 months. But sometimes, the exhibit has to happen in a much shorter timeframe.

What departments do you work most closely with to ensure a successful exhibit?

QUINN: Even though we are officially in different departments, the curatorial and exhibits departments work extremely closely -- you really couldn't have one without the other. We also work very closely with collections, photos and the library.

How often are artifacts in the exhibits, or the exhibits themselves, changed around?

QUINN: Most of the time, artifacts remain on exhibit for long periods of time -- that's why it's so important to keep them presented on good mounts and to keep the light levels low. Our artifacts are one of a kind and iconic -- there's only one bat from Hank Aaron's 3,000th hit. There's just no substituting! We opened three new exhibits this year, two permanent and one temporary. We have a pretty ambitious schedule, but we want our visitors to see something new and to keep current.

What is your favorite exhibit at the Hall of Fame?

QUINN: Sacred Ground. I love going to the game, and this exhibit celebrates all the aspects of the ballpark -- concessions, fans, architecture, mascots and the uniqueness of the different stadiums.

Do you have a favorite story about an experience here?

QUINN: One of my most amazing experiences was going through Hank Aaron's childhood home with him and his brother and sister in Mobile, Ala. He is such a gracious and humble man who has not forgotten where he came from. Hearing his stories that day is a memory I'll never forget.

What is a part of your job here that you could not experience anywhere else?

QUINN: I love it when some great moment happens during a game, and we have the bat, ball or glove on exhibit the following week. We take pride in our timeliness of getting objects on display, and our visitors sometimes can't believe that the event happened just last week!

Lena Dubensky is the Fall 2009 public relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Phone: 1-888-HALL-OF-FAME | Fax: 607-547-2044
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