November 24, 2008


Students offer ideas for museum

Cornell students have about 190 possible exhibits for Living History Museum

MuseumJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Jerry Antil, a descendant of the Durkee Bakery family, talks Saturday on the Cornell campus about a proposed museum in Cortlandville.

Staff reporter

ITHACA —A former Cortland resident is researching interactive exhibits to be included in a Central Living History Museum planned in Cortlandville.
Jerry Antil, who works in marketing in Dallas commissioned a group of seven Cornell University students to spend seven weeks creating a 215-page report, which outlines more than 190 possible exhibits highlighting innovations in science, technology, agriculture and the arts from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s.
On Saturday, the group presented the report, which includes ideas for interactive exhibits, such as simulators of Brockway trucks and a replica of an Erie Canal lock, which visitors could ride between exhibits.
Antil said the research was his gift to the museum project, which will include an exhibit on Durkee’s Bakery, which began as a small cake shop in Homer during the 1920s.
Mike Antil, who is Jerry’s father, and Albert Durkee became partners in the 1930s and built a larger bakery, which eventually became one of the largest in the United States, introducing the name Duncan Hines into the baking world.
The museum’s other exhibits will include historical and agricultural artifacts from the region, such as Brockway trucks and antique fire trucks owned by Mahlon Irish of Homer, and a military history collection.
Antil said he was not satisfied with just displaying artifacts and wanted to include interactive exhibits to engage people in history and draw more families to the museum.
The list of possible exhibits included a simulation of driving an antique truck and a life-size replica of an Erie Canal lock, which people would ride through on a boat.
When the report is finished, Antil said he wants to present the findings to more than 200 museums across the state to show how exhibits could be improved to draw larger crowds.
“Upstate New York is atrophying with a lot of revenue leaving, and tourism can save it,” Antil said, adding that he thought the work done by the Cornell students was “incredible.”
The Central New York Living History Museum has raised about $600,000 and needs to secure about $2 million to finish interior renovations to the buildings, said Hugh Riehlman, chairman of the Homer-Cortland Community Agency Inc., the group overseeing the development of a museum complex to house historical artifacts from around the area.
Riehlman would not comment on the feasibility of implementing the exhibits outlined in Antil’s report. No board members from the Central New York Living History Museum came to Cornell University to listen to the presentation.
“I think our facility would be a great tourist draw and revitalize the Cortlandville area though,” Riehlman said.
In the next six months, two other student groups will compile for Antil reports on the market’s size and the cost of building and maintaining 40 exhibits ranging from photographs accompanied by audio stories to elevated train replicas.
Antil said he expects the project to be completed some time in May and he will publish the findings for the public.


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