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Museum works with Smithsonian on new replica

Rochester Business Journal
February 3, 2012

Genesee Country Village & Museum will have a piece of American history on display this summer as a $300,000 project, with guidance from the Smithsonian, brings part of the Civil War to life.
 
Observing the 150th anniversary of the conflict, the museum will create a replica of the first aerial combat vehicle, a manned balloon named the Intrepid that was used to direct Union artillery against Confederate positions during the Civil War.
 
Once completed, the balloon will begin offering flights to visitors starting July 4, carrying up to four at a time.
 
Peter Arnold, the museum's president and CEO, said the project will help make Genesee Country Village & Museum an important part of the historic remembrance of the Civil War.
 
"Our launch of the Intrepid brings to life one of the most unique elements of American history in a manner never before attempted," Arnold said. "As Civil War remembrances occur across the nation during its 150th anniversary, we believed there was no better time to undertake this initiative. The balloon and the planned Civil War encampment surrounding the launch site further enhance our authentic 19th-century village-the third-largest collection of historic buildings in America."
 
While Arnold is not anticipating a significant attendance boost, he does expect the exhibit to strengthen summer attendance. The exhibit has drummed up excitement in the museum, he said.
 
"We're hoping to create a buzz or interest," Arnold said. "It's a singularly unique project and creates a lot of interest in different quarters. It's sort of new and innovative for this area."
 
Besides being the predecessor to modern-day military aviation, the Intrepid also led to the future of military reconnaissance communication. Its pilot would send information about troop movements to soldiers on the ground by telegraph.
 
The balloon will be tethered to the ground for convenience and safety, just as the original balloon was, museum officials said. Rides will be offered to visitors, who can purchase tickets in addition to admission to the museum.
 
The balloon is being built by the Massachusetts-based AeroBalloon Inc., with historic guidance from individuals at the Smithsonian Institution and NASA, as well as Rob Shenk, director of the Internet strategy and development at the Civil War Trust. Work began in early January, and it is expected to be finished and delivered by May.
 
Genesee Country Village & Museum's effort will ensure that the role of the aeronautic corps in the Civil War is preserved, said Thomas Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics for the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and adviser on the project.
 
"I am certain that (the museum's) efforts will result in one of the most memorable activities of the 150th anniversary of the conflict," Crouch said.
 
Arnold first came up with the concept of building a replica of the Intrepid in 2010, and after a historical and operational review it was approved by the museum's board of trustees in 2011.
 
The total project cost will be $300,000. The museum already has raised close to $125,000 and will seek additional financial support for the project, Arnold said.

2/3/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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