By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
Plans are for the Salina Educational Automotive Museum of America to open this fall and the driving force behind that opening will be Michelle Peck.
The museum board announced today that Peck has been named the organization's executive director.
"The board is excited to move forward with leadership from Michelle. She has a proven track record of success and she’s extremely creative and driven. She will be charged with hiring a team to operate the facility and build partnerships with donors, political and community leaders, educational institutions, industry groups and other stakeholders," Board President Tom Pestinger noted in a news release issued this afternoon.
The 43,000 square-foot museum will be located at 134 S. Fourth Street on the eastern side of downtown Salina and across the street from part of the Smoky Hill River Renewal Project.
“We will be housed in a completely renovated and refurbished historic brick warehouse now known as The Garage! I am looking forward to working with car enthusiasts, students, hobbyist, and those who are simply exploring the revitalize downtown district,” Peck said in the release.
Peck told Salina Post that she couldn't decide on one aspect of her new job that excites her the most.
"I can't just pick one thing! Building relationships with regional and national partners to help strengthen the visibility of our community is exciting. Sharing the stories of the cars and how they impact our American history is truly an art. Working with students and adults in our hands-on interactive simulators will be a lot of fun, too!" Peck explained.
According to information from Peck, the mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, interpret, exhibit, and celebrate automobiles in order to elevate awareness of and appreciation for the automobiles' historical significance and influence on American culture. Its vision is a world-class museum that "educates young and old through entertaining interactive displays, serves as a gathering place for enthusiast from around the globe, and developed industry/sponsor partnerships to ensure restoration and preservation of automotive treasures."
But how does the museum fit with the revitalization of downtown Salina?
"Cultural tourism is growing in rural areas and many travelers list art galleries and museums as their first choice of activity," Peck explained. "We are building a world class museum in downtown Salina and in partnership with The Yard, The Fieldhouse, The Alley, The Art Center, The Stiefel Theater, The Community Theater, The Smoky Hill Museum, The Cove, The Silos, The River Project, and now The Garage, we can collectively bring people to Salina and get them to stay for a mini vacation."
Peck noted that her team will be made up of both part-time and full-time positions, including a museum curator, director of operations, and guest services representatives. Additionally, internships will be available in the fall, and the museum will have a "robust volunteer program," Peck added.