Rochester entrepreneur Eric Pool has always loved cars. From this first Matchbox toy to his earliest real vehicle, this deep interest has evolved and expanded over a lifetime.
“When I was finally old enough and had enough money to purchase a few [cars] I got to thinking, what’s going to happen to these long term?” Pool explained.
Pool had experience working with the Florence B. Dearing Museum, a Victorian-style home in central Michigan. He thought that perhaps an automobile museum might be the exact solution he was seeking.
Beyond a few mini-museums, particularly around the Minneapolis area, there were no dedicated car museums in Minnesota. Pool reached out to local car enthusiasts and clubs, receiving resounding positive interest in such an establishment. He believed that Rochester was the perfect place to launch this vision.
“With DMC looking for more options [for patients] to do while they are here, the museum fits well with that,” Pool explained.
Now, Pool’s Museum of Automotive History is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit with a seven-person Board of Directors, of which Pool is President. The museum currently has amassed a collection of cars, which mainly belong to Board members, including Poole’s own 1981 DeLorean and 1963 Ford Galaxy. The Board also has a growing number of car memorabilia, books, and car-related toys, but not enough yet to require a dedicated physical space. The museum is gaining a reputation as the “go to” place for cars around Rochester, showcasing the vehicles and other car items around the community upon request.
Pool’s ultimate vision is to set up the museum as a type of car showcase for the community, where car enthusiasts could display their vehicles during poor weather months, similar to the lay out at a car show. Through this type of “loan program,” the museum could obtain cars at a relatively low cost and rotate the cars on display to keep the museum content from stagnating.
Pool’s vision for the automobile museum expands well beyond a basic car showcase.
“We don’t want it to be simply a car museum for the typical demographic to look at a car and leave,” he explained. “We want this to be a community component. We want to be able to bring in children of all ages to learn about cars.”
Now, Pool has his eye out for just the right space for the museum. He wants the gallery to remain “as diverse as possible” in the types of cars showcased, perhaps even broadening as a general transportation museum including cars, planes, and trains. Pool hopes to utilize a historic building in Rochester for the museum, but suggested the costs might be too high for this concept to come to fruition.
“We love the idea of sharing space with other museums. We would greatly entertain that with any other museum that has interest,” Pool said.
This “shared roof” concept would save costs for his museum, as well as provide a variety of options at one location, shopping mall style, where families could visit together and meet their diverse interests.
The Museum of Automotive History’s seven-member Board of Directors has been instrumental in the organization’s growth. Members include Pool’s father and wife as well as Tony Swann, a member who lives outside of Minnesota with experience in the car museum space.
“It’s been a fun road to travel with all these individuals who have been able to come in at certain points to help us get it off the ground,” Pool explained. “That’s part of what I’ve enjoyed the most, is working with the other individuals.”
As with many museums, funding has been a roadblock to growth of a car museum in Rochester. However, Pool said, the Board is not always looking for financial capital. Assistance is also welcome as donations of cars or car-related items.
“But another one that is often times forgotten are the right volunteers, the right Board members, the right interested parties who can make this happen,” Pool explained.
The museum is always searching for people who can donate their time, knowledge, and connections toward growth of this resource in the community.
While the Museum of Automotive History continues to move forward, Pool’s immediate goal is to become the voice in the Rochester community for all things car related. These efforts include maintenance of an in-depth calendar of car events on the museum’s website as well as the group’s car showcase program in the community.
“Minnesota is one of those states where we really need to have a presence here for more museums, not just cars, but museums in general, and Rochester is no exception to that,” Pool said.