InfoAge CEO Mike Ruane presents the State of InfoAge at this year’s Wall of Honor reception.
The State of InfoAge in the Year of COVID
Mike Ruane, CEO of InfoAge
Wow!! What a year!! Who expected anything like this?? We have never experienced anything like the impact this virus has had on our everyday lives, our jobs, and the economy of our country and the world. It has been pretty devastating. The roller coaster ride of 2020 is over and it has had a profound impact on InfoAge.
In spite of the COVID 19 virus that has caused other museums and learning centers to close, InfoAge not only survived but remains open and vibrant!
In the past, InfoAge received much of its funding from school trips and senior citizen and group tours. Our visitors learned of New Jersey’s rich history in the development of communications and information technology from Edison, Sarnoff, Armstrong, and Marconi up to the present day. In addition, many faith-based volunteer groups were housed in the InfoAge Volunteer Housing and Retreat Center supporting the Saint Bernard Project in its continuing mission of rebuilding the New Jersey shore after Superstorm Sandy.
Initially, we had to close through the end of May with an estimated loss of income of almost $35,000 due to the cancellation of scheduled tours and volunteer visits. However, with the continued closure imposed by the state of New Jersey, additional tours and events, our Wall of Honor Reception, an Inventor’s Summer Camp, etc. had to be cancelled. By the time we opened on August 1, our lost funding was over $87,000.
We attempted to overcome some of this loss by applying for financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and other grant and loan programs available through the NJ Economic Development Authority and the Monmouth County CARES Economic Grant Assistance Program. We also applied to the Ocean First Foundation for their Good Neighbor Grant. Our Finance Committee undertook cost cutting measures and came up with several other avenues to obtain funding. Our Board members, volunteers and member organizations also contributed over $17,000 to help offset the loss of funding. As a result of our grant applications, we received a $3,000 Federal grant and a $20,000 Monmouth County grant. We continue to apply for COVID relief grants to include in the 2021 PPP Phase II grant.
To continue our mission, we modified our business model to include virtual and live on-line presentations. InfoAge now has its own Zoom account and we have conducted several beta tests with presentations to students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Yale Air Force ROTC students. Our summer “Space Exploration Week” and our “Space Flight “Lecture Series were successfully conducted virtually. We did a Face Book live presentation of our Vintage Computer Federation (VCF) museum which is now available on the New Jersey School Board Association Face Book page. In addition, the VCF conducted their VCF-East Conference in October. The conference was done virtually with a combination of pre-recorded and live exhibit demonstrations, interviews and “how to” classes. We are continually working on how to reach our visitors through video and virtual means until they can once again come to our campus.
Here are some other significant accomplishments that happened in 2020 in spite of the COVID-19 virus:
- We reached out to help our community with the donation of over 2,000 N95 respirator masks to several area hospitals, local emergency workers and responders.
- Our brochures, tour guide and our other printed media were revised and reprinted to provide continuity, consistency and uniformity of message.
- The InfoAge website continues to be developed to focus on highlighting our unique strengths and identifying what things makes InfoAge stand out from the competition.
- We developed and implemented a COVID-19 plan to protect our volunteers, docents, staff and visitors in accordance with CDC guidelines that was in place for our August 1 reopening.
- The Discovery Channel show “Billy Buys Brooklyn” visited InfoAge in December and filmed both the ISEC (InfoAge Space Exploration Center) and the Vintage Computer Museum (VCF) for segments of the show that will be broadcast in the March/April timeframe. They are also coming back in 2021 to visit and film a few more museums
- A new Board member, Melissa Ziobro, volunteered to be our Social Media Coordinator where she will develop and implement an online strategy and engaging presence through our social media platforms and ensure the presentation of a uniform InfoAge message.
- Another volunteer is our new Chief Technology Officer, Martin Flynn. He will develop InfoAge’s technology strategy and work with other InfoAge IT gurus to implement that plan.
- The soft opening of our “NJ 911 REMEMBRANCE & MEMORIAL” exhibit was held in September. In the exhibit, visitors can relive the terrible attack on the World Trade Center through the service and participation of our NJ first responders and through dioramas, videos, photos, artifacts, magazines, and uniforms worn during those dark days. The formal opening will be held on September 11, 2021, the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attack and the collapse of the World Trade Center.
- Tremendous strides were made in improving the appearance of our campus through the efforts of individual volunteers and our member organizations.
- Our Exhibit Committee headed by Bob Perricelli continued to build and expand exhibits such as the 12-foot model of the battleship New Jersey, the Vietnam War exhibit, the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans exhibit and the European Colonization and Independence exhibit.
- Work continues on the expansion of the Maritime Pavilion. It is expected to be open to visitors on a limited basis in the summer of 2021.
- The Military Technology Museum (MTM) acquired two tanks in 2020, a WWII era M-26 and a Korean War M-47. They are being repaired and painted by our young high school seniors and collage age volunteers under the tutelage of Rick Wark, an MTM docent. The tanks will be ready for display by the summer of 2021.
Finally, our volunteers and docents spent over 15,000 verified hours working at InfoAge during this pandemic year. Using the Independent Sector figure that a volunteer’s hourly worth is $25.43, our volunteers contributed over $380,000.00 of their time at InfoAge.
Now, onto 2021!!
We are now beginning to host in-person events with additional events scheduled for this summer. These will include our Wall of Honor Reception in October honoring those citizens who, by their lives or life’s work, have made significant contributions to the defense of our Nation with their accomplishments at the US Army’s former Camp Evans and Fort Monmouth. The Historic Divers Association is conducting its annual New Jersey Shipwreck Symposium virtually in May. The VCF is planning for their VCF-East Conference in the fall, the Garden State Central will have another great train display for us in December, and the Historic Divers Association is working on a one-day symposium, also in the fall, with Bob Croft, the “Father of American Freediving”. All these are in addition to our WWII Weekend in August.
Due to a generous gift from the Association of Old Crows (AOC), the SIGINT/EW pavilion in Building 9010C should open this year. Some work remains to be done on the floor and then the space can be populated with equipment. There is a good possibility of the construction of a new museum beginning later in the year; talks are ongoing. And, as mentioned above, several of our exhibits are being built and/or upgraded and will be ready for display in early summer 2021.
As I said initially, in spite of the COVID 19 virus that has caused other museums and learning centers to close, InfoAge has not only survived but remains open and vibrant!!
Come visit New Jersey’s Mini-Smithsonian. You will be amazed!!!
InfoAge CEO Mike Ruane gave an update on the State of InfoAge at this year’s Wall of Honor reception.
InfoAge CEO Mike Ruane gave an update on the State of InfoAge for 2018 at this year’s Wall of Honor reception.
InfoAge CEO Mike Ruane gave an update on the State of InfoAge for 2014 at this year’s Wall of Honor reception.
2008 Update and State of InfoAge
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InfoAge Science & History Museums
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Wall, NJ 07719