Day 23, August 9 - ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
“I shall always be grateful for the opportunities Adham gave me to create the Museum.”
Congratulations on the extraordinary accomplishment of capturing the history of our sport! It was amazing to read that there are now 5,000 (or more) items in the Museum’s inventory and that your magazine had 21.6 million page downloads in 2012. Let’s discuss your fantastic contributions in this area.
Could you tell us how you went about amassing these items? To what extent were they already in the ITTF’s possession, to what extent did they come from your private collection, and to what extent have you obtained donations or otherwise acquired items?
This happened over a 40-year time span. At first it was slow progress, and then ebay happened, whose auctions I search every day. We’ve had some fine donations, which I show on my website. Since beginning my work here in Switzerland, I have personally donated hundreds of pieces, including the first known set. Heart happy, wallet sad, but it was always too difficult to pass up an important piece for the Museum or Archives.
What drew you to begin your own private collection in the first place?
A single postage stamp. I was playing a game of Chess by post (long before e-mail technology) with a man from Sweden. He sent his moves on postcards, and one of them had a Table Tennis stamp. After some research I connected with other specialists, and the obsession began for all historic memorabilia.
It would be interesting to understand your own background in table tennis.
Just an enthusiastic (and old-fashioned) club level amateur, 60% chop & 40% pick hit. I won my college championship and gave exhibitions at college basketball games (using sandpaper!), playing with a very talented attacker. Later I used a handmade Hock hardbat, which had a beautiful baritone sound on a good chop stroke. But when long pips and other junk rubbers were introduced, my enthusiasm waned considerably, and after a painful lower back injury sustained in a Maryland vs. Virginia match, I was done.
Back to the ITTF Museum then, how did you connect with the ITTF to make this all happen?
I developed a large website and the ITTF noticed it just around the time they were purchasing the chateau in Switzerland for their headquarters. Good timing! They gave me the entire ground floor, which I called my 10-room office.
Can you give us an idea of the range of the items in the inventory? Could you also describe some of the themes/classifications?
Most all categories really. I developed a preference for fine early rackets. Emphasis on the early period, but I tried to cover later years as well, with an equipment evolution theme. Also I found that the ITTF Archives had many gaps, so I made it a big priority to restore the Archives as much as possible, securing all World Championship programs, all ITTF handbooks, other major event programs, vintage photographs, films, videos, etc. We have an extensive collection of World Championship medals and pins, a huge library, and even the Olympic torches. (The only missing torch is from the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Can anyone help?)
Can you give a brief “cyber tour,” a little tutorial about how and where someone can find information?
The Museum website is the main resource – a virtual treasure trove of historical information. There is a Virtual Tour by Sharif Sourour, and photos of many Museum items, presented in 3 categories: Equipment, Cultural, and Sport History. Also accessible are historical statistics, World Championship scores from the 1st Worlds onward (a massive project!), Hall of Fame, links to my magazines and newsletters, and an online Archive, containing scans of the most important documents over the years (an ongoing project, always more work to do in this area). I encourage all to visit my site at: ittf.com/museum.
The idea to create a traveling Museum as a feature at the WTTC’s was brilliant. How did that idea come about? And how has it been received to date?
The exhibitions at the World Championships have become extremely popular with the fans. This concept was initiated by Adham, who realized that not so many could see the Museum in Switzerland. So his philosophy was to take the Museum to the people.
A lot of work is involved, including close coordination with the host Organizing Committees, for such things as security arrangements -- but it is clear that the fans appreciate our efforts. I designed the exhibits to create both an educational and entertaining fan experience.
My 17-meter chronological illustrated Timeline History exhibit attracts the most interest, as well as our Celebrity Photo Gallery. The most popular showcase at the end of each day is the one with the most fingerprint smudges! Usually it’s the one with unusual rackets. Especially for our younger visitors I would sometimes open a showcase to let them handle an interesting racket or other mementos.
With the Museum being relocated to China, hopefully many more people will enjoy the fruits of your labor. What duties will you retain in regard to preserving our sport’s heritage?
I will work closely with ITTF Executive Vice-President Shi Zhihao and Mr. Yao Zhenxu to ensure historical accuracy of the exhibits, as well as to preserve the western traditions of our sport. I know each part of the museum collection intimately, and want to share this knowledge in the best possible manner. All best wishes for success to the Chinese team in Shanghai to create a fantastic Museum!
Do you see links with the Museum and the P5 plan or efforts to be in the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO?
From a Museum perspective, we are already in the Top 5! I think the ITTF Museum already contributes to P5 by preserving and promoting the history of our sport. This is done through my Museum website, as well as our popular quarterly magazine. I also support the major media and many authors with their articles, videos and books, which help to raise the visibility of Table Tennis. The exhibitions at our World Championships also contribute to this goal. People who have visited the Museum in Switzerland were always visibly impressed, often observing they had no idea about our extensive and well-organized history. They gained a new respect: the old Ping Pong basement game had morphed into a world class sport.
Being the vigilant observer that you are, what are your reflections on the, might I say “transformation” of our sport over the last 15 years corresponding with Adham Sharara’s presidency?
It is clear that during Adham’s tenure the sport has grown tremendously worldwide, due to many factors: an award-winning Development program, an emphasis on promotion, itTV, a strong marketing program, active social media, a record number of member associations, and so on. There are so many positive aspects that stem from his leadership during the last 15 years.
The Museum is another positive – President Sharara had the vision to make this happen, and I shall always be grateful for the opportunities Adham gave me to create the Museum.