National Pinball Museum: Wrapping Up

Volunteers wrap a pinball game at the National Pinball Museum. Half the pinball games were ready to move at the National Pinball Museum. Volunteers remove legs from a pinball game at the National Pinball Museum.

Volunteers help prepare games for the National Pinball Museum's move to Baltimore. Click photo to enlarge.

Volunteers and staff worked feverishly at the National Pinball Museum to prepare hundreds of pinball games and rooms full of historic exhibits for a forced move out of their leased space in Washington, DC. More than half the games were ready to go just five days after the museum closed to the public.

Museum founder and curator David Silverman was notified in May by the Georgetown Mall that the museum's lease would be terminated in July. The mall later extended the lease until mid-September, allowing the museum to remain open through Labor Day.

Silverman searched for alternative space in Washington, DC without success. He found Baltimore more receptive to the museum's needs. Silverman hopes to finalize a lease and begin building out the museum's new space in Baltimore

Packing Pinball Games

With a summer to plan and with lessons learned from the move into the museum last fall, the museum staff developed a systematic strategy for packing the hundreds of pinball games on display.

Teams of two moved games out of their tight lineup to provide work space. Balls, bolts, and coin boxes were removed and bagged. The balls were bagged separately to protect their chrome finish.

Teams removed game heads and legs. They wrapped cling wrap in two directions around each head and body. Each game's four legs were wrapped together with cling wrap. The layers of cling wrap protect the paint and woodwork from scratches, cover openings to keep loose parts with the game, and provide a grippy surface for movers to grasp.

The museum staff had prepared color-coded labels to designate the different areas of the museum. The teams wrote game names on the labels and applied them to all sides of each head and body, to the leg bundles, and to the parts bags.

Packing Back Glasses

The museum displayed a large collection of pinball backglasses to illustrate the artwork of different eras.

We carefully wrapped each fragile backglass in cling wrap, wrapping in two directions to cover all edges. Then we taped each wrapped backglass to a sturdy piece of corrugated cardboard, leaving a one-inch margin on all sides. The stabilized backglasses were stacked in shallow boxes, which were labeled, "Do not lay flat."

Other artwork, such as the framed progressive screen prints of Gottlieb's Subway backglass were similarly wrapped.

Packing Exhibits

Other staff and volunteers packed the historic exhibits, the gift shop, and the decorative elements. Giant flippers, pinballs, and bumpers, which last week graced the museum's entry portal, now lay on the floor to await packing.

The five historic exhibit rooms already had been dismantled. The ship's portholes, the French chateau's chandeliers, the 1870s woodworking tools, the 1900s card table, and the 1947 drafting table were cling wrapped and ready to move. Smaller articles from those rooms were packed in boxes with color-coded labels. The antique games from those rooms also were wrapped and ready to roll.

One staff member gathered mannequins from around the museum. She carefully undressed each mannequin, folding and packing their historic costumes or gift shop T-shirts. Staff removed mannequin heads and arms to reduce bulk for packing.

More to Pack

Although we worked into the night, dozens of games and many other items remain to be packed. If you have some free time before September 15, please call the museum to volunteer.

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