HOLYOKE The life and career of one of Holyoke's best-known citizens, Sid Radner, is planned to be the subject of a new museum located on High Street.
Elizabeth Dobrska, a member of the city's Historical Commission and a student at Mount Holyoke College, has begun the process of launching the Sid Radner Museum of Houdini & Holyoke that would feature some of Radner's famed collection of magic artifacts including many belonging to the legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini as well as many other photos and items that describe the entertainment history of the city.
Dobrska developed the idea while participating in an internship at the Gasoline Alley Foundation in Springfield. The foundation helps develop businesses and organizations through an incubator center on Albany Street and Dobrska said she was asked to find something about which she was passionate.
She decided she wanted to undertake a project that would help in the redevelopment of downtown Holyoke and showcase Holyoke history. She had known Radner since she was a child and after speaking with him she thought his life and collection would make the subject for the museum.
Radner, a local businessman, has been nationally recognized as an expert on gambling and magic in general as well as on Houdini.
"Radner could have lived anywhere," Dobrska said. "He really needs to be recognized locally."
Radner was the prot g of Hardeen, the brother of Houdini and inherited the Houdini collection from Hardeen. Although Radner has lent some of the collection to various museums and has sold part of it at an auction in 2004, he still has many items relating to the magician.
Houdini had a direct and significant link to the city, Dobrska said. A publicity staple for the magician was coming into a city and escaping from its jail. He performed his first jailbreak in Holyoke.
Dobrska is quick to add though that Radner's connection to Houdini is just part of his story and the subject of the museum. The museum will also focus on Holyoke's heyday when the city had movie and vaudeville stages and was a stop for touring Broadway shows.
The museum will be located on the ground floor of the former Triangle Shoe store on High Street and will feature a mini movie theater with film screenings of Houdini's performances and interviews with Radner. Weekly magic shows, masquerades and film screenings are also planned. Dobrska said the planned opening for the museum is sometime next year.
The museum is a non-profit organization and is seeking $200,000 to pay for the renovations of the building. Interested donors and volunteers should contact Dobrska at her e-mail address of email@example.com.