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The Hershey Story Museum

Convention Hall
In 1938, Hershey Museum moved to the newly remodeled Convention Hall.

The Hershey Story Museum is one of several educational and cultural institutions established by Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, during his lifetime between the founding of the Hershey community in 1903 and his death in 1945. Hershey intended to make his community a model town – an interesting and enjoyable place to live, work, and visit. In addition to endowing a school for orphaned boys, Hershey contributed millions of dollars for the creation of first-class amenities, including a community center, hotel, botanical garden, zoo, theater, arena, stadium and museum.

The Museum, founded in 1933, originally consisted of a significant collection of Native North American artifacts assembled by John G. Worth of Philadelphia. Worth, a knowledgeable collector of American Indian material culture, spent many years in the American West, and served as a civilian scout during the last of the Indian Wars. Known as the Hershey American Indian Museum, the museum was housed in a former residence located on Derry Road, just north of the chocolate factory.

In 1935, encouraged by the success of his museum, Hershey purchased a substantial collection of Pennsylvania-German artifacts from the estate of George H. Danner of nearby Manheim, Lancaster County. Danner owned and operated a private museum consisting primarily of objects from the Central Pennsylvania region. In 1938, the Museum moved to the Convention Hall/Ice Palace that had been remodeled to accommodate both the Pennsylvania-German and the American Indian collections.

In its new location Hershey Museum continued to operate as a division of  Hershey Estates, the company which oversaw the non-chocolate Hershey businesses. Though the Museum had no formal collection policy, it became the natural recipient of objects relating to Hershey – the founder, the town, and the industry. Until 1974, the museum employed a single full-time caretaker to maintain exhibits, records, collections, and the building.

In 1974, John Strawbridge, the new director, supervised repairs to the main structure of the museum building, instituted basic collections management policies and techniques, and established a plan for the development of permanent exhibits. Realizing the exceptional quality of its collections, he began to steer the Museum toward a more public role in the region. Exhibits were reorganized with a focus on interpretation, and sound collection management policies were vigorously pursued. Educational programs and outreach activities grew rapidly. Making the Museum’s diverse and interesting collections accessible to as many people as possible emerged as a top priority for the growing staff.

Beginning in 1971, Hershey Park began the process of redeveloping itself as a themed amusement park. As a result, the Hershey community experienced a renewed emphasis as a tourist destination. In 1973, due to overwhelming crowds, the Hershey Chocolate factory tour was replaced with a simulated factory tour ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World Visitor’s Center. Located just a few minutes walk from the Museum, Hershey’s Chocolate World sparked a resurgence of visitor interest in Milton S. Hershey.

In 1982, ownership of Hershey Museum was transferred to The M.S. Hershey Foundation, a private foundation established by Milton Hershey in 1935 to support educational and cultural activities in Derry Township. Support from the Foundation and the ability to seek grants and charitable contributions has enabled the Museum to continue expanding services to the public and better manage and exhibit its collections.

Over the next few decades, Hershey Museum sought ways to respond to increasing visitor requests for information about the history of Milton Hershey and his legacy. In 1982 the museum opened a new exhibit, “The Man Behind the Chocolate Bar,” its first exhibit focused on Milton Hershey and his legacy. That was followed by a more extensive exhibit titled “Built on Chocolate,” that opened in 1992.

The museum’s location in the old Convention Hall presented significant challenges to its operation. Access to the museum was limited in summer months as most visitors were interested in visiting Hersheypark. The space itself was in need of repair, with leaking roofs and inadequate electrical service. The 30 foot ceilings made the facility difficult to light.

In 2007, after years of planning and assorted delays, the Foundation broke ground for a new facility for the museum. The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue opened on January 9, 2009. The new museum offers visitors an educational, fun-filled, imaginative, and immersive environment to explore the many stories of Milton Hershey and his legacy. Attractions include the Museum Experience, a series of engaging exhibits; the Chocolate Lab, a place that explores the qualities of chocolate through hands-on experiences and interactive demonstrations; and a special exhibit gallery that allows the museum to present changing exhibits. The museum also includes Tastings: Chocolate From Around The World, an area where visitors can taste the unique flavors of chocolates sourced from different countries, The Pantry Café, and the Museum Shop selling an array of items reflecting the history and traditions of Hershey.

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