ELKHART, Ind., -- The RV/MH Hall of Fame's newest exhibit in the museum is a rare collection of one of the nation's largest assortments of scale model camping replicas from around the world, according to Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation.
Last summer, Searer received a letter from a long-time Ft. Wayne, Indiana, model collector Randy Rusk who was seeking a permanent home for his extensive collection of miniature replicas of campers, RVs, motorhomes and manufactured homes.
"The Hall of Fame has a proud tradition of accepting and displaying unique camping vehicles in our nationally renowned museum," Searer said. "We also have a few toys and models outside of our Founders Hall, along with other camping memorabilia, but nothing of substance. Today's donation adds to our ability to tell an even richer story about the joys of camping while appealing to visitors young and old."
Rusk said, "My wife and I had visited the museum several times in recent years. We will soon be empty-nesters, and we're getting closer to our planned retirement. Model collecting has been a passion of mine since my mom gave me my first one at age nine. But my collection of campers had grown so large I realized I was never going to be able to display it all in our home. We needed to downsize, but I couldn't imagine selling off the models I'd spent my whole life acquiring. The RV/MH museum seemed like the perfect destination for my cherished collection."
Searer and Rusk met soon afterward to discuss the details and select a date to create the new permanent exhibit. Over two days in late November, Rusk and RV/MH Hall of Fame Operations Manager Ryan Szklarek sorted through the many boxes of models ranging in scale from 1:87 up to 1:16 and sorted them by category and country of origin.
Szklarek said, "With every box we opened, I kept saying, 'Wow!' There were just so many unusual and detailed models of campers, some of which we have here in full-size. We are very fortunate to have these on display. It will definitely add a new must-see stop for visitors."
While Rusk expressed some hesitation about leaving his collection behind, he was reassured of his decision when the display was completed. "This is everything I hoped it would be," he said. "I've had this pictured in my head for years and now to see it all organized in display cases is better than I ever imagined.
"I'm so appreciative to Darryl and Ryan for running such a quality museum and giving me the opportunity to contribute to the camping hobby."
Rusk was quick to note that he will continue looking for unusual camper models and plans to return to the museum to add more of his finds in the coming year.