BY LORAINE ANDERSON
TRAVERSE CITY — Maddie Buteyn struggled to find space to step inside a storage unit between gigantic Lego blocks and a dilapidated horse-drawn wagon.
She then stood back near the open door on the face of a block of storage units situated along Cass Street and gazed at the packed space. It wasn’t a collection of personal treasures she’s squirreled away — it’s the next big problem facing the History Center of Traverse City.
The curator for the museum Wednesday perused some of the dozens of large artifacts the organization has preserved during the decades. Some may have historical significance in other regions and the center may have to get rid of them in one way or another.
And all of the items represent two important questions facing both the museum and Traverse City officials.
How does a city rescue, maintain and sustain large historical artifacts like architecturally significant buildings including the City Opera House and the Carnegie Library Building that houses the center?
And how important are culture and history to the region’s economy, its tourism, businesses and citizens?
“It’s a challenge,” city commissioner Jim Carruthers said. “The city commission has handed over many of our properties to the nonprofits and said, ‘Here you can have them, but then they’re stuck with the maintenance.’ In a perfect world, it would be wonderful if the city could continue maintaining the buildings.”
Carruthers said he thinks historically and architecturally significant buildings, tree-lined historic neighborhoods and unique owner-operated downtown businesses all play into why people come to Traverse City. They help preserve its “small-town character.”
The History Center’s mission is to “preserve, protect and present the historical record of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse region.” For now, however, the History Center has to focus on its budget and its next steps.