More than a dozen local museums in the Grand Traverse region's towns and villages help preserve the area's history and community treasures, but they also play a role in modern-day placemaking.
"It's important to understand the part historical museums play in terms of community building and adding to our quality of life and what makes our communities and villages special," said Becky Ewing, program officer for Rotary Charities.
Rotary Charities has given the Elk Rapids Historical Society $32,000 in two grants since last year when the Elk Rapids Methodist Church congregation donated its 1901 building to the society. A $24,000 grant is for repairs and renovation. An $8,000 grant will help the society develop a strategic plan as it moves from the basement of the Elk Rapids Town Hall to its "new" old building.
The Northport Area Heritage Association also is on the move. It celebrated a grand opening on Memorial Day weekend in the village's former Masonic Hall, which it is buying. It already has a "Two-Mile Long Garage Sale" stretching from North Shore Drive down to Fifth Street planned for June 29-30 to raise funds.
"No one would have a clue if you don't know what the past was," said Sue Hanson, a longtime member, volunteer and Northport native. "You take things for granted if you don't know what the past was and realize the struggle. We were really blessed to have the founder of our town, the Rev. George N. Smith, keep a diary."
Here's a sampling of three area museums:
Empire Area Museum Center
Address: 11544 LaCore St.
Hours: Open 1-4 p.m. every day, except Wednesday.
Contact: Dave Taghon, 326-5519; or recorded message at 326-5568.
What began as a one-room display of memorabilia in 1972 is now a complex of four buildings — the museum, the Old School House, 1911 Hose House/Fire House, Billy Beeman Barn. Some exhibits include animation and sound. It also has a viewing room where visitors can watch DVD presentations of local historical photos and videos — from the days of the Empire Lumber Company to gliders days, dune mobiles and coho fever.
Interesting finds: Roen's Saloon with the real wood bar on the main floor and Taghon's Corner Gas Station in the lower level.
Mesick Area Museum
nAddress: 117 Mesick Ave.
nHours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday till Oct. 1.
nContact: Deborah Kohn, 946-3598 or email@example.com
The Mesick Area Museum is eight years old and the dream-come-true of the late Grace Kohn, who chaired the village's 1990's centennial committee, which collected rooms of antiques for the centennial.
"This needs to be preserved," she told daughter Deborah and the committee after the centennial. Grace never lived to see it, but today the former Sandy's Restaurant downtown is a two-room museum. The front room is a farm household filled with antique furniture, lamps, dishes and kitchen. The back room is devoted to logging and farming tools.
Interesting finds: A list of area ghost towns and a wooden scale model of Mesick during the logging area made by late Buckley historian Elmer Pavlis.
Northport Area Museum
Address: 118 Naganoba St.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Contact: Sue Hanson, 386-5606, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Martha Roberts, 386-5244.
Museum exhibits and artifacts unveil Northport's past as a key stopover port and shipping center for Great Lakes schooners hauling lumber, freight and passengers. Here visitors can learn about Northport's founders the Rev. George N. and Almira Smith, who came with a band of Ottawa County American Indians to set up an Indian mission, the busy pioneer waterfront days, the Civil War, early business district and tourist hotel era and Northport school history, among other things. The museum has a research center and a gift shop.
Interesting finds: Dr. Flood's big bathtub that was located in walled off space he rented and used at the local barbershop. It cost 25 cents for the bath or a total of 35 with towel.