Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

April 7, 2013

Gaylord museum an exhibit itself of bygone era

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Other elements are even quirkier. Cow horns are wired to cords so visitors can put them to their ears and listen to the howls and barks of the animals. An exhibit features old-time fishing tackle boxes, while another displays the kinds of guns the early settlers used to kill the same kinds of animals displayed here.

And offsetting everything is a quaint poetry alcove painted in the colors of a child's room, where short poems read to the founder in his youth by his mother are lettered on wooden plaques that hang from the walls.

It all adds up to something very distinct, very local and very Michigan.

The landscape backdrops were painted by artists from the area. The poems in the poetry room were hand-lettered by a former employee who lived nearby. Neighbors donated old-fashioned rods and lures for the fishing exhibit, and local taxidermists often replace natty animals with fresher ones. The family makes fudge on site, and the gift shop sells everything from rabbit pelts to raccoon hats.

"This place is magnificent," said Carol Dinsmoore of Fairgrove, near Bay City, while visiting with her 5-year-old granddaughter Raegan on their way to their cottage. "We have to go through about a half dozen times before she'll let us leave here. We can't get this kid out of this place."

Dinsmoore's parents first brought her to the museum years ago. When she had a son, she used to bring him, too, and now the two of them bring her granddaughter.

For Dinsmoore, a stop here is a touchstone to not only her personal past, but also to a more innocent time of tourism, when a building full of stuffed animals could capture a visitor's attention for hours.

"I can't say enough about this place," she said before turning back and chasing after her fast-walking granddaughter, who had finished her tour but just had to go through the museum one more time.

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