Award boosts museum’s reputation

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, December 19, 2013

Steve Arseneau, director of the Dowagiac Area History Museum, displays his 2013 President’s Award.

Steve Arseneau, director of the Dowagiac Area History Museum, displays his 2013 President’s Award.

The city of Dowagiac has added another arrow to their quiver in their upcoming fundraising campaign for the Dowagiac Area History Museum, as the Michigan Museum Assocation recently honored the museum’s director, Steve Arseneau.

The organization presented Arseneau with its top award, the President’s Award, for his work on preserving the museum and its large collection of local artifacts, which moved from its former location at Southwestern Michigan College to downtown Dowagaic earlier this year. He was given the award during the association’s annual conference in Bay City.

To Arseneau, the award was less about him and more about the museum.

“The award will help raise our profile within the greater museum community,” Arseneau said.

The museum, which is now owned by the city, is currently formulating plans to raise money for potential expansions. Arseneau believes that the recognition will be a valuable asset for the museum’s campaign.

“I think it can help us with marketing for fundraising, as well as for grant writing purposes,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have out there for the institution.”

The city has recently partnered with a local architectural firm, which will provide preliminary drawings for the museum’s potential expansion opportunities. The museum plans to present these drawings to interested donors when it formally begins its fundraising campaign early next year.

“Our primary goal at the moment is finishing the upstairs,” Arseneau said. “Once we have that done it will really bind the museum together and make it an even greater destination for visitors.”

Arseneau has received recognition for his efforts in preserving the museum in the past, including an award from the Dowagiac Rotary this summer. However, this is the Michigan Museum Association has honored him for his work.

“I was quite honored,” he said. “To be recognized by your peers like this is very rewarding.”

Although Arseneau has regularly attended the association’s annual conference, he said he was quite shocked when his name was announced as the winner of this year’s President’s Award.

“I really, really had no idea I would be getting the award,” he said. “I was hedging whether or not I could even go, since my wife and I have a 3-year-old son.”

His wife, Christina, who works at the Heritage Museum in St. Joseph, was informed of her husband’s selection prior to the conference, Arseneau said.

“My wife took care of everything so that we could go, and my son even dropped hints about me receiving a gift while we were there,” he recalled. “It was all really quite touching, once I put it all together.”

Although Arseneau said he was honored to receive such a prestigious award, he was quick to share the credit with many people who helped make the museum’s current incarnation a reality, including Mayor Don Lyons, City Manager Kevin Anderson, the Behnke family, who contributed their old West Railroad Street storefront to the project, the SMC maintenance crew who helped out during the move from campus, and the many contactors who renovated the building for displaying the museum’s exhibits.

“There were so many people who made this happen,” Arseneau said. “The award is a reflection of the work of everyone involved.”