Museum director provides update on upcoming exhibit space

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Director Steve Areseanu hadn’t even finished welcoming his first set of patrons through the doors of the new home of the Dowagiac Area History Museum before receiving his first bit of criticism — from Mayor Don Lyons, of all people.

It was during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the building two years ago that the mayor mentioned in his remarks that much of the history of Dowagiac would not be on display inside the two showroom floors of the former paint store, Areseanu said.

“He said we had to omit stories,” Areseanu said. “Because of space limitations, we could not fit all the important Dowagiac stories in it.”

For the last several months, Areseanu has been working to cross this piece of criticism off his to-do list.

Construction is nearing completion on the renovation work being performed on the Area History Museum’s second floor, which upon completion is expected to provide room for two additional exhibits, including a permanent collection chronicling the history of the City of Dowagiac. This section will cover everything from historical events such as the arrival of the first orphan train in 1854 to the stories of local institutions such as Judd Lumber Company and Southwestern Michigan College, Areseanu said.

“We’re going to tackle all of those stories and more in this new exhibit space,” he said. “It’s just going to be a pretty through telling of the Dowagiac story, from 1848 to present.”

The director gave an update about this and other recent happenings at the local museum during his presentation in front of the members of the Dowagiac Rotary Club, during their weekly meeting Thursday afternoon at the Dowagiac Elks Lodge.

Among the topics he touched on during his remarks were some figures about how the institution has performed since moving from its old location on the campus of SMC to its new home, on the corner of Division and Railroad streets downtown. Since opening in 2013, the history museum has had over 10,000 visitors, benefiting from the increased visibility and greater participation with downtown festivals and events, Areseanu said.

“I consider that a pretty solid number considering the population base of Dowagiac and the Dowagiac area,” he said.

The move has also been a great benefit to their seasonal educational lecture series, going from around 50 visitors per talk to 90, the director said.

The largest success the museum has seen to date is with the fundraising for the renovations to second floor, though. Last year Areseanu managed to raise over $50,000 in donations for the project, which, when combined with the city’s match of $50,000, gave the museum enough funding to begin construction.

Areseanu expects the building process to be finished within the next couple of weeks, and is aiming to open the space up for patrons beginning in early September, he said.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “The space is really looking beautiful. The contractors have done an amazing job. It going to really be a good addition to the museum.”