Community committed to culture

Published 11:20 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

Since it opened inside the former Behnke Paint building in early 2013, one of the longstanding questions that patrons have asked about the Dowagiac Area History Museum is when they’ll be able to visit the upstairs of the downtown building.

According to Museum Director Steve Arseneau, the answer to that question appears to be “very soon.”

Over the last six months, the director has been working with local contractor Burling Construction to renovate the building’s second floor, transforming it into a space for two new exhibits, including a permanent collection telling the story of the history of Dowagiac. The construction work is expected to be done by the middle of June, and should be open to the public in September, the director says.

The new exhibits will add to the local museum’s already impressive collection of local artifacts, such as its collection Round Oak stoves, the largest public display of these items in the world.

Half of the funding for the $100,000 project was directly donated by local citizens and organizations, with the other half coming from a matching contribution by the City of Dowagiac, which oversees the property.

This is the latest success that the local museum has seen in since its relocation from Southwestern Michigan College to downtown Dowagiac. Since the migration, the local institution has become an integral part of the city landscape, regularly participating in local festivals. The grounds currently serve as the host of the city’s farmers market, which opened last week.

It has also become a gathering point for local history buffs (which there are many of). With a regular series of guest speakers and the occasional special exhibition opening, its not uncommon to see dozens of peoples squeezed inside the museum’s lower floor, learning more about the past of this rich and diverse community.

For a city already heavily invested in the arts and culture, its great to see locals support such a great institution, and for the institution to return their generosity in kind by continuing to up the ante with the services it provides its patrons.

We are looking forward to the opening of the new exhibit space, and for whatever else the museum intends to deliver in the years to come.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.