Museum commemorates opening of new floor
Published 9:59 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015
After several years of fundraising and nearly a year’s worth of construction, Dowagiac Area History Museum Director Steve Arseneau was finally able to answer two major questions his patrons have asked since the opening of the downtown museum two years ago.
The questions: “When will the museum’s second floor be open?” and “When will you be doing something about Dowagiac?”
The answers: “Monday,” and “Monday.”
That evening, the public was invited to take a look at both the renovated second floor and the new exhibit focused on nearly 200 years of Dowagiac history at a reception held at the Railroad Street facility. Dozens of locals attended the event, taking in the sights of the new history display and enjoying hors d’oeuvres provided by The Wood Fire restaurant.
The new exhibit, “Industry, Arts, Education and Leisure: A Dowagiac Story,” shows off some photos and artifacts from throughout Dowagiac’s history, from its founding in 1848 to the modern day. Highlighted are some prominent people, places and institutions that molded Dowagiac into what is today; some of the more popular draws that evening were displays focusing on early Dowagiac immigrants, the history of area schools and Southwestern Michigan College and the infamous Orphan Train.
Arseneau welcomed the guests of the opening ceremony, and delivered a few brief remarks inside the second floor’s currently vacant temporary exhibit space.
“One year ago this floor was a box with cinderblock walls…and it smelled kind of funky,” Arseneau said. “But [builder] Tom Burling and his subcontractors really made this space shine. It looks really well, and they got rid of that smell, too.”
The director pointed out that it took three years of fundraising to accomplish the renovation and construction work needed to make Monday’s opening a reality. The museum received more than 400 donations from several hundred individuals, totaling $75,000. The City of Dowagiac, which manages the museum in cooperation with Southwestern Michigan College, also contributed $50,000 to the project.
Donors who contributed $500 or more are featured on a plaque on display in the exhibit — the director highlighted the two highest donors, Wolverine Mutual Insurance and Barbara Wood Cook, during his speech.
Arseneau also praised his lone “coworker” who has assisted him in building the new exhibit these last few months, Chuck Timmons. Timmons, a longtime volunteer with museum, has devoted 30-40 every week since June assisting Arseneau with construction, the director said.
“He’s an amazing guy,” Arseneau said. “It’s like I like to tell everybody — if every organization had a Chuck Timmons, the world would be alright.”