Dowagiac Area History Museum awarded H.O.P.E. grant

DOWAGIAC — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to preserve the city’s history will receive some financial support.

On Friday, the Dowagiac Area History Museum announced it was awarded a $10,000 H.O.P.E. grant from the Michigan Humanities Council to help keep the museum funded without normal fundraising initiatives.

“The H.O.P.E. grants from the Michigan Humanities Council are designed primarily to help museums and other humanities organizations survive this difficult time,” said Museum Director Steve Arseneau. “The Michigan Humanities Council recognizes that fundraising and other revenue producers are going to be impacted by the pandemic and the closings — not just museums, but support businesses.”

The Michigan Humanities Organization also encouraged libraries, archives, historic sites and other humanities-focused nonprofits impacted by the pandemic throughout Michigan to apply.

Arseneau said the museum was happy to receive the grant, as it would make up for anticipated fundraising shortfalls.

“Grants that support general operations are rare, and this grant will help keep the museum funded for the fiscal year,” he said.

The Dowagiac Area History Museum closed its doors in mid-March in compliance with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.

Currently, the museum’s membership program is on hold until the museum reopens its doors.
Arseneau did not anticipate membership revenue dropping significantly because he believes most members will continue to support the museum’s efforts.

Arseneau said the biggest blow to the museum during the pandemic has been its fundraising efforts and the cancellation of its annual Keep History Alive Fundraiser. This year would have been the fourth annual fundraiser, which provides a little less than a third, but more than 25 percent of the museum’s annual funding. Another 30 percent of the museum’s budget comes from the city of Dowagiac.

“The event relied upon sponsorship, gift certificates and products from area businesses and individuals to raise funds,” he said. “Looking at the impact of the pandemic on businesses, we quickly realized that businesses that have supported the museum were going to have a difficult year, and we could not approach the businesses for gift certificates and sponsorship this year. We are in this as a community, and we want our business to survive and thrive.”

While the Dowagiac Area History Museum still does not have a re-opening date, Arseneau said he is on working on other fundraising initiatives, including the formation of a friends of the Dowagiac Area History Museum nonprofit.

Arseneau has also been working on other future exhibit plans.

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