Heritage Museum meets with success

The Board of Directors of the Muskegon Heritage Association announced Sept. 11 today that they are at 95% of the goal towards raising $1.25 million to support the programs and services of the Muskegon Heritage Museum. The money will allow the Museum to install a new elevator and other accessibility modifications to their three floors of exhibits that focus on the industrial history of Muskegon County.

The Board formed a Campaign Committee in April of this year to help them organize this effort. Cochairing the Campaign Committee are Frank Bednarek, Jan Deur, Jon Blyth, Anne Dake, and Allan Dake. An ambitious goal was set to raise $250,000 for the installation of an elevator to all three stories of the Museum and to raise another $1 million to add to the Heritage Museum’s endowed fund at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County that will support the operations of the Museum into the future.

Today the campaign is close to its goal with donations ranging from $25 to $250,000. The Board and the Campaign Cabinet, with their invited guests, gathred on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to strategize the last phase of the effort and to celebrate the generosity of over 200 individuals and companies from throughout Muskegon County that have so far contributed.

Donors John and Linda Hilt are proud to have kicked off this effort with a combined lead gift from themselves, the George and Betty Hilt Fund and the Hilt Foundation of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, saying: “We support the Muskegon Heritage Museum because of the long and continuing history of the Hilt and Pyle families in Muskegon County. It provides a base for our children and seven grandchildren to better understand the community in which our families have lived for several generations.”

As reported recently in the Examiner, the Muskegon Heritage Museum, first started in 1983 by volunteers inspired by the donation of a large, stationary steam engine from the Breneman-Hartshorn Rollershade Fac-tory, was created by the Muskegon Heritage Asso-ciation to archive and share the rich history of Muskegon businesses and industries, and the many innovative products made here.

The Heritage Museum has expanded to over 90 exhibits in more than 12,000 square feet of its historic Western Avenue building on the businesses and industries of Muskegon, both past and present. It is currently open 3 days a week, mid-May through mid-October, and is operated completely by over 80 volunteers.

In 2017 about 3,300 visitors toured the museum. Students from elementary grades through college visit the museum to learn about the important role industry has played in the history of Muskegon. Paul DeHorn, President of the Heritage Association Board, talking about the Heritage Museum recently said, “Introducing some of the youngest members of our community to the rich history of Muskegon is one of the special feature of the museum that I enjoy most. Our school groups are amazed at what life and work was like many years before their time.”

The Muskegon Heritage Museum has become a critically important part of the community’s cultural mosaic by preserving the living history of Muskegon’s economic and social development. As tourism has become an important part of Muskegon’s economic growth, the museum is a favorite stop for visitors including over 1400 passengers from the cruise ships.

The Muskegon Heritage Museum is currently open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

With the success of this effort, the Museum plans to expand its open hours and its outreach to the K-12 population of Muskegon County, as well as to install an elevator and other accessibility improvements this fall.