Museum takes shapePublished 9:30pm Thursday, September 27, 2012
The future museum that will encase southwest Michigan’s history is continuing to form inside the former Behnke Paint and Floor Covering building in downtown Dowagiac.
After construction crews gutted the interior and masonry work was completed on one side of the building, Director
Steve Arseneau, along with Dowagiac City Manager Kevin Anderson, began working on the museum’s layout. With ample floor space, which not only allows for larger exhibits but also further expansion, the floor plan has begun to take shape. Construction crews continue to make way for an elevator shaft and multiple staircases that reach to the basement level, as well as the second floor.
“In recent weeks, we’ve been determining the floor plans and how the exhibits will flow,” Arseneau said. “It’s a good building; I’m really impressed with it.”
Anderson said the layout process in a new setting allows for the artifacts and exhibits to tell their own story.
“It’s a blank slate, so we’re working on how to tell this story,” Anderson said.
“As the mayor (Don Lyons) has said, it’s important to tell the history in a really powerful way.”
Arseneau said the basement and ground levels will be museum space, leaving the second floor open to other possibilities, which could include expansion.
“The museum board will come up with a specific policy as residents come forward with artifacts that they may want to include in the museum,” Anderson said. “There will have to be a very decisive way on what can be used, how it will be tagged, archived, stored.”
One new exhibit visitors can expect to see is the beginnings of local Native American tribes in the southwest Michigan area, including the Potawatomi. Potawatomi tribe historian Mike Zimmerman Jr. joined the museum’s advisory board and has been working closely with Arseneau to create an interactive display.
“We’ll have a wigwam that kids and patrons can walk through,” Arseneau said.
Anderson said the opportunity to have Zimmerman’s knowledge of the tribe’s history will help accurately represent the nation.
“It’s exciting to be able to work with Mike. He’s a great guy and is really helping guide us in the right direction for that piece of the museum,” Anderson said.
The city expects to hear word on the current grant application, which is expected to reimburse the funding used to purchase the building. The grant, if awarded, will also go toward continuing the downtown brand.
“This is an investment in this part of the neighborhood, and we’re extending that downtown footprint, which we hope will encourage others,” Lyons said.
“Someone has to be the first to do it, and that’s what we’re doing here with the museum.”
The museum is expected to have a grand opening in spring 2013.
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