The Tri-Cities Historical Museum began in 1959 as a volunteer organization, and remained so until the early 1980s.
The work of generations of volunteers created and maintained a museum at the Depot Building while saving from demolition one of Grand Haven’s historical landmarks in the process. In addition to display and interpretation, one of the most important roles that these early historians played was ensuring that important historical artifacts that were readily available in the 1950s and '60s were gathered up and preserved. Those “common” artifacts are almost impossible to find today.
When more space was needed, The Akeley Project — which established our main building at 200 Washington Ave. — was born, and hordes of volunteers were involved throughout the process of demolition and refurbishment, as well as the fundraising campaign which paid for it all solely through community support.
Once the building was complete, volunteers helped to equip the spaces inside for specific uses — such as storage, offices and workshops — while working with the staff to bring the vision of the exhibits team to life in beautifully crafted permanent exhibits.
Today, although the museum has an excellent team of professionals who oversee operations, volunteers remain a vital part of almost everything we do. Volunteers are at the museum in some capacity nearly every day.
From the very general (such as assisting with bulk mailings and special events throughout the year) to specific (like genealogy and/or history research), there are opportunities to help communicate our mission to the community for almost every interest and personality. A few other examples include, but are not limited to:
Education Department: As docents helping with school tours, adult tours, outreach visits to schools, outreach visits with developmentally disabled adults and outreach visits to area nursing homes and with curriculum development.
Friends of the Museum, on one of four subcommittees: The Events Committee assists with putting on events, such as setup, cleanup, serving food and drinks, working in the kitchen. The Holiday Marketplace Committee coordinates the annual Holiday Marketplace event in November. Historic Home Tour Committee coordinates the annual Historic Home Tour held in May. Sidewalk Sale Committee coordinates the annual event held in August.
Collections Department assists with inventory, scanning photographs/archives from the collection, filing/photocopying, organization.
Exhibits: Building exhibit furniture and mounts for exhibits, building maintenance, setup of displays, installing outreach exhibits.
Committee work: Fundraising, member acquisition and retention, grant writing, marketing, exhibits planning.
The above is only a partial list of opportunities for people to make a difference in the preservation of the collective memory of the community.
Do you have some time and a skill you might be willing to donate? We would be glad to put you to work! Contact Laurel Nease either by calling 616-842-0700 or e-mail Lnease@tri-citiesmuseum.org.
More information about the museum and its programs can be found at www.tri-citiesmuseum.org.
— By Steven Radtke, executive director of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum.