Lake County Historical Museum anticipates great season
BALDWIN — When one steps into the Lake County Historical Museum complex, they are steeped in relics of the past which tell the rich history of the county. Museum docents are there to greet people to walk them through a historic journey.
Beginning Saturday, April 13, the museum will reopen for a new season, filled with new and enhanced exhibits, monthly programs and community events and projects.
“We’re a local museum that surprises visitors,” said Lake County Historical Museum Curator Jill Engelman. “Some of the comments we’ve received have been, ‘We didn’t expect all of this,’ and, ‘I am blown away at the quality of the exhibits.’”
Engelman said the exhibits are switched up periodically. One exhibit is dedicated to the county’s fishing and sportsman heritage, and highlights Josephine “Jo” Sedlecky-Borsum, who started Ed’s Sports Shop with her husband Ed in 1944. While Ed finished his stint with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), she ran the business in Baldwin. Engelman said the town fathers weren’t happy with a woman running a business, but by the time Ed returned in 1945, he found the sports shop popular with sportsmen.
Sedlecky-Borsum also was a famous fly tyer, six of her ties still being used today by sportsmen. She was invited to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in 1987. Her ties are on exhibit at the museum, along with other artifacts, articles and photos.
Also featured in the exhibit is a pine log display case donated by the current owner of the shop. There also are sports items donated by patrons. The sportsman exhibit features a number of local fishing guides throughout the years, as well.
To make the display interactive, Engleman hopes to have guest fly tyers demonstrate the art, and walk people through tying their own.
The tourism display has been changed, and features a Kalamazoo folding boat — which is made out of canvas and folds up like a tent so campers could easily travel from lake to lake.
A small exhibit features the “Green Book,” a travel guide used by African-Americans during times of segregation to direct them toward businesses which would provide them service, and ultimately steer them away from services which would not welcome them.
“We have several facsimile copies of the Green Book in our gift shop,” Engelman said. “In the display, there are ads used in the Green Book and photos of places in Idlewild which were advertised in the book.”
Engelman said there will be free showings of the Smithsonian documentary about the Green Book during the spring and summer. Details will follow.
The logging display has been switched up to portray a logging camp, Camp No. 1, which was started by Justice Stearns in 1880 north of Branch.
“The display shows what it is like to be in a lumber camp,” she said, adding there are pictures, maps, artifacts found in the camp area and other logging artifacts.
One new display, “100 Years of Bridal Fashion to Love and Cherish,” highlights the fashion, hairstyles, cake toppers, wedding announcements, photographs and accessories of weddings from the early 1900s through the 1990s. The bridal fashion comes to life through several mannequins which were purchased with a grant provided by Great Lakes Energy People Fund.
The former CCC and Forest Service room is now dedicated to Lake County youth camps, and feature Camp Martin Johnson in the Irons area, the Odd Fellow’s and Rebecca’s camp at Big Star Lake, the Good Shepherd Church campground in Idlewild, Camp Living Waters in Luther, as well as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
A new, interactive display is dedicated to local photographers Kurt J. Kahl and son, Kurt P. Kahl, who owned a photo studio in Baldwin. The display includes old cameras, some owned by the Kahls. There are boxes and boxes of Kahl photographs, some of which will be displayed on the wall of the exhibit each month. Children will have have an opportunity to have a photo op.
There is a photo booth designed as a sweet shop, with a backdrop of an enlarged historic sweet shop photo, and the forefront has a soda fountain booth. There are vintage-style hats, dresses, vests, bow ties and other clothing items kids can dress in. Parents can take photos with their phones and cameras.
In addition to exhibits, there also will be monthly programs pertaining to the area’s history, and a music series scheduled on four Friday evenings in July in August. The inaugural fundraiser is being scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 22, and called An Evening with the Collectors. For $10 admission, people can bring two antique items for a verbal appraisal. The museum also will have private collections on display for that evening.
The museum has joined in a project with Pathfinder Community Library to digitize all the known existing Lake County Star articles going back to the 1800s. When complete, the public will have access, online, free of charge, through the Central Michigan University portal. They can research dates, names and subjects. The project is costly, and so far, between the two groups, $31,000 has been raised, and they need $12,000 more to complete the project, to digitize more than 42,000 newspaper pages.
People can check out what’s going on at the museum from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, beginning this weekend, through the end of December, or by appointment. Admission is free, and large groups are welcome by appointment. The museum has a gift shop with unique local items and new items, Engelman added. The community room also is available for rental for a nominal fee.
“Last year we had more than 3,700 visitors, and we hope to top that this year,” Engelman said.