MUSKEGON – A decision has been made to merge the Muskegon Heritage Museum with the Lakeshore Museum Center.
The two organizations have been meeting for the past year to discuss the merger and how best to do it. Curator and education director Anne Dake, Muskegon Heritage Museum, said there is no set date for when full ownership by the Lakeshore Museum Center will take place, but it is expected to happen sometime in the summer.
“About a year ago we drafted a letter of intent, to merge to blend, and we are working through all of that. There are lots of details, but we are moving along in the natural progression,” said Dake.
The Lakeshore Museum Center currently manages three locations: The Lakeshore Museum Center Main Museum, the Hackley & Hume Historic Site, The Scolnik House and the Fire Barn.
The merging of the two organizations has already begun, beginning with the hiring of a new site manager for the Heritage Museum. Site manager Kirk Bunke is technically employed by the Lakeshore Museum Center, but works exclusively with the Muskegon Heritage Museum.
Bunke has taken over several duties at the museum, allowing Dake and her husband Allan to step away from many of the day-to-day operations. Allan Dake is the current director of the Muskegon Heritage Museum, and sits on the board of the Lakeshore Museum Center.
“Allan is on the Lakeshore Museum Board. The Muskegon Heritage Association (MHA) is the group that owns the museum. They (MHA) have actually two purposes, one is the museum, and the other is promoting recognition and preservation of historic buildings,” said Anne Dake
In 2016, the MHA board drafted a five-year plan for the museum. Part of that plan included hiring a site manager for the museum, but another part included increasing their collaboration with other organizations.
Dake said hiring Bunke, and merging with the Lakeshore Museum Center falls in line with the five-year plan that was laid out.
“The point is, the operation will stay the same, the whole purpose of this place will stay the same. Just some of the management and organization will be a little different, said Dake.
“The key piece to all of this, it is such a wonderful opportunity to bring two strong organizations together, that will compliment each other.”
Dake said the merging of the two entities is a natural fit.
She said the main museum managed by the Lakeshore Museum Center focuses on pre-history to the lumber industry era in Muskegon County. The Muskegon Heritage Museum continues that story onward into the present day.
The Muskegon Heritage Museum was founded in 1983, and was created after it was determined that a steam engine should not be sold to another museum in Florida. Deciding to keep the steam engine in the Muskegon area, the MHA bought the museum’s current location from the city at the cost of $1 to house it.
The steam engine was restored in 2008, and in 2009 the museum began its gradual transformation into what it is today. When the Muskegon Heritage Museum began it was less than 2,000 square-feet, now it is 12,000 square-feet.
Financially the Muskegon Heritage Museum will remain independent. The museum has an endowment fund that is managed by Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
The money in the fund can only be used to pay for things relating to the museum. Last year, money was spent to build an elevator and increase accessibility at the museum.
Membership fees and donations will continue to be used for the maintenance of the Muskegon Heritage Museum.
The Muskegon Heritage Museum plans to retain all of its logos, and will continue to be maintained by a devoted group of volunteers. One benefit of merging with the Lakeshore Museum Center is that they will now have access to the center’s marketing department.
The Muskegon Heritage Museum focuses on the history of Muskegon industry, businesses and products. The museum has already been added to the Lakeshore Museum Center’s website.