Lakeshore Museum Center History

The Lakeshore Museum Center was formerly called the Muskegon County Museum. The institution is now made up of multiple sites and buildings - the natural and cultural history museum, the Hackley and Hume Historic Site, the Fire Barn Museum, the Scolnik House of the Depression Era, the Archives, and more.

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The History of the Museum. How Did it Start?

Muskegon County resident’s collective interest in creating a museum for the preservation of historical records and artifacts can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. The chronological history of the development of the museum is as follows:

1879- At a reunion of area settlers, the importance of the establishment of a structure for preserving historical documents and materials is expressed.

1887- The Muskegon County Pioneer and Historical Society is incorporated.

1889- On the 30th anniversary of the formation of Muskegon County, the Pioneer and Historical Society reiterates the importance of establishing a museum.

1912- The Muskegon County Pioneer and Historical Society is reorganized and a concentrated effort made to secure a building for a museum.

1923- Although a room for a museum is incorporated into the plans of the new Junior High School, crowded conditions demand the space be used for classrooms.

1937- During the State’s Centennial Celebration, plans for establishing a museum materialize.  With funds and materials accumulated during the Centennial Celebration, the Muskegon County Museum Foundation is organized.

1938- With a staff funded through the statewide WPA (Work Progress Administration) Museum Project, sponsored by the University of Michigan and the Federal Government, exhibits are installed in the corridors of Muskegon Community College on Webster Avenue.

1939- A Grand Opening is held at the Museum, located at 917 Third Street in a “storefront” building.

1940- The Museum moves to larger quarters in the vacated Vanderlaan School, located at the corner of Wood Avenue and Myrtle Street.

1942- The WPA funds cease for the Museum due to Civil Defense priorities during World War II.  The Museum space in the Vanderlaan School is needed for classrooms and the Museum is forced to place its collection in storage.  The County Board of Supervisors appropriates minimal funding for the Museum’s operational expenses.

1944- The Museum expands into vacated space in the Vanderlaan School with materials from storage.

1947- Funding from the County and donations from citizens are insufficient, therefore, the Museum is forced into periodic closings for three years.

1950- The Museum is reorganized and incorporated as a non-profit organization.  Funding increases and facilitates a year-round operating schedule.

1955- The Vanderlaan School is again needed for classrooms and the Museum is forced to store its collection and exhibits in space provided by the Fruitport School System and other available buildings.

1956- Temporary exhibits are placed in storefront windows and public buildings.

1957- The Marquette School, at the southwest corner of School and Marquette Streets, is obtained for use as a Museum from the Muskegon School System.

1961- The old County Jail, located at Pine Street and Muskegon Avenue, was made available to the Museum by the County of Muskegon.

1964- The Muskegon County Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary. 

1970- During the 1970’s, the Museum expands its services to the public and increases the quality and quantity of the exhibits. 

1979- In an effort to continually and adequately fund the Museum, the Board of Trustees approves placing a .2 of a mill proposal, on the ballot, for the support of the Museum.

1980- The Millage proposal is defeated in the August primary and again in the November general election.

1981- In a September special election, the Millage proposal is approved for five years.

1982- Papers are signed in March to purchase the building at 430 W. Clay on the corner of Clay and 4th Street.  Remodeling contracts awarded in December.

1983- In July, the remodeling is completed and the Museum moves to 430 W. Clay.  The Museum opens to the public in December.

1984- The Museum is dedicated on November 16th.

1986- A Millage proposal for .325 of one mill for five years is approved on May 12.  The proposal was for renewal of the .2 of one mill to support the Museum, and for an additional .125 of a mill for the restoration and operation of the Hackley and Hume Houses.

1986- Papers signed on September 28th transfer ownership of the Hackley and Hume Houses from the Hackley Heritage Association to the Muskegon County Museum.

1986- The Muskegon County Museum assumes full responsibility for the restoration, preservation and operation of the Hackley and Hume Historic Site from the Hackley Heritage Association.

1987- The Museum celebrates its first fifty years of existence on June 13. 

1988- The 100th Anniversary of the construction of the Hackley and Hume Historic Site buildings is celebrated on May 27th with the dedication of two State Historical Markers.

1988- A vacant lot on Webster St. is purchased for future development as a parking lot for the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.

1989- A Long Range Plan is approved on August 15th.

1989- Papers are signed on July 3rd to purchase a building located at 1762 Terrace Street for use as a collections building.

1989- The Charles H. Hackley Hose Company No.2 (Fire Barn Museum) is transferred to the Museum from the City of Muskegon and the Muskegon Heritage Association, on October 9th.

1990- In June the “Decorators Show House” is held at the Hume Home.

1990- On June 20th, John H. McGarry III assumes duties as Executive Director.

1990-Dedication of the Wilfrid Berg mural in entry of the Museum.

1991- May 6th, the Museum renews its millage for 5 years.

1991- July 31st, Museum receives building permit to restore the Hackley House.

1992- In March, the Museum receives a Conservation Assessment Plan (CAP) review from the American Association of Museums.

1992- August 29th, Museum sponsors 1st Native American Pow Wow held in Muskegon County in over 15 years.

1992- September 16th and 17th, Museum undergoes Museum Assessment Program II (MAP) by the American Association of Museums.

1992- Natural History Gallery opens, but is not finished.

1992- Paint analysis on interior of Hackley House is completed.

1993- July 1st, Enviroworks Summer Camp is held for the first time; the program served 120 kids over two-week duration.

1993- First annual Lumber Baron’s Ball is held on September 25th.

1993- Michigan Indian Culture Days education program is held for the first time.

1994- March 13th, "Shapes Peculiar to the Modern Style" exhibit opening. This exhibit is a collaboration between the Muskegon County Museum and the Muskegon Museum of Art.

1994- May, "Our Old House" videos featuring the restoration work done on the Hackley House are filmed.

1994- November, Science Resource Center completed.

1995- Museum purchases Spainola building located on 4th and Western Ave.

1995- June 22nd, Museum Mercantile opens in new building. The Museum’s Archives occupies the second floor.

1995- Fire Barn Museum receives a new roof.

1996- Millage is once again passed for 5 years on May 7th.

1997- Grand Opening of the Hackley House after restoration.

1997-“Our Old House” video produced.

1999- “Chronicle of Our Century” Exhibit opens.

1999- September 17th - 19th Great Lakes Irish Music Festival is held at Heritage Landing for first time. The festival is sponsored by the Muskegon County Museum.

2000- August 26th, Grand Opening of “Coming to the Lakes” exhibit. The exhibit traces 10,000 years of history of the people who call Muskegon County Home.

2000 - September-November, Museum receives the IPAM grant and participates in a cultural exchange with Wexford County Museum in Ireland. 

2001 – March, the first floor carpeting was restored in the Hackley House. The carpeting was woven in the same pattern on the same looms that created the carpet the Hackley’s ordered over 100 years earlier.

2001- May 24th, Hackley & Hume Historic Site City Barn renovations completed and dedication held.

2001 – September 11, Muskegon County voters renewed the millage for the Museum for 10 years.

2003 – October, the new Food Webs Gallery opened offering visitors a glimpse at five local habitats and the plants, animals, birds, insects and reptiles that call them home.

2004 – March, Ken Katz and two assistants from Conservation and Museum Services of Detroit come to the Museum to restore the Passenger Pigeon painting done by Lewis Cross. The 6 12/ x 11 foot oil painting, done in 1900, hangs above the first floor stairway.

2004 - April, the upper mantle in the first parlor of the Hackley House was recreated from historic photos by Kennedy Conservation Consortium of Mt. Carroll, IL.

2005 – January, the Muskegon Voices Gallery opens. The exhibit incorporates videos and dioramas on local history.

2005 – The E.A. Turner portraits of Charles H. and Julia Hackley are restored by Ken Katz of Conservation and Museum Services of Detroit.

2005 – The Muskegon Mercantile moves home to the Museum. The Archives Department remains on the top floor of the Museum’s building on Western Ave.

2007 – The Scolnik House: A Historic House of the Depression Era opens to tell the story of common families living during the Great Depression.

2009 – The Muskegon County Museum changes its name to the Lakeshore Museum Center to promote the cohesiveness of its buildings and historic sites.

2010 - Permanent exhibit "Michigan From the Depths of Time" opens to the public in March.
2011 - Muskegon County voters renew the mileage for the Lakeshore Museum Center for ten years.
2012 – “Joe Beyrle: A Hero of Two Nations” opens and tells the in credible story of Muskegon’s own World War II paratrooper.
2013 – Groundbreaking for Michigan’s Heritage Park at Hilt’s Landing in Whitehall is held in August. Construction of the Visitor Center and 1900 Farmhouse begins.
2014 – Construction continues at Hilt’s Landing. “Fossils of the Michigan Basin” on display in the Temporary Gallery