Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Carnegie Museum celebrates Centennial with historic, educational displays

The Carnegie Museum in Houghton is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Portage Lift Bridge with a historic exhibit. Click on photos for larger versions. (Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum)

By Chad Girard*

HOUGHTON -- When one walks into the Carnegie Museum without an appreciation for the past, they see an aged building, peeling paint, and faded pictures on rough backdrops. Below the surface there is original structural timber older than most humans. This timber silently speaks to a century of hard work and history.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie Museum, located on the corner of Huron and Montezuma in Houghton. The building was originally constructed as a library in 1909, funded by a $15,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie and opened to the public on Feb. 18, 1910.

Elise Nelson, Carnegie Museum director, said the historic landmark has great importance to the community.

"This community has become more sensitive to historic buildings and restorations," Nelson said. "We are recognizing the importance of honoring history and reusing materials. A great deal of energy was put into this building over the years."

Recent Carnegie Museum exhibits of historic photographs and documentation celebrate not only the centennial of the museum itself but also other historic commemorations, including two important anniversaries.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Portage Lift Bridge connecting Houghton and Hancock. This exhibit is located directly across from the main entrance behind the library’s original reference desk. Included in this display is an image gallery reconstructed by Michigan Tech’s Dr. Kris Mattila of the Civil Engineering Department. Historic photographs are accompanied by a video about the building of the engineering feat that joins these two communities.

Included in the Portage Lift Bridge 50th Anniversary exhibit is this bridge model made by Jessica-Rae Marcotte, a sixth grader at Dollar Bay Tamarack City Elementary School. Jessica-Rae was a National History Day finalist in the competition held in Dearborn, Mich., Apr. 24, 2010. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"Senter of the Copper Country -- the Story of the Atlas Powder Co. of Senter, Michigan" is another centennial exhibit in the museum. To the right of the museum entrance is an in-depth look at Atlas Powder Company formerly located in Senter, Mich.

The Carnegie Museum's exhibit on Senter, Mich., includes this display about the Atlas Powder Co. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

From 1910 to 1960 the Atlas Powder Company produced dynamite for the nearby Copper Mines. While the company was in operation for 50 years, the town of Senter that it established is celebrating 100 years this year. Created by Bill Haller, author of Atlas Powder, Senter, Michigan 1910-1960, and John Backman, this exhibit details the layout and production of the factory and company town that was spread throughout 200 hundred buildings across a 1,800-acre compound near Dollar Bay, Mich.

This Feb. 1953 Daily Mining Gazette Photo from the Michigan Tech Archives is displayed in the Senter exhibit at the Carnegie Museum. It shows an Atlas Powder Co. shell truck with Andrew Gazetti driving and Ray Sved on the back of the load. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Atlas had a close connection with the local mining community, providing blasting charges used in the copper and iron industries. A related display, created by a local student, is shaped like a stick of dynamite, engaging viewers interested in the history of the explosive tool.

"Stories from the Woods," a multi-media exploration of the storytelling traditions of the Upper Peninsula, returns to the Carnegie for the month of September. Created by and on loan from the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern University, this exhibit looks at the story traditions of the Upper Peninsula. Nineteen interpretive panels are accompanied by five audio stations featuring recordings of stories and songs collected in the U.P.

This poster announces the current "Stories from the Woods" exhibit at the Carnegie Museum through Sept. 30. (Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum)

In the museum's lower level are exhibits about local plant ecology and an area designed to engage visitors, particularly children, in active learning. During the monthly "Science Saturdays," additional activities or demonstrations are presented. The current display, which focuses on electricity and magnetism, will be open through September 30.

The interactive displays on electricity and magnetism on the lower level of the Carnegie Museum are available to families and young visitors through Sept. 30. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

One new exhibit planned for this fall, on the lower level, will be the Fourth Annual Gingerbread House in preparation for the holidays. Children and their families are invited to contribute to the play-house-size creation by bringing small items, including candy, to "glue" onto the building.

An exhibit on Victorian Spinning Optical Toys helps children learn about historic precursors of the movies. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Many of the exhibits in the museum as well as the materials in the displays have resulted from local residents’ research and hard work. Though the building does not provide direct income for the community, it is a resource in the sense of attracting people to the area and educating about the community’s history.

This display of Copper Country Native Plants is part of the Carnegie Museum's permanent collection. (Photo © 2010 and courtesy Chad Girard)

The Carnegie Museum’s operating hours are from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free. Parking is available in a lot behind the building, or in the City lot across Montezuma Street.

For more information please call 482-7140, or email

*Editor's Note: Visiting reporter Chad Girard was a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech.

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