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New history museum coming together

December 8, 2010
By CLAIRE ABENT Journal Staff Writer

EDITOR'S NOTE: The recurring series "Building History" will follow the Marquette County History Museum as it progresses toward completion of its new Spring Street Facility.


Journal Staff Writer

Article Photos

The Burt Surveyors, part of the collection at the new Marquette Regional History Center, are already set up in the gallery at the new Spring Street facility. The museum is set to open to the public in February. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)

MARQUETTE - From the outside looking in, the new Marquette Regional History Center - formerly the Marquette County History Museum - seems to be taking shape at a rapid pace.

But the transformation hasn't happened overnight, or even in a matter of months. It's taken years of behind-the-scenes work to make such a big dream a reality.

The old museum on Front Street has already closed its doors and the collection is being carefully moved into the new building. New offices are being dusted and the floor is being polished.

The building's signature dome has been completed and the archives are being organized as the exhibits in the main gallery come together to complete the $3.8 million project.

"It was conceptual for so many years," capital campaign manager Jon Becker said. "It's only in the last 12 months that there's been construction and progress (on the building) taking place."

It began with the museum board of directors making a commitment to the project and conducting a feasibility study to figure out whether or not it could be done, according to Becker. Then, in 2007, based on the positive results of that study, the project moved forward.

"It began by the board and the staff making a financial pledge to the campaign in 2007, then when that ball got in motion, you begin finding those people and foundations who contribute to the project," he said. "The first lead gifts are the hardest, because they are based on hope."

At the same time fundraising began, the project took shape - the building was designed and the exhibits to that would go inside it were developed.

From there, time has been spent developing the script for each of the exhibits and getting all of the old museum physically ready for the move, and continuing to reach out to donors.

The museum still has $1 million to raise to reach their goal, Becker said.

But without support from the community, it would not have been possible to bring the museum project this far, said Kaye Hiebel, the history center's director. The museum is not affiliated or sponorsed by an governmental agency. It relies on donations, admissions, sales, membership and fundraising for the organization's operational budget, as well as all of the funding for the new museum project.

The museum has received at National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant for $600,000.

"Every dollar for this project has been raised by this community and by that challenge grant," Hiebel said. "And every dollar has gone back into the museum."

The new building is scheduled to open in February.

Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is



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