NEGAUNEE - The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is gearing up to celebrate its 25th anniversary of preserving and showcasing the history of mining in the Upper Peninsula with a special ceremony and community event Saturday.
Located in Negaunee Township, the museum will hold an official ribbon cutting for its new outdoor trail network, which allows visitors to explore part of the outdoors that made life in the early days of the U.P. possible.
"Now these trails will give a further look into mining in the area," said Don Mourand, treasurer of the museum's advisory board. "We're proud of the fact we can interpret that for the local community."
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum is holding an official ribbon cutting ceremony for its two new interpretive trails Saturday. The trails explore the surrounding environment, from its people to the minerals found nearby to local plants and animals. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The celebration begins at the museum at noon Saturday, with an ice cream social, which is open to the community. Then at 1 p.m., museum officials will hold the ribbon cutting for the two trails, one of which gives an elevated view of the nearby Carp River.
The event wraps up with a performance from the Dodworth Saxhorn Band. Based in Ann Arbor, the band is a re-creation of an 1800s ensemble that was once the premier brass band in the country. The band wears period costumes and plays period instruments, giving spectators a look into the life of what music was like during that time.
The combination of the museum with the natural environment is the perfect match for what the Department of Natural Resources, which is the department the museum falls under, is striving for, said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center.
"The combination of recreation, natural resources and history is the perfect fit for places like the iron ranges," Clark said. "It tells a very important story for Michigan."
Construction on the museum began in 1986, with doors opening in 1987, near the site where the Jackson Mining Company operated the Carp River Forge to make iron from iron ore.
Although today little evidence of the forge and its settlement remains above ground, the museum has worked to teach visitors about the history of iron mining on Michigan's three iron ranges through exhibits, audio-visual media and educational programs.
Most recently, the museum now offers the outdoor interpretive trails to combine experiencing the environment that made iron mining possible with the indoor experience of the museum.
Available for use in all four seasons, the two trails incorporate scenic overlooks, elevated walkways and interpretive signage to help visitors learn more about the natural environment around them. In the coming months, the trail system will be connected with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail via a connecting spur, allowing the museum to become a trailhead for the heritage trail.
Exhibits along the museum trail describe landforms, plant and animal life and Native American culture.
Along the quarter-mile River Overlook trail, visitors learn about the Carp River valley and forge site, as well as the impact of the forge on the surrounding environment. At a third of a mile, the Historic Corridor Overlook explores the human element of mining, with views of the 1855 plank road route to Marquette and the current Tilden Mine terraces.
The trail system was funded through grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan History Foundation, Cliffs Natural Resources, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Wisconsin Energy Foundation, as well as donations from businesses and individuals.
The two trails have allowed the museum to increase the amount of time visitors spend at the facility, which is important not just for the museum itself, but also for local businesses.
"We have both an education and economic development role. We've been broadening those roles as the years go by," Mourand said. "People who see it declare it's a gem and I think it needs to be recognized in a wider area as to how unique it is."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.