BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The governor’s signing of the state budget last week secured a seven-figure lifeline to a Battle Creek museum that needs repairs.

Since it was built in the early 1930s, the Kingman Museum has been a place where Leila Arboretum visitors learn more about natural history. But the museum itself was starting to show some age. Brett Myers, who leads the Leila Arboretum Society, said moisture and water damage were the biggest culprit.

“High levels of humidity will damage paintings, will damage other types of collections, so that is an example of what’s going on,” he explained.

A sign on a broken front door shows Kingman Museum is closed. (Aug. 10, 2023)
A sign on a broken front door shows Kingman Museum is closed. (Aug. 10, 2023)

Previous management didn’t have having the finances to keep up maintenance, Myers said. Combined with pandemic protocols, that pushed the Battle Creek Community Foundation, which handles the collections, to action.

“In order to protect those, they moved out and secured them in better facilities and so forth,” he said.

Some $1.7 million from the state’s biggest-ever budget, which was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, will be allocated for renovations for the museum, which is owned by the city of Battle Creek.

“I think this is not something that you typically see,” Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing said. “But I think the state has been willing, over the years, to look at communities and say, ‘Hey, have you got historic assets that need preservation?’ and play a role in helping that to happen.”

He said most of the $1.7 million is expected to go toward critical maintenance and repairs, including securing the building’s environment and ensuring it is watertight. He added that the city plans to have stakeholder meetings to discuss how the museum could operate in the future more efficiently.

“We can get the building white-boxed, as it were, then what makes sense in terms of operations going forward?” Dearing said. “Because what we do want to do … is find an operating scenario that can sustain the building so we aren’t right back here again in 10 or 20 years.”

For now, advocates are eager to help preserve a piece of history known for presenting it.

“Everyone is excited about this opportunity with the building,” Myers said. “We’ll just have to see where that goes.”

The money will not be available until the next fiscal year begins in October. Dearing said the earliest work is expected to start is after this calendar year, as the details are still being sorted out.