LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — A historic building turned museum is bringing history out and into the Lowell community.
Over two decades ago, the Lowell Area Historical Museum opened to the public with the goal of preserving and presenting the history of the Lowell area.
“We’re located in a historic building in the historic district of downtown Lowell,” Lisa Plank, executive director, said. “The building was built in 1873 by Robert Graham, a local builder, and it was actually the childhood home of his youngest son Ernest Graham, who went on to become a noted architect in Chicago.”
Ernest Graham’s work includes the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Marshall Field and more.
At the museum, visitors can explore a wide variety of exhibits like early history and settlers as well as businesses that have made Lowell their home.
“We have a sleigh in the museum that was made at a sleigh factory in Lowell,” Plank said. “Lowell produced a large number of sleighs in the late 19th to early 20th century, and we have one of those in an exhibit at the museum.”
Two rooms in the museum, the parlor and the dining room, are set up like they would have been in the 1870s to give a glimpse into the time when the Graham family lived there.
The museum also showcases the history of the fur trading industry in Lowell.
“(Lowell) was home to Magdalene LaFramboise, who was a famous Michigan fur trader who had a post here in our town,” Plank said.
There is also a military exhibit and a changing, temporary exhibit space.
Upstairs, the museum has a research room and “an extensive collection of research materials for genealogy, house history (and) local history,” Plank said. Fnyone interested in using the research room is asked to give the museum a heads up so workers can prepare some materials in advance, though early notice is not strictly required.
In addition to the museum space, the nonprofit works to bring history outside.
“We have a series of interpretive boards throughout the downtown historic district and local parks where people can walk around a learn about what happened in that location, learn about different things in Lowell’s history and those are exterior so they’re available all the time,” Plank explained.
During the school year, area third graders attend Museum Immersion. The two-day event teaches students about local history and how museums work while going in-depth about how their community got its start and became what it is today.
“To see those kids a year or two later and have them still be thinking about it and coming up to you and asking about something that they learned makes a really big impact,” Plank said. “I think it shows that museums can connect people to their own past and also their community’s past in really meaningful ways.”
More information on student programming can be found here.
During the pandemic, the museum created a weekly “ABCs of Lowell History” series that looks at a different topic in Lowell’s history. After four rounds of the alphabet, the museum is now creating a printed booklet. A copy can be purchased at the museum or online.
The museum, located at 325 W. Main St., is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for both self-guided and guided tours. Appointments are also available. Admission is free for members, $3 for adults, $1.50 for children, free for children under 5 with a maximum of $10 for families. Visit the website for more information on the Lowell Area History Museum.
*Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series exploring small community museums around West Michigan. More articles will be published on woodtv.com in the coming weeks.