SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Being surrounded by water means Michigan has a rich maritime history. A museum in South Haven is dedicated to keeping the stories alive.
Started in the mid-1970s, the Michigan Maritime Museum is on the shores of the Black River and outlines the history of mariners, boats and navigation in the Great Lakes.
“(We) try to tell a really complete story of the way Michigan’s maritime history is really the shared heritage that has defined our state and our culture and is such a defining characteristic of Michigan itself,” Claire Herhold, community outreach coordinator, said.
When visitors come to the museum, they can explore a number of buildings, boats and exhibits.
In the Maritime Heritage Center, visitors can explore the main exhibit space that features rotating exhibits.
“Currently, our main exhibit is ‘Full Steam Ahead,’ which is about the golden age of Great Lakes passenger steamships, and that’s a very immersive, interactive and hands-on exhibit,” Herhold said.
In the Herbert Van Oort Boathouse, visitors can learn about the United State Lifesaving Service and Coast Guard. According to the museum’s website, the collection of four wooden rescue boats includes the Merryman, an 1881 rescue boat, and a 1950s 36-foot motor lifeboat.
The museum also includes the only remaining building from South Haven’s Lifesaving Station, which was moved to the museum’s campus.
“The station was destroyed by a fire in the 1980s and only one building survived and that’s here on our campus, and we’re hoping that will be open again soon,” Herhold said.
When the museum acquired the Jensen Fishery in 2020, it turned one of the buildings into a small craft exhibit space and is hoping to turn the second into another exhibit space to showcase the history of commercial fishing.
The McClendon Small Craft Barn highlights antique and small craft boats as well as a collection of outboard motors.
“It’s probably my favorite exhibit because I think those small boats, those family vessels are the way so many of us experience Michigan’s waterways, especially at a young age,” Herhold said.
The Padnos Boat Shed is a working exhibit where workers annually maintain the museum’s exhibits and on-water fleet.
“In addition to our exhibit buildings, (we also) have a small on-water fleet of replica and historic vessels so that you can actually experience Michigan’s maritime history in a very hands-on way,” Herhold said.
The on-water fleet includes a replica of an 1811 Sloop called the Friends Good Will, a replica 1900 electric river launch called the Lindy Lou, an original Coast Guard motor lifeboat, a 1929 Chris Craft cadet boat called Merry Time and a 1921 racing yacht called Bernida.
“Once we get a little bit closer to the summer season, our tickets (for rides) are available online or you can purchase them in-person or over the phone,” Herhold explained.
For information on what each ride includes and pricing, visit the on-water experiences page on the museum’s website.
Hours and pricing change depending on the season. For the winter, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For admission pricing, click here.
The museum said it is always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested in learning more can visit the volunteer page on the museum’s website.
For more information visit the museum’s website.