Port aldermen heap praise on Historical Society proposal for state-of-art, interactive facility
The Port Washington Historical Society‚Äôs plan to create a state-of-the art, interactive museum in downtown Port was greeted with enthusiasm after it was presented to the Common Council last week.
‚ÄúI just think this is really, really cool,‚ÄĚ Ald. Dave Larson said. ‚ÄúIt makes me want to get more involved. This is awesome.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs not just local officials who are impressed by the plans, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who have proposed a Lake Michigan maritime sanctuary off the city‚Äôs shore and extending north to Two Rivers, are too, he said.
‚ÄúClearly it was one of the pieces that impressed them the most‚ÄĚ during a recent visit to the area, Mlada said.
The museum is seen as a place where children and adults alike will be inspired as they learn about the city‚Äôs past, Bill Moren, chairman of the museum advisory board, told aldermen.
‚ÄúThere is a surprise around every corner, a surprise with every touch,‚ÄĚ Moren said. ‚ÄúThis is our opportunity to keep our stories alive, our history alive.‚ÄĚ
Residents will be able to bring their memorabilia and get it digitized, and in the process create a living collection for the library, he said.
The first exhibit at the museum will be an enhanced version of ‚ÄúThe Man Behind the Camera: The Life and Work of Vernon Biever,‚ÄĚ Moren said. It will encompasses not just Biever‚Äôs work as the official photographer of the Green Bay Packers but also his work as an Army photographer during World War II.
A focal point of the three-story museum will be a lower level featuring a nautical-themed children‚Äôs museum designed to look like the deck of a three-masted schooner, complete with a captain‚Äôs wheel and crow‚Äôs nest. There will be eight interactive stations just in the children‚Äôs area, Moren said.
The upper floors will be home to revolving exhibits that will tell the story of the community. There will be spaces that can be rented for private parties, as well as a second-story deck shaped like the bow of a ship that will overlook the marina.
The Historical Society will be undertaking a $1.3 million fund-raising campaign to help pay the $2.5 million price tag for the museum, Moren said, noting that amount will not only finance development and staffing for the museum but also operations until it begins to make money.
An anonymous donor contributed the first $1 million toward the museum.
‚ÄúAs generous as that gift was, it‚Äôs not half as much as we need,‚ÄĚ Moren said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot to do yet, and we need the community to be part of this.‚ÄĚ
Aldermen needed little convincing.
‚ÄúIf there are things I can personally help with, I‚Äôd be glad to,‚ÄĚ Ald. Doug Biggs said.
Biggs told Moren that when he heard there were plans for a local museum, he initially thought it would be a dusty, dry place like similar facilities in so many communities.
‚ÄúI imagined all these little town museums I‚Äôve seen, and I thought, ‚ÄėThat‚Äôs going to draw 10 people a year, I guess,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Biggs said.
‚ÄúThis is unique. This is transformational, a place people will want to go.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs phenomenal,‚ÄĚ Ald. Dan Becker said.
Moren said the Society will be kicking off its fund-raising campaign in the coming weeks.
The museum, he noted, will be the Society‚Äôs third major building initiative, behind the renovation of the historic Light Station on Johnson Street and the creation of the group‚Äôs research center at 205 N. Franklin St.