Port aldermen heap praise on Historical Society proposal for state-of-art, interactive facility
The Port Washington Historical Society’s 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.
“I just think this is really, really cool,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “It makes me want to get more involved. This is awesome.”
It’s 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’s shore and extending north to Two Rivers, are too, he said.
“Clearly it was one of the pieces that impressed them the most” 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’s past, Bill Moren, chairman of the museum advisory board, told aldermen.
“There is a surprise around every corner, a surprise with every touch,” Moren said. “This is our opportunity to keep our stories alive, our history alive.”
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 “The Man Behind the Camera: The Life and Work of Vernon Biever,” Moren said. It will encompasses not just Biever’s 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’s museum designed to look like the deck of a three-masted schooner, complete with a captain’s wheel and crow’s nest. There will be eight interactive stations just in the children’s 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.
“As generous as that gift was, it’s not half as much as we need,” Moren said. “There’s a lot to do yet, and we need the community to be part of this.”
Aldermen needed little convincing.
“If there are things I can personally help with, I’d be glad to,” 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.
“I imagined all these little town museums I’ve seen, and I thought, ‘That’s going to draw 10 people a year, I guess,’” Biggs said.
“This is unique. This is transformational, a place people will want to go.”
“It’s phenomenal,” 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’s third major building initiative, behind the renovation of the historic Light Station on Johnson Street and the creation of the group’s research center at 205 N. Franklin St.