Christmas Open House at the Museum

December 2, 2013

museumOn Dec 8, the Milford Historical Society will be hosting a  Christmas Open House from 12 noon until  4 PM at the Milford Historical Museum 124 E. Commerce St. Visitors will see the Museum decorated for the holidays,  listen to Victorian Christmas carols and Victorian Story-telling, and taste Victorian treats. Shop various crafted items and museum gifts for the holidays! Experience Christmas the way it used to be way back when.

The perfect Christmas gift for any resident of Milford is a copy of the book “Ten Minutes Ahead of the Rest of the World”, the history of Milford from its founding through the turn of the century. If you’ve ever wondered about life in the pioneer days or the mid-century 1800’s, when Milford was just getting started, this is a great read. It also has the histories of most of the historic homes in the Village – who built it and when and who was the first owner. The book has great pictures of homes and life in Milford during the 1800’s, as well as the great stories. Read about the great bank failure in Milford and who absconded with the money. Read about the first settlers in Milford and where they came from. It’s a must have book, if you live in Milford.

Tours of the Museum will be conducted by costumed docents  and the museum’s living areas will be decorated in the style of the periods that they depict. The museum’s second floor features a living room, dining room kitchen and bedroom all furnished as they might have been back in the 1800’s, along with displays of the toys of that era and lots of photos of Milford in the 1800s.

In addition to the sights to see, there will be old time caroling and treats to taste from the Victorian era (all freshly made of course).  A cookbook that contains the recipes for many of the treats and more will also be on sale. There are picture books, T-shirts and other items for sale in the Museum store.

So, come share a bit of Milford’s history, be entertained and have a snack while you shop or take the tour of the upper floor.  If you’ve never been to the Museum, this is a perfect opportunity. Admission is free, although we do request that you make a donation to the Museum, if you are able.

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Support your local Museum…

September 27, 2012

In the midst of the current recession something quietly happened in many communities that received very little press coverage – small, local museums all over folded up shop and went out of business. These little institutions had lots in common with our Milford Historical Society museum here in Milford. They were all, for the most part, run by small volunteer organizations and likely all on shoe-string budgets. Most did not charge or charged a fee that was nominal to visit. Most were probably not open a lot – maybe 2-3 days a week, if that much. And, most had no real claim to fame, other than documenting the local history of the town, village or area through old photographs, letters and other memorabilia.

Carolyn and I have visited lots of museums as we’ve traveled in many different communities. I must admit that I tend to see and visit the ones that have some unique draw – The Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle; Spongeorama in Tarpon Springs Florida; The USS Alabama Battleship Museum in Mobile; the Jello Museum in LeRoy, New York; or the Besser Museum in Alpena, Michigan, which was started by the inventor of the Bessor Concrete Block Machine. All of those museums caught our eye, because they were big enough to advertise with road-side signs and have brochures in the local hotels.

Many small towns have little museums that are easy to miss, even if they are right out on the Main St. Most of these museums just have local artifacts and photos for the visitors to look at and most have someone from the local community on duty who can tell you all about the place and the stuff that is in the museum. These museums are Americana at its simplest and best. And they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

I suppose that some might blame our faster pace of life and perhaps our focus on the present (where an instant  message” W r u?” passes for conversation). It’s a shame really that the so-called “Me-generation” has so little time for reflection upon the past that is captured in these little museums and has chosen to  let these little time capsules fade away.

In some communities, like Milford, there is a strong commitment by volunteer groups, usually calling themselves a Historical Society or Preservation Group or maybe just Friends of the XXX Museum. Those little volunteer organization take it upon themselves to collect, organize and catalogue available memorabilia and, if they have the wherewithal, to create and run a museum in which to display the history of the area. There are one or more  of these little local museums within each County in  Michigan. You can see a list by clicking here.

Milford is lucky to have a group like the Milford Historical Society to run the Milford Historical Museum, but even it is struggling in the current recession. Membership was impacted by the recession, as were donations. The Society holds a few fund raising events each year – the Granny’s Attic Sale and the recent Milford Home Tour being the primary sources of funds to maintain and run the Museum. Those events were also slightly down this year.

So now the Historical Society has decided to try to raise money for an endowment fund by appealing to local residents to put the Historical Society in their wills and to include it in charitable giving plans. An endowment, if property funded would provide a more stable source of operational funding for our Milford Historical Museum. The idea is to have a large principal sum that is not touched, but which generates investment income that is used for the day-to-day operational needs and capital needs of the museum.

Taking into account the current modest operating budget and the plans that The Historical Society has for improving the Museum and supporting more hours of operation, an initial goal of $5 Million for the endowment has been set. A $5 Million endowment would generate about $100,000 per year, which would allow for capital improvements and maintenance on the building, plus pay for a full time staff to work on the organization and recording of the artifacts in the museum and to host museum visits.

Is raising $5 Million for a small museum in Milford, Michigan an impossible goal, a crazy dream? Maybe, maybe not. There are certainly wealthy people in the area that may enjoy the role of patron to such a noble effort.  One could, after all, donate $5 Million towards a new building on the campus of their favorite University and perhaps get a wing of the building named after them; but, that’s one wing of one building in a  big campus. Here you could be credited with keeping the whole thing running, not just one building. You would be the big fish in our little pond.

I’m sure that the Historical Society Board of Directors would be happy to put a big plaque out front on the Museum building stating – “The Milford Historical Museum is supported by the (your name here) Endowment Fund.” So give me a call and get out your checkbook; I’d be happy to stop by and pick up your endowment check. I’ll let you know from time to time how this effort is going.


You haven’t lived in Milford until you’ve…

September 7, 2012

visited the Milford Historical Museum.

It’s amazing to me to find out how many people who are life-long residents of Milford have never been to the Museum. I will grant you that it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. The Museum is only open two days a week – Wednesdays and Saturdays – and then only from 1 to 4 PM. Still that affords the opportunity to visit for most families.

The Milford Historical Museum is housed in a historic building just one block east of Main Street on Commerce – 124 E. Commerce Road is the address.  I won’t steal the thunder of the Museum docents by telling you about the history of the building; however, until the early 1970’s it served as the Village Hall and Police Station. It has an interesting history before that, which you will learn on your tour through the Museum.

The Milford Historical Society (MHS) was founded in 1973 with the mission to collect, preserve and share the history of Milford, Michigan. The primary vehicle for accomplishing that mission is the Milford Historical Museum, which eh MHS opened in 1976. The MHS selectively accepts donations of historic memorabilia – pictures, historic objects, etc.  Museum volunteers catalogue the items and either store them or put them on display. Some collections of objects, such as civil war collectibles or American Indian artifacts are on permanent display and some, like historic wedding dresses, are just displayed on special occasions.

On the first floor is a replica of the inside of a typical log cabin of the pioneer days – a somewhat crude, one-room space filled with the types of objects and implements that the earliest settlers might have had with them when they came to Milford.  Most of the second floor is devoted to rooms that are furnished as they would have been in the mid- to late-1800’s. There’s a living room, a dining room a kitchen and a bedroom all set up as they might have been in that era. There are also displays of toys and other objects that might have been found in that timeframe. Along a back hallway are historic pictures taken in the area during the late 1800’s.

In addition to displays the Museum is host to a research function which helps people research the homes and families of Milford in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As part of that research area there is a capability to go back through all of the issues of the Milford times since it’s beginning in the mid-1800’s. The Museum is one of two locations that have microfilm of all of the back issues. The MHS took on the responsibility for microfilming the Milford Times archive back in the 70’s and has been having it done ever since. The other microfilm viewers with access that film are at the Milford Public Library, based upon film that the MHS provides to them.

So, get to the Museum. You’ll have a unique two-day opportunity September 15th and 16th when the Museum is open both days from 11 AM until 5 PM as part of the Milford Home Tour. Come out to see some of the historic homes of Milford and then take in the Museum, too. There will be docetns both days conducting tours. You can learn more about the Museum and see interior pictures of the upstairs at our Web site – www.milfordhistory.org. You really can’t say you’ve lived in Milford and never been to the Museum.