Castle Museum Renovation Allows Display of Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions
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After seven years of planning an;d preparation, $450,000 in renovations and countless hours of work and devotion from a small handful of employees and volunteers, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal St. in downtown Saginaw, is now part of an elite group of museums and historical buildings.
Thanks to a rigorous set of improvements, the museum is equipped to handle the high security and provide the environmental stability needed to host exhibits from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The first of these exhibits, The Flag in American Indian Art, took place from August 1 to September 27, 1998, meeting the security measures demanded by the SITES guidelines for a "high security* exhibit.
"There are certainly a number of museums in Michigan that can support such high security measures," says Marlene Rothacker, Washington D.C.-based Scheduling and Exhibitor Relations Coordinator, "but not all of these museums choose to actually partake in SITES exhibits." Indeed, between August 1, 1998 and March 1, 1999, only four Michigan museums and libraries are hosting Smithsonian traveling exhibits.
Rothacker continues, "the Castle Museum is a special case because it not only chose to take advantage of these traveling exhibits, but also took an older building, not physically or environmentally secure and turned it into a temperature, humidity and light controlled, high security museum. This is an immense act of bootstrapping, and the entire county of Saginaw has a lot to be proud of because of it."
The next Smithsonian exhibit to grace the Castle is titled The Tongass: Alaska's Magnificent Rain Forest. It runs from November 21, 1998 to January 3, 1999. The exhibit explores the intricate harmony within one of the largest temperate rain forests in the world (17 million acres) as explored by seven prominent nature photographers.
Text panels describe the Tongass' spectacular geography and biological diversity, the role glaciers play in the region, and the nature of old-growth forests such as this. In addition to the Castle Museum, this traveling exhibit, which has been touring the United States since 1994, has also visited the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, the University ofAlaska Museum, the National History Museum of Los Angeles, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, NY.
Taking full advantage of their newly created exhibit space, the Castle will present a third Smithsonian exhibit, Six Bridges: The Making of a Modern Metropolis, from April 17 to June 13, 1999. Telling the story of one of the century's preeminent bridge engineers, Othmar H. Ammann in 73 black-and white photographs with accompanying historical text, the exhibit offers stunning views of six New York Bridges that have stood the test of time both in terms of architectural construction and aesthetic beauty.
Castle Museum's Chuck Hoover rightly notes that the addition of the SITES-friendly section of the museum increases the building's interest to out-of-town visitors. "We have always had a good, local historical museum," notes Hoover, "but now, we really are in a position to become a regional museum with appeal on a much grander scale."
This page was originally published 11/7/98 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/28/11
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