Michigan Humanities Council Funding Restores Shipwreck Museum Panels, adds New Exhibits

Exhibit Panels

Twin exhibit panels about the Carl D. Bradley an

The Shipwreck Society is pleased to report that a 2010 Major Grant from Michigan Humanities Council was successfully concluded at the end of November, 2011. This funding has supported professional restoration of selected exhibit panels in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Building, and also funded the addition of new exhibits.

Visitors to the museum in 2012 will enjoy an exciting presentation using new interpretive panels and a video display about the famous shipwrecks Carl D. Bradley and Daniel J. Morrell; a video display featuring Edmund Fitzgerald crew members and unique footage of her as she sailed, compiled from the Shipwreck Society’s collection of historic films of the Fitz; a new animated projection display depicting the location of the many shipwrecks around Whitefish Point; and complete restoration of many existing panels that had suffered the effects of time. This is the first time many Shipwreck Museum exhibits have undergone restoration since their original installation in 1987.

Our thanks go particularly to David Kronberg of Van Abel & Kronberg Design for his dedicated effort during the fall of 2011. We also thank Bruce Lynn, Society Operations Manager, Terry Begnoche, Site Manager, and Sean Ley, Development Officer for their time and expertise applied to completing this project. Steve Brisson, Deputy Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks served as the official Project Evaluator.

The Shipwreck Society extends sincere gratitude to Michigan Humanities Council for this funding. The Shipwreck Museum will open for the new season on May 1, 2012, when the new and restored exhibits will officially open for public viewing.

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Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Launches New Education Programs for 2011

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, with galleries and offices in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and its main campus at Whitefish Point on Lake Superior, is preparing for its 2011 Season Opener.  Operations Director Bruce Lynn and Site Manager Terry Begnoche announce a new educational program, for the sole purpose of better accomplishing its mission of maritime exploration, documentation, interpretation and education.

Whitefish Point Musem Campus

Lynn explains, “The Shipwreck Society will in addition to all of its other renown programs, place a heavy emphasis upon lectures offered at nominal cost to its members and the general public.  Several guest speakers are lined up for the main museum gallery at Whitefish Point throughout the summer season.  Shipwreck explorers, maritime historians, artists, authors and academics will update the audience on all that is happening in the fascinating and multi disciplined world surrounding underwater archeology.”

Begnoche added, “Check our website; www.shipwreckmuseum.com.  We will soon post a summer schedule, which is merely the beginning of what will grow into a year around effort, whether in the Sault or even throughout Michigan.  The interest in and demand for details surrounding the stories of ships and the men who went to sea, on these inland seas, continues to grow.  Our mission is to meet that demand, in every way we are able.”

Shipwreck Society President, James Spurr, offered a specific example of this new educational initiative.  In March alone, generally considered “the off season,” the Shipwreck Society, its Board of Directors, employees, volunteers and friends organized two lectures in Flint and Grand Rapids.  “Partnering with other excellent museums, such as the Alfred P. Sloan and Grand Rapids Public Museum,” Spurr explained, “we marketed, with their assistance, to local newspapers, radio and television stations.

More than 350 persons attended, which for the cost of a movie, the guests were delighted with speakers of international reputations speaking about famous shipwrecks and the efforts to discover, preserve, document and interpret these priceless cultural resources.  We will continue to carry our educational programs to those throughout Michigan.”

Main Museum Gallery

Director Emeritus of the Shipwreck Society, Tom Farnquist, spoke in Grand Rapids.  Joining him in Grand Rapids and also presenting in Flint were Ken Vrana and Paul Henry Nargolet, representing the Center for Maritime Underwater Resource Management and Richard Gross, chief historian for Great Lakes Exploration having perhaps located the remains of Le Griffon in northern Lake Michigan.  These “titans of the industry” presented on topics including R.M.S. Titanic, LaSalle’s Le Griffon and the French Minesweepers, not yet located on the bottom of Lake Superior.

600 kHz Side-Scan Sonar Image of SS Mather

Development Director Sean Ley promised, “These high caliber speakers are just the beginning of what talent we will bring to our members and friends over the next several years.  It is an excellent time to join the Shipwreck Society and support its programs.”

The campus at Whitefish Point Light Station, home of the Shipwreck Museum and the 1861 Lighthouse, the oldest on Lake Superior, opens on April 28, 2011.

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The Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, National Geographic and the Shipwreck Museum


This post is contributed by our board president, Jim Spurr:

As members, we have long recognized that Whitefish Point is a very special place. It has been for hundreds of years and continues to be largely because of the presence and efforts of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society; creating a world class museum centered upon a fascinating topic of interest equally to both scholars of maritime history and the general public.

This summer alone, at least three television networks independently came to the same conclusion and with them came crews, cameras, scholars, research, scripts and a request for assistance, from the Shipwreck Society.

The Discovery Channel arrived in late August and began filming a segment of the 13 part series “Ghost Lab.” The paranormal activity at Whitefish Point, given the tragedy surrounding her maritime past, has always been the stuff of legends. The Discovery Channel approaches the topic seriously and scientifically and informed our Executive Director Tom Farnquist that the site was one of the more “active” they have ever encountered…sustaining the reputations of many visitors to Whitefish Point who have experienced an all too close encounter.

Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab Van - ready to unload 'Paranormal' sensing equipment

National Geographic and Discovery Canada chartered our Captains, crew and vessel for a visit to John B. Cowle.  National Geographic divers were equipped with rebreathers, underwater communications systems and underwater high definition cameras.  The production is premised on what would be found, both natural and man made, were we to “Drain the Great Lakes.”  Obviously, shipwrecks would play an important role in many fascinating discoveries.  The series sounds like a winner.

At the same time, the Travel Channel visited Whitefish Point and worked to further a segment of the popular series, “Mysteries of the Museum.”  Many of these museums featured are some of the finest in the world, such as Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and Detroit’s Henry Ford. 

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society’s Shipwreck Museum “hangs with the best of them” by all accounts of those who have visited many.  The Travel Channel will be doing a program featuring Edmund Fitzgerald and the recovery of her bell.

Discovery Channel Crew and our Research Vessel, David Boyd

 The reputation and contacts of Executive Director Tom Farnquist assisted in landing all three programs, hopefully bringing invaluable marketing attention to our efforts as a Shipwreck Society.  We will keep our members apprised as to the showings of each production. 



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