Are you open year round?
Yes, we are open all year. The Historical Society is open for business year round, Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm. Our museum exhibit hours vary with the seasons with additional hours during our busy summer season. Although we have fewer exhibit hours during the shoulder seasons, the exhibit galleries are always available by appointment. If you’re planning an off-season visit, check our website for our current hours or give us a call. We’d be glad to help you with your visit!
Why aren’t you open on Mondays?
One could joke that someone just has a case of the Mondays or that we suffer from lunaediesophobia, the fear of Mondays. In reality, though, we have basically structured our work week Tuesday through Saturday. This schedule considers our best visitor traffic days and also allows our small staff (and great group of dedicated volunteers) to operate five days a week year round.
What was the building used for before it was a museum?
Our building was built in 1886 as the Emmet County Courthouse. At that time, Harbor Springs served as the county seat until it was removed to Petoskey in 1902. For the next 100 years, the building served as City Hall for the city of Harbor Springs. In 2003, the city moved its offices to renovated historic buildings on Zoll Street, and we began the process of creating a home for history in Harbor Springs.
Is the museum funded by tax dollars?
No, not at all. The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is a privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Historical Society does not receive any local tax dollars for our operations. We rely entirely on generous donations from people just like you.
Our building is still owned by the City of Harbor Springs and we maintain a long-term lease of the building. We thank the city for all of their support.
What can I do to support your organization?
You can support the Historical Society in a number of different ways. In addition to offering great member benefits, our membership program also provides a quarter of our annual revenue. Becoming a member of the Historical Society gives you free admission to the museum and our monthly Harbor History Talks, a subscription to our quarterly print newsletter and a 10 percent discount on museum store purchases. We raise additional funds through our annual appeal, foundation grants and special events. Another way you can support us is by giving of your time and talents. We are always looking for volunteers to work at our museum reception desk, to help keep our grounds looking great, and to help with our various events throughout the year.
You look closed. Why are your shades always drawn?
Our shades are closed to protect our artifacts, photographs and exhibits from damage caused by the sun. Think of our shades as sunscreen for artifacts - a necessary part of taking proper care of our collections. We promise - we’re not closed. We’re just taking care of business.
Where’s all your stuff?
Speaking of collections, behind these drawn shades and closed doors, we house most of our museum’s collections in the climate-controlled archives room on the second floor of the museum. We proudly display a few artifacts in cases in our permanent exhibit galleries on the first floor and have two cases in the second-floor space the contents of which we rotate occasionally. If you would like a virtual peek inside our collections, we highly recommend our online catalog which you can peruse by clicking “Collections” in the menu above.
I have some old stuff in my attic/basement/shed/trunk. Do you want it for the museum? What do I do if I would like to donate an item?
We love old stuff and we’d be happy to look at your old stuff. Our collections focus on the Harbor Springs area so we reserve the right to turn down items that do not have a significant connection to Harbor Springs or to a Harbor Springs resident (past or present). The best bet is to call and talk with executive director Mary Cummings and see if your item(s) is of interest.
How do I find out about upcoming events?
You can always visit this website for the latest calendar events. If you haven’t already, you can also sign up for our free eNewsletter that delivers all of the latest info right to your inbox. And for members of the Historical Society, you will receive our quarterly print newsletter the old-fashioned way: in your mailbox. You can also give us a call at (231) 526-9771 - we’ll be happy to fill you in.
Do you need reservations for your Harbor History Talks?
Yes, making reservations for our Harbor History Talks is a huge help to us. We have had stellar attendance at our talks during the last few years and, with limited seating in our second-floor space, reservations are a huge help. It also helps us be sure we have enough of the homemade cookies we are known for!
What’s with all the trains?
We have two model trains in our Discovery Gallery to help tell the story of inventor Ephraim Shay who moved to Harbor Springs in 1888 and lived out the remainder of his life here. His geared locomotive was especially well suited for the steep hills and tight corners of our northern lumbering camps. Visit the museum to see Shay’s locomotive design and learn more about his other contributions to our community.
Can we use your space for meetings/events?
Yes, our second-floor meeting space is available for use. We strongly encourage community groups to use this space for nonprofit or community meetings and will often waive any rental fees. If you would like to rent the space for a private event or party, you can find our rental agreement here. Rentals are at the discretion of the HSAHS director based on our event and meeting schedule.
What special exhibits has the museum displayed?
Since we opened in December 2008, the Historical Society has hosted a number of special exhibits in our temporary galleries.
- 2009 – Treaty Signers (Clarke Historical Library)
- 2009-2010 – Ships of the Great Lakes
- 2010-2011 – Earl H. Mead, Architect (an HSAHS original exhibit)
- 2011-2012 – Ivan Swift, Poet and Artist (an HSAHS original exhibit)
- 2012-2013 – A Delightful Destination: Little Traverse Bay at the Turn of the Century (Clarke Historical Library)
- 2013-2014 – Turning Point: The War of 1812 from the Native American Perspective (HSAHS produced in collaboration with Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians)
- 2014-2015 - A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon
- 2015-2016 - Anishnaabek Art: Gift of the Great Lakes
- 2016-2017 - Just the Artifacts, Ma'am!
Is the museum accessible to disabled people?
Yes. The museum has a barrier-free access on the north side of the building and one dedicated barrierfree parking space in the lot behind the museum building. Both our first and second floor spaces are barrier-free.
Is photography allowed in the museum?
Yes, we allow photography in our permanent exhibit galleries and our temporary galleries. Our only exception to the photography rule is when artifacts or exhibits are not property of the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society.
Do you charge admission?
Yes, we charge $5 for adults and $3 for school-aged children and seniors (62+). Current members of the Historical Society are free, and we often host special free-admission days throughout the year.
Do you schedule school groups or group tours?
Yes, we are happy to schedule school groups or group visits to the museum. Our interactive exhibits provide ample learning opportunity for guests of all ages. Just give us a call and we will help you plan your visit to the museum.