History museum aims to modernize
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 17, 2013 11:59PM
Mary Catterlin, left, and Amy Lukas take a break from creating their exhibit at the Porter County Museum of History in Valparaiso Thursday Mar. 14, 2013. The women, both 24, spent 93 days circling Lake Michigan in the 11-foot dugout canoe Catterlin spent four years making from a cottonwood tree. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
There will be an opening reception for “We Are Porter County” and “Lake Michigan in a Dugout” from 1 to 4 p.m. March 24 at the Porter County Museum of History, 153 Franklin St., Valparaiso.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 465-3595, or go to www.portercountymuseum.org.
Updated: April 19, 2013 6:14AM
VALPARAISO — Two new exhibits at the Porter County Museum of History mark a move away from dusty artifacts in glass display cases to the stories those artifacts tell.
“We Are Porter County,” an exhibit detailing the county from its inception to today, and “Lake Michigan in a Dugout,” journaling the experiences of two young women who took a 93-day trip circumnavigating the lake’s shoreline, both will be unveiled Sunday.
“We’re taking a modern museum approach,” said Joanne Urschel, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, adding the exhibits from here on out will be hands-on and interactive, “friendly things because we really want to get the kids involved.”
The switch, museum representatives said, came about as they went through the museum’s collections and found what they had and decided there was a better way to share the county’s history.
“Every county museum is dealing with a similar situation,” said Kevin Pazour, the museum’s executive director, adding the two new exhibits are “helping tell our own story of how we’re making this transition.”
The county’s historical society was established in 1912, and the museum opened four years later in the lower level of the Valparaiso library, Pazour said. The museum moved to the courthouse and then, in 1974, to its location in the old jail, at 153 Franklin St.
Within the next few years, the museum — or part of it — will be on the move again, to the city’s old police station, on Franklin Street across from the courthouse. The structure served as Valparaiso’s town hall. The old jail still will hold some of the museum’s collections, though Pazour said those details have not yet been worked out.
In the coming months, the museum also will add an art gallery and a gift shop.
“It’s really an exciting time,” Urschel said.
“Even though it’s been around almost 100 years,” Pazour added, “we’re entering the golden era of the museum.”