April 04, 2018IMLAY CITY — History helps define us, refine us, and remind us of the strength and weaknesses and creativity and courageousness of those who've gone before us.
There's a lot to learn from history too, how it shapes communities and changes lives. A walk through the Imlay City Historical Museum shows just that—how the community emerged from the logging days into the rural, agricultural lifestyle we now enjoy.
Filled with local history, the museum itself is about to celebrate its own milestone—40 years in existence. All are welcome to an Open House at the museum tomorrow (Thurs., April 5) from 5-7:30 p.m.
Museum board secretary Marilyn Swihart says the museum sprang forth from the 1970 Imlay City Centennial celebration. Once the celebration was over, the planning committee remained intact. In May of 1971, a study committee was created to research the idea of creating a permanent room or building to house a museum. The centennial celebration brought in $9,500, which was available for use toward a museum.
A board of directors was elected for the Imlay City Historical Commission, which held its first organizational meeting in 1971. Dues were established at $10 per year. The inaugural board consisted of Les Cole, president; Keith Clark, vice president; Mary Ackerman, secretary; and Helen Whitkopf, treasurer.
After several months of negotiations, the Canadian National Railroad and the City of Imlay City reached a deal for the city's purchase of the vacant depot building on Main Street. The Historical Commission negotiated a long term lease with the city, and a museum was created in 1978. It continues to expand its offerings and welcome numerous visitors, including hundreds of local children through classroom projects, to this day.
'Ralphie' dressed in the garb of the day, is poised to greet visitors at the museum.
Board President Carla Jepsen says the Imlay City Historical Museum has grown from a centennial celebration to preserving and reflecting the history of the entire Imlay City area.
"It features artifacts that represent the every day life of Imlay's pioneer families, honors the military service of local men and women, highlights the importance of the railroad for the area, and celebrates the unique heritage of the Imlay area," Jepsen says. "We have grown from a few artifacts donated by the charter museum members to three rooms in the depot, an auxiliary building and two train cars full of diverse artifacts donated by over 600 donors."
Jepsen notes that as the area continues to grow, so will the museum.
"It will be here to preserve the history for future generations," she says.
She says the museum is important not only for preserving local history, but for preserving our way of life.
"History, saved and preserved, is the foundation for future generations. History is crucial to preserving democracy for the future by explaining our shared past," she says. "Without the preservation of our histories, future citizens will have no grounding in what it means to be an American.
"History also is a catalyst for economic growth, Swihart adds. "People are drawn to communities that have preserved a strong sense of historical identity and character."
All are welcome to stop by the Imlay City Historical Museum tomorrow evening (Thurs., April 5) from 5-7:30 p.m. The museum is located at 77 N. Main Street downtown. Call 810-724-1111 or visit www.facebook.com/imlay museum/ for more information.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.