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New exhibits open at Besser Museum

January 20, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

In conjunction with an upcoming local Women's History Project, Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan has pulled together a new exhibit that celebrates the accomplishments of women.

At the same time, the museum is featuring a second new exhibit that showcases over 300 items from the museum's own collections, many of which have never been on display before.

The public is invited to an opening reception for both planned this Saturday from 5-7 p.m.

Article Photos

Old-time office equipment is featured in an Out of the Archives exhibit.

"It's a celebration of women. That's what the Women's History Project is all about," said Facilities and Exhibits Manager Randy Shultz of the first exhibit. "We wanted to show a transformation from early vocations like being a housewife which involved so much work than today to the transition of joining the workforce."

To accomplish that, antiquated laundry equipment, old-time cosmetics and once popular women's fashions are displayed in Trelfa Gallery. Another noteworthy section of the exhibit is devoted to the former Alpena Garment Company, where many local women once were employed. That section includes an antique sewing machine, patterns and photographs of factory workers on strike.

"Alpena Garment Company is a big part of Alpena's history," said Shultz. "Many people have had an aunt or grandmother who worked there. The workforce went on strike and demanded higher wages, which was pretty unusual for back then."

The arts also are reflected in the exhibit that is called Women: Past, Present & Future A Celebration of Women Through Art, History and Science. Several pieces of art are interspersed throughout the gallery, all of which were rendered by female artists.

"The women's exhibit really shows the community the advancement of all women in the areas of fashions, cosmetics, the domestic front and women in the workforce," said Museum Director Chris Witulski.

The museum's second new exhibit is known as Out of the Archives A Collection of Museum Oddities, Treasures and Rarities.

According to Shultz, many people over the years have donated items to the museum which don't make an exhibit on their own or which have not fit into the subject matter of any previous exhibits. Consequently, these items have remained in storage.

For Out of the Archives, Shultz had each staff member select a number of these stored items that appealed to them or which they thought would be interesting for the public to see.

"The idea was to display things that have never been on display before and to give people an idea of what we house and actually care for at the museum," Shultz said. "Everybody's taste is different. That's why I didn't want it to be all my picks. This makes it an interesting mix."

Among the items featured in Wilson Gallery are early dental and surgical equipment, a portable embalming table, an electric shock machine, old typewriters and other office equipment, several items from the Nordemeer, firearms and cooking utensils.

"There are over 300 items," Shultz said. "If you can get people talking and saying, 'Hey, do you remember this? Hey, I had one of those?' That's what it's all about."

Still others items showcased in this exhibit are jewelry boxes made out of cigar boxes, a galvanized bathtub, artwork made from hair, old timers and light bulbs, antique tools and a beer keg from the one-time Beck Brewing Co.

All of the items will be labeled with the donor's name on them. While many items are on display for the first time, Shultz said there still are many more in the collections yet to be exhibited.

Along with these two new exhibits, the museum also has two new display featured on the wall space surrounding the planetarium. One display pays homage to the 100th anniversary of the Girls Scouts, while the other is of recent artwork created by local women associated with the the Thunder Bay Arts Council Gallery in downtown Alpena.



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