More than a museum
MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University’s Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center (BUPHC) offers a unique perspective that does not confine itself to the pursuit of history of the area, but focuses on a continuing cultural legacy forged throughout the U.P.
Daniel Truckey, who acts as both director and curator, said while his organization will often contact U.P. Historical societies for photographs and research material, the center has a different area of focus than those institutions.
“I think the difference is our mission is heritage. We don’t focus on the core industries of logging or mining,” Truckey said. “That’s why we are a heritage center and not a history museum, because heritage is living. For us it’s how do we show that culture is alive?”
Truckey said the center moved from the Cohodas Administrative Center to its new campus location in Gries Hall in April.
“Made in Da U.P., Eh!” seems fitting as the new gallery’s inaugural exhibit, highlighting the wide variety of products made in the region that diversify the local economy.
The exhibit, which features products both past and present created by companies in the U.P. for export outside of the region, will be on display until Sept. 10.
“We went all over the U.P. getting informations about companies, many of the items here are on loan from them,” Truckey said.
Truckey said the exhibit is broken into several different sections based on the types of products created such as clothing, represented by Stormy Chromer and the H. W. Gossard Co.; industrial products like Superior Extrusion and Creative Composites; wood products like charcoal from the Cliffs Dow company and the Munising Woodware Company; and food products like Lawry’s and Jean Kaye’s pasties and Vollwerths Sausage.
“One of the most common exports is food products, and why do we have a bunch of Italian food companies?” Truckey said. “Well we had a lot of Italians who moved here and when the mines were no longer a valid way to make a living, they said ‘Hey we are going to start a food company,’ and they did.”
Truckey said a relatively new phenomenon is young start up companies such as Electronic Brewing Supply and Craft Cultures liquid yeast.
“This is not a cottage industry, where they are just selling to their friends,” Truckey said. “This is young people saying: ‘Hey you know what, we are really into brewing. We’ve got an idea of how we can create something for the brewing industry,'” Truckey said.
Trucky said one of the things that the BUPHC has tried to explore is what aspects connect the Upper Peninsula, even through its diverse cultural and societal traits.
“A good example is some of these companies, why are they here? They’re here because somebody wanted to be here. It’s about choosing this as a way of life,” Truckey said. “I think that is kind of the nature of the U.P., even despite the adversity of living here – the climate, the economic realities – people still come, and persevere, that ties it all together.”
Truckey said some of the exhibitions have toured the U.P. and beyond.
An exhibition called ‘Music in the Pines, A History of the Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival” toured the U.P. throughout 2015.
The next exhibition starting Sept. 24 will focus on ghost towns of the U.P., one ghost town in each county, Truckey said.
“We’re always changing things every three to six months. And it’s always about a different perspective of Upper Peninsula culture and history,” Truckey said.
BUPHC maintains a collection of artifacts relating to the ethnic, religious and social diversity of the Upper Peninsula’s people and a collection of NMU artifacts, some of which are on display just outside the door of the gallery in Gries hall.
The NMU collection consists of three-dimensional artifacts from the history of the university.
These include items related to educational, administrative and athletic activities as well as student life on campus.
The BUPHC also has collections reflecting the lives and works of notable past U.P. residents including Upper Peninsula merchant and philanthropist Sam Cohodas, writer, lawyer, judge and author John Voelker, Nobel Prize winning physicist Glenn T. Seaborg, Michigan representative and labor organizer Dominic Jacobetti and noted U.P. watercolor artist Nita Engle.
Truckey wants community members to know that they do not need to be affiliated with the university to visit the center.
“A lot of people think that you have to be a student, but we are open to the public, and admission is free,” Truckey said.
The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage center is open from 7:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.