Monday, October 21, 2013

Another nice Upper Peninsula museum: Jake Menghini

This past Saturday the S.O. and I drove down to Norway, Michigan, to attend a meeting of the Northland Consortium. The consortium is a loose organization of local historical societies and museums located in the central and western U.P. and northern Wisconsin. Meetings rotate around the region and generally feature a couple speakers in the morning and a field trip to the host museum after lunch. The morning meetings can turn kind of strange -- at this year's meeting I was treated to a lecture about how local historical societies and museums can't manage to do web sites or have Facebook pages because we geezers are all too technologically illiterate to figure out how the Intertubes work -- but the field trip part of the day is usually fun.
The Jake Menghini Museum in Norway began the way a lot of small town museums did: the core collection came from a hoarder collector who kept his stash in an old log building that he eventually referred to as a museum. At some point the city of Norway acquired the collection and decided to build a new museum on the edge of town at what had been the Anton O'Dill farm.
Francis turbine from the city of Norway hydroelectric plant. The museum director said it just showed up in front of the museum one day. She said one of the drawbacks of being owned by the city is that city workers will occasionally drop objects off with very little advance warning. She's lucky if it's just city workers: we have odd objects dropped off by the general public all the time with no advance warning and it's rarely anything as nifty as a reaction turbine. 
The museum is fairly new building and is large enough to have multiple life-size dioramas. I had some quibbles about some of the displays, but then I always do. 
For example, the room shown below cries out for a different presentation of the basket casket. I'd have placed it on a table and had a mannequin laid out in it so you'd know immediately what it was instead of kind of wondering just what the oversize object standing in the corner is. 
On the other hand, none of the spaces is very big. If they had actually placed it on a table, there wouldn't have been much open floor space left. I did, of course, suffer some serious object envy over that basket casket. As far as I can tell, the only things the local funeral homes have given the Baraga County museum are a notebook listing all the funerals held there over a 50-year time period and a couple vases. 
There was, of course, the obligatory space filled with miscellaneous clutter: sad irons, various cooking gadgets, odds and ends of tools, and what to me looks like the scariest juicer I've ever seen. The thing looks like a prop out of an early episode of Dr. Who. The museum is lucky enough to have a fair amount of land so has plenty of space for outdoor exhibits, including their latest acquisition, a sawmill:
The S.O. immediately began waxing nostalgic. He's familiar with this type of sawmill. He worked at a sawmill that used this same type of set up. He pointed out one mistake they've made in setting it up. If they wanted to be truly accurate, they need to add more track to the left of the saw in the photo above. 
The museum volunteers were making a verbal mistake, too, when they talked about the sawmill. They kept referring to it as "steam powered." Well, I'm not much of a mechanic, but when a device is labeled "diesel," I tend to believe that's what it is. Perhaps the original power source was a steam engine, in which case the volunteers need to make that clear in their descriptions. 
The museum does plan to put a pavilion over the sawmill to protect it from the elements. The other structure at the museum is a restored farmhouse. It's set up as a house museum, i.e., it's relatively uncluttered and an effort has been made to have it look as though people are still living there. The overall impression is early 20th century, but it hasn't been strictly curated to limit it to any particular decade. The kitchen, for example, includes a number of items that are clearly mid-20th century or later, but that's another minor quibble. Overall it's very nicely done and well worth visiting if a person happens to be passing through Norway on a day when they're open. Like most of the U.P. museums, they're only open in the summer and then only three days a week. And, despite the face*palm moment at the morning meeting when the subject of having an online presence came up, the Jake Menghini Museum does have a website:


  1. I have shit older than me that should be in a museum.

  2. Love all your outings! Ours always seem to involve riding a bike or going to dance lessons. We need to add some culture to the mix.

  3. Just like in Michigan, here in Maine we have Norway, Sweden, Mexico, can travel around the world and never leave Maine

    Great post.
    the Ol'Buzzard


My space, my rules: play nice and keep it on topic.