In 1934, Traverse City Park’s commissioner, Con Foster, had an idea. He wanted to create a park along the lakeshore at the south tip of the West Grand Traverse Bay. The park would have a zoo, a beach house and a historical museum about the region. Over the next several years, Con Foster traveled over 15,000 miles throughout the Midwest buying Native American and pioneer artifacts to display in the Museum. In 1935, the Works Progress Administration built a building to house this collection and it was later named the Con Foster Museum. For the past 70 years this collection has grown to over 10,000 artifacts.
Museum and Con Foster Collection
The Museum of the History Center of Traverse City covers the main themes of the history of the Grand Traverse Region.
The display heralds Traverse City’s hey-day during the logging boom (1850 to 1890) at the height of the Victorian Era. It features fine examples of Victorian style furniture, toys, devices and various decorative items including a vintage hair wreath.
East Gallery – Temporary Exhibits
The east gallery of the Museum is dedicated to quarterly temporary exhibitions. These exhibits deal with specific historical themes of local interest or focus on a type of collection in the Museum. Past exhibits include the history of the National Cherry Festival, handcrafted textiles, summer cottage memories, and vintage fashion. See calendar for what’s on display now and what will be coming in the future.
Native American Display
An exhibition on the early Native Americans and the Anishnabek (Ottawa and Ojibwa) peoples. This display features a wigwam, Neolithic tools and adornments, basketry and beadwork.
This display features photographs of Traverse City’s logging days, logging tools and a painted scene looking at Traverse City from the same spot as the Museum, ca. 1880. It was painted by local mural artist, Joan Bonney.
One Room School House, Blacksmith Shop & Women’s History Project of NW Michigan.
This exhibit is in two parts; a large diorama train set showing how the railroads served Traverse City and a display of railroad equipment and memorabilia from around the region.Most of these artifacts are on loan from the Railroad Historical Society of NW Michigan.
The Con Foster Collection
When Con Foster decided to start the Museum back in the early 1930s, he set it upon himself to collect items related to the Native American cultures of the Midwest and also the pioneer days of Northwest Michigan. He traveled over 15,000 miles to collect hundreds of items. Since the Museum’s opening in 1935, over 10,000 artifacts, photographs and documents have been collected.
- Native American baskets, rugs, stone tools, weapons and ornaments, copper arrowheads, beadwork, etc.
- Tools – Blacksmith, carpentry, leather making, farming, logging and other types of equipment.
- Decorative Arts – Ceramic, silver, and glass.
- Media related materials – Radios, hi-fi equipment, typewriters
- Photographs – thousands showing the history of the Grand Traverse Region
- Vintage clothing and military uniforms
- Local memorabilia