In 1934, Traverse City Park’s commissioner, Con Foster, had an idea. He envisioned 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.
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. Seasonal exhibits are displayed in the Rotunda, a signature architectural feature of Andrew Carnegie designed buildings.
The display showcases Traverse City’s height of the Victorian Era. Featuring original pieces of Victorian style furniture, toys, devices and various decorative items.
Native American Display
An exhibition on the early Native Americans and the Anishinabek (Ottawa and Ojibwa) people. This display features a wigwam, Neolithic tools and adornments, basketry and impressive beadwork.
A historic collection of train related items 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 conceived 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