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Saugatuck-Douglas History Center Exhibits

Thank you for the response from all of our visitors in 2021! We welcomed 4,500 people into our galleries this season and more than 25,000 engaged with outdoor exhibits and programming. Our galleries will reopen for regularly scheduled hours starting Memorial Day 2022. The Century of Progress exhibit and History Center--School House facilities are open by appointment as well as during special open days to be announced during the winter. Please contact us at for more information.

New for Fall 2021 and 2022 Season A Century of Progress - 100 Years of LGBTQ History in Saugatuck-Douglas

Galleries closed for season except for special events and by appointment. Regular hours to resume in May 2022.

The Century of Progress exhibit at the History Center’s School House gallery in Douglas opened to the public on Saturday, September 4th with a ticketed outdoor preview party on Friday, September 3rd.

Covering over 100 years of history, the exhibit shares the stories of people living in the margins at the Lakeshore in a timeline format with local, state, and national LGBTQ developments included for context. Interpretive panels identify factors that have contributed to the diverse and inclusive nature of these two small Lake Michigan coastal villages alongside historical artwork and artifacts from SDHC collections. The exhibit showcases not only the progress made by the LGBTQ community, but also the challenges it has faced and the setbacks it has endured.

Read more about the exhibit from Michigan Humanities on their blog post from July 2021

Listen to an interview about the exhibit with Shelley Irwin at WGVU from August 2021!

In conjunction with A Century of Progress, the History Center is pleased to present History Book: LGBTQ Portraits on the second floor of the History Center School House. The History Book exhibit features more than two dozen stylized portraits of LGBTQ pioneers—some local—by acclaimed Chicago artist and designer David Lee Csicsko. Biographical and historical information for the exhibit was developed by LGBTQ historian and author Owen Keehnen. Both Csicsko and Keehnen are inductees of Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame.

This activity is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Century of Progress exhibit is also supported with a grant from Michigan Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. West Shore AWARE has also supported this project with grant funding in 2020-2021.

New in 2021: The Historic Demerest Shanty Waterfront Site

Historic Demerest Shanty
In partnership with Retro Boat Rentals
730 Water Street, Saugatuck
Exterior story panels and exhibits now open for walk up viewing year round; interior exhibit open summertime from noon-7 PM Wednesday to Monday. Closed Tuesdays.

The 1940s fishing shanty structure is a rare survivor of Saugatuck's commercial fishing history. In 2020, the History Center engaged in a partnership with local business Retro Boat Rentals and the Harrington family--owners of the boat rental site--to restore the shanty and placed it on a waterfront site with public access. Today you may view an exhibit of interpretive story panels, photographs, fishing artifacts, and a video montage. The exhibit materials are placed inside and around the exterior of the shanty, now called Saugatuck’s Historic Demerest Shanty.

The story of commercial fishing in Saugatuck-Douglas took place over 100 years. From the 1860s through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, commercial fishing operators employed hundreds of people and produced tons of fish for local and regional markets. This came to an end when invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and state regulations favoring recreational fishing all took their toll here and throughout the Great Lakes. The story is told by the Demerest Shanty exhibit, and in more detail in a book published by the History Center to coincide with the exhibit. The book, “Bounty & Bust: Commercial Fishing in Saugatuck-Douglas, 1860-1970,” is available for purchase at the Retro Boat Rentals boathouse as well as at the History Center’s two locations at 735 Park Street in Saugatuck and 130 Center Street in Douglas.

The Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum at Mt. Baldhead

The Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
In the historic Saugatuck Pump House
735 Park Street, Saugatuck
On the west bank of the Kalamazoo River at the foot of Mt. Baldhead Park.
Closed for the season. Regular summertime hours: Friday-Saturday-Sunday from noon until 4 PM from Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day.

Then and Now: Photos from the Archives

Come explore the stories of Saugatuck and Douglas through the history of photography. Featuring images never before publicly displayed -- and probably not originally intended to be -- the exhibit reveals personal views of everyday life as far back as the 1860s. Personal and family photography blossomed when the first easy-to-use, handheld Kodak camera arrived in 1888, making everything and everyone fair game to be caught on film, whether posed or candid, serious or light-hearted. The results create a visual dialogue between past and present that engages viewers to reflect on how things have changed in some ways yet stayed the same in others. A special selection of snapshots will be highlighted as enlarged-print displays accompanied by their stories, and another special grouping will be shown without identity as a creative game inviting visitors to write and post their own captions. Others will be shown with brief captions via video monitor.


The Galleries at the History Center - School House in Douglas

History Center-School House
130 Center Street, downtown Douglas
Open only for special events and by appointment in winter 2021-2022. Past exhibits in 2021 included:

Art of the People: Contemporary Anishinaabe Artists

The newest exhibit at the History Center in Douglas features the artwork of seven artists from the Anishinaabe culture who live in our region. Presented in partnership with the Saugatuck-Douglas-Fennville Arts Initiative this art and history exhibit fills the gallery at the Saugatuck Douglas History Center with sculpture, paintings, beadwork and mixed media. Learn more about the artists and the exhibit here!

Historical Art from the SDHC Collections

The SDHC also features changing exhibits of historical art by artists who lived and worked in the Lakeshore area. Drawn from the growing art collections of the History Center these exhibits help viewers appreciate the connections between historical context of art in the area today.

Open every day! Back-in-Time Garden with Great Lakes History Exhibit Rowing Them Safely Home

A permanent exhibit on the U.S. Lifesaving Service and shipwrecks on Lake Michigan, located on the grounds of the Old School House. View the restored 1854 Francis Metallic Surfboat from Saugatuck Harbor, an all-iron lifesaving boat — one of America’s first official life boats, surrounded by Lake Michigan shipwreck and lifesaving stories.

Surrounding the Old School House and Shipwreck Exhibit is the The Back-in-Time Garden Pathway, where visitors discover more about natural and cultural history.

Find More Exhibits Online!

Download our free mobile app to view more virtual exhibits, take a walking tour of the Back-in-Time Garden, and more! Available for free download on Apple and Android devices.

Learn more about past Museum exhibits

2017-2018 Exhibit - Cold War Hot Towns: Sugatuck-Douglas in the 1950-1970s

2015 Exhibit - Water: A River, a Lake, a Place, called Saugatuck-Douglas

2014 Exhibit - Dunelands 2: Footprints on the Sand

2013 Exhibit - Dunelands: Footprints on the Sand

2012 Exhibit - Village Occupations from the Past

2011 Exhibit - Off Season

2010 Exhibit - A Place Called Ox-Bow

2009 Exhibit - Summertime