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Saugatuck-Douglas History Center Exhibits

The Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum at Mount Baldhead Park

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.
NOW OPEN for 2023! Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday from noon until 4 PM.

The Lure of Mount Baldhead

The Lure of Mount Baldhead exhibit at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum NOW OPEN!

This new exhibit highlights the iconic dune feature and why it has attracted people to this location. In doing so it delivers a better understanding of Mount Baldhead through its history, its natural formation, and its cultural significance to the community. Large scale 360-degree panoramic views taken by Saugatuck photographer and SDHC board member James Cook give soaring and accessible views from the summit of the dune. The gallery also features a recreated viewing tower offering visitors the experience of climbing Mount Baldhead.


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

CONTINUING FOR 2023 Season A Century of Progress - 100 Years of LGBTQ History in Saugatuck-Douglas

History Center in Downtown Douglas

In the historic Douglas Union School
130 Center Street, Douglas
Hours by appointment until June 1.

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.

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 during Retro Boat Rentals business hours.

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 Galleries at the History Center - Douglas

History Center-Douglas
130 Center Street, downtown Douglas

Historical Art from the SDHC Collections

The SDHC galleries in Douglas feature 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.

Past exhibits in 2021 included:

Art of the People: Contemporary Anishinaabe Artists

The 2021 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 filled the gallery at the Saugatuck Douglas History Center with sculpture, paintings, beadwork and mixed media. Learn more about the artists and the exhibit here!

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.