This year is really big for the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum at Put-in-Bay as the buzz surrounding the 200th anniversary of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's great victory at the Battle of Lake Erie reaches a crescendo in September with a re-enactment of the engagement that assured American control of Lake Erie and the route to the then-young country's western frontier.
Visitors can see many of the museum's most important artifacts from the Perry's life and times as well as many other unique items relating to Perry's victory on display this summer.
Museum director Dan Savage spent a couple of hours with us earlier this summer pointing out highlights of the museum's collection related to Perry and other important people, places and things in Lake Erie Islands' history.
Some of my favorite things in the museum's collection relating to Perry included his personal fire bucket (which I suspect saw action in fire brigades of the day when volunteers rushed to fight fires within the community), a large banner celebrating the 1913 centennial of the Battle of Lake Erie, and a watercolor rendering of the original plan for Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial scrapped for a design later chosen by a contest mounted by the Federal government.
As important as Perry and the Lake Erie victory is to the area's history, the 6,000-square-foot museum has plenty of artifacts relating to other events and eras in Lake Erie Islands' life.
Lighthouse fans will appreciate seeing the original Fresnel lens from the 1898 South Bass Island lighthouse and boat lovers will appreciate seeing ship models, life rings and other maritime memorabilia related to Put-in-Bay's legendary pleasure cruise boats.
Savage told us the museum was putting together a display of vintage Put-in-Bay souvenirs like salt and pepper shakers, scarves and dishes like the souvenir plate I bought for my mom many years ago when I took my first solo vacation to Put-in-Bay.
Items relating to Put-in-Bay's time as an elegant Victorian-era resort particularly fascinated me (a story I intend to write more about at a later date).
The museum opened in 1987 and moved to its current location next to the historic Town Hall and Opera House after historical society members raised enough money to build a bigger building.
A volunteer-run resale store next door and a major auction of donated items each year helps fund the museum's operation.
Museum visitors should check out the short film about Put-in-Bay history that plays in a small theater near the museum entrance.
The museum also has a genealogical data base of more than 14,000 islands residents, as well as their ancestors and descendents from early settlers to more recent summer cottage residents.
Curious to see if you are part of Commodore Perry's family? Check out the large list of Perry family members and descendants on the museum's Web site.
There are also some other fun things on the museum's site like an interactive "Grand Theft Golf Cart" game. The game takes visitors on a golf cart trip (the ubiquitous means of transportation around Put-in-Bay) around South Bass Island, accompanied by a sound track of music from island artists that include tunes like "Fish Are Stupid", ""Friends of the Bay", "I Left Catawba" and "They Towed My Car Away". Players choose the route through numerous intersections and get a great virtual tour of the entire island.
Check out the nice selection of books and other items at the museum's gift shop. Tim bought the "Don't Give Up the Ship" flag here he'd had his eye on when we saw it on numerous homes and businesses in Put-in-Bay.
The museum is open daily June through August and on weekends in May and September. Call for other times the rest of the year.
Admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors or $5 per family.
Want to learn a little more about Put-in-Bay and its Victorian-era history? Check out Lost Stories: Yesterday and Today at Put-in-Bay by Ronald L. Stuckey.
Thanks to the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Visitors Bureau and Miller Ferries for sponsoring my visit to Put-in-Bay, providing lodging, ferry transportation, help arranging visits to South Bass Island and Put-in-Bay attractions for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinions about the stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.
© Dominique King 2013 All rights reserved