For the Appleton Historical Society, establishing a museum to encapsulate and preserve the city’s history has been a dream since before they first formed in 2011. After years of planning, that dream came true on July 20, 2017.
“In 2010, a group of us said the Outagamie County Society is fine, but that’s the whole county,” says Tom Sutter, Appleton Historical Society president. “There has to be a place that just focuses on Appleton history.”
While the Society’s board of directors is now able to meet at the central museum location on Durkee Street, before it was established, the society hosted presentations and board meetings in public areas like the Appleton Public Library, Atlas Mill, Thompson Community Center and now St. Bernadette Parish, where interest gradually grew.
But after a while, Sutter says that more and more often, they kept hearing the same question: “Where are you located?”
Having enough interest, production on the building began in August. Much of the work, Sutter says, was the regulations and compliances required to open the museum publicly, which took almost a year.
So far, Sutter says the greatest benefit has been being able to have a centralized set of exhibits showcasing Appleton’s history. Currently on exhibit is a photo wall with old black-and-white images of areas in Appleton, a room of Appleton maps from the 1840s to 2007, vintage items manufactured locally and important music groups from Appleton.
But Sutter says having the physical location has been beneficial because they’re more able to get the word out about the Historical Society.
“The membership for last year was 108, but over , it went up to 137,” Sutter says. “People see the building where, besides social media, there wasn’t a physical presence.”
Now that the museum has opened, Sutter says the museum is more able to preserve the memory of Appleton than ever with its wider circulation.
“We appreciate the chance to show people who we are,” Sutter says, “and hopefully by the end of the year, our membership will be 175.”
Those interested can find the museum at 128 N. Durkee Street Thursday through Friday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-4 pm. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.