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Dearborn Stories: Growing Up at the Dearborn Historical Museum

Jennifer Ganem reflects on her time as a Junior Historian.

There was a time when the was able to support the operation of a youth group, known as the Dearborn Junior Historians. Geared for junior and senior high school students, this was an organization that both my brother Hank and I had the opportunity to be affiliated with for many years.

Jr. Historians met on Fridays after school, and were involved with supporting the museum in many ways. We assisted with ‘spring cleaning’ of exhibits at the McFadden-Ross house, Commandant’s Quarters and the Annex, and helped prepare for other exhibits by making signage, removing/replacing items from storage and assisting with accessioning.

One of our annual fund raising events to support the costs of some activities was a geranium sale that took place on the front lawns of both museum locations just prior to Mother’s Day each May. It is hard for me to encounter the smell of a geranium and not be reminded of those sunny spring days moving flats of flowers and helping buyers load their vehicles.

Jr. Historians helped to construct and decorate many City of Dearborn floats that appeared in the Memorial Day parade, and we rode on those floats as well, often dressed in costumes from the Museum’s collections. We were actively involved with Dearborn’s 50th Anniversary celebration and with the Festival of Wheels, a precursor event to what is now the Dearborn Homecoming Festival.

We learned to greet guests visiting the Museums, were able to provide information and tours of the facilities and helped out in the gift shops. It was always a treat to bring along an extra nickel or dime and to buy a candy stick out of one of the lidded glass jars on the counter of the gift shop. Sassafras would always be my first choice of flavor and I would consider how it could be possible that sassafras was derived from a tree.

What is interesting about the Jr. Historian group was that it had to be limited to the number of participants simply due to the amount of space available to meet within the museum. Yet, there was usually a significant waiting list of other students who wanted to join; if a member was not attending regularly, their spot was quickly taken by a student anxious to join.

While the Jr. Historian’s was formed by Jack Tate many years before I became a member in the late 1970s, and that the group went on for some time past that, it sadly was no longer an activity that would remain available for the next generation of Dearborn children, nor for my own children, to enjoy as I did.

As I reflect on some of the current challenges being faced by our Historical Museum and financial issues that our city is dealing with, I wonder how different the situation would be if the Jr. Historians had been able to continue? How much more involved would the next generation of Jr. Historians have been to today’s museum? How many more volunteers would be working there, how many more researchers would be exploring the archives, how many more donations would be shared and how many more collections would be being gathered and offered for exhibition?

”As I reflect on some of the current challenges being faced by our Historical Museum ... I wonder how different the situation would be if the Jr. Historians had been able to continue."

It is sad that when Dearborn residents are surveyed as to what services they want to keep or no longer support, that our museums, collections and archives are being disregarded by many as not important. How can that be?

As a community, we are who we are based on those who have gone before us. When the Nowlin family walked through our heavily forested land, began to knock down trees and built their bark covered house, they were shaping what our community has become. And they were not the first, nor the last, but we have all of those who have gone before us to thank.

Today we are gathering stories of Dearborn, telling who we are, documenting our memories to share with one another. This book we are compiling is exactly what a museum should be; a place to find a story, a memory and an example of times gone by.

It is time for Dearborn to start again. We need to look to our children and to demonstrate why history is important. We need to remember the efforts of the many people who have taken the time and effort to preserve all that has been preserved for us, and to know that it is our responsibility to preserve it for others. Dearborn, it is time to look in OUR museum and find ourselves. We are there.

Jennifer (Czerwick) Ganem
Dearborn resident

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