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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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GR Public Museum

GR Public Museum

GRHC - September 29th, 2010

Glance at the Past examines the genesis of our GR Public Museum and an early patron, George Wickwire Smith.    



At an 1856 meeting in the office of John Ball, the Lyceum of Natural History was formed. The society contemplated having both a museum and a library. In 1857 they leased a large room on the second floor of Luce’s Block, recently built on the southwest corner of Monroe and Ottawa.

The newspaper reported that there were many fine specimens of local minerals as well as some rare ones from foreign countries. Other displays included a large collection of birds as well as various reptiles such as snakes, lizards, and frogs. A book was kept that numbered each article on exhibit and where it had been obtained.

At the outbreak of the Civil War the group ceased to exist. But in the meantime, George Wickwire Smith, and a number of other young men, maintained a society called the Kent Institute. In December of 1867 young Smith’s health was failing due to consumption and death was approaching. He knew his society would die with him, but he proposed to the members of the old Lyceum that the two societies should be combined. The very next month in January of 1868 the two became the Kent Scientific Institute.

In hopes of improving young Smith’s health, his family had taken him to Jacksonville, Florida, but he lived only a few months and died at the age of 19. In his last days he wrote to the Kent Scientific Institute and bequeathed his collections to them.

These two organizations became the foundation of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.





Full Details

TitleGR Public Museum
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, museum, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringSeptember 29th, 2010

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