Thirty years have passed since the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame moved into the historic Cooley-Haze House in downtown Lansing. Now, it’s time for a new chapter in the museum’s history. The museum will be packing its bags and moving into its new home at the Meridian Mall in Okemos.
“We are really seeing the positive sides of this move,” said Caitlyn Perry Dial, the interim executive director. “We have been here for so long, it really show’s our longevity, and we see this as turning a new page and starting a new chapter in our history.”
The Hall of Fame was outgrowing their space, and in the summer of 2015 they began looking for new places to call home. It wasn’t until it came time to renew their lease that the process was fast-tracked.
“In our negotiations with the city of Lansing for 30 years our rent was only a $1 per year, and in renegotiating our lease they wanted to raise that significantly to over $1,500 per month,” said Dial. “So that was not something feasible for our organization.”
The Meridian Mall and Meridian Township, which jumped at the opportunity, is proud to house the Hall of Fame. The current location at the Cooley-Haze House, located on 213 W. Malcolm X St., doesn’t receive much foot traffic but once the move is complete Dial and the Board of Directors are confident that they will reach a whole new audience. The move will certainly eliminate the problem of accessibility for patrons in wheelchairs and walkers which was a problem at the 1903 home.
“It’s a way of bringing women’s history into the public eye that often gets left out,” said Emily Conroy Krutz, assistant professor of History at Michigan State University. “The mall is an interesting choice; it’s an interesting choice because it’s not a place where I would imagine or think to go automatically. Hopefully, that will mean it gets more traffic and more people will know it’s there.
For those who have visited the museum before may recognize the pastel colored plaques and long bios are their signatures, those will not be making the trip. The museum will be totally re-imagining how the information is displayed, replacing the plaques. Rather than keeping every woman on the wall, new banners will be installed and based on rotating achievement based exhibits so patrons can learn about women in civil rights, sports or other topics.
The new space will actually be a downsize regarding square footage going from about 5,500 sq. feet, including storage space, to about 3,700 sq. feet. But the floor space is significantly larger allowing more exhibits to be featured than ever before.
With April 1 the official closing date, and the 30th anniversary approaching in June, Dial reassured that there would be any no regrets about the move. “There’s zero regrets. This was 100 percent our board. It was a unanimous decision; I am 100 percent on board, Meridian Township is 100 percent on board, the Meridian Mall is on board. So far, no regrets, we are so excited for this partnership.”