Castle Museum Celebrates Holidays with Christmas Past & Politics

New Winter Exhibits Starting in November

    Additional Reporting by
    icon Nov 02, 2023
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Despite fluctuating temperatures and increasingly shifting skies, one can almost hear sleigh bells in the air as October comes to a close and Saginaw’s Castle Museum busily gears up for the winter holidays with several new exhibits debuting in the month of November.

As they put finishing touches on the traditional Christmas decorations surrounding this stately castle situated in downtown Saginaw, beginning November 1st  the Castle will open a new exhibit  titled Winter Wonderland that evokes memories of Christmas past in time for Saginaw’s Holidays in the Heart of the City festivities on November 17.

Running through the end of January, 2024, this fascinating and evocative Winter Wonderland exhibit invites guests to share memories of winter and the holidays in Saginaw as they stroll through a gallery of over 50 images from the Castle Museum’s collection of Saginaw snowstorms, ice skating, parades, and family Christmas gatherings spanning the past hundred years, allowing patrons to revisit their own memories of winter and ghosts from Christmas’ past on an engaging interactive portion of the display..

According to Vice President and Chief Historian of the Castle Museum, Thomas Trombley, “This exhibit is about showcasing many images from our extensive collection that the public doesn’t often get to see and about playing up those feelings of nostalgia that often come with this season. We will also be featuring a smaller exhibit on ice skating in Hoyt Park alongside Winter Wonderland.”

“This exhibit offers people a wonderful opportunity to showcase highlights from our massive photographic collection of both the wonderful part of the winter holiday season along with its challenges, such as blizzards, road clearing, and some great days for kids to enjoy the weather due to school closings. It’s a great way for people to look back as opposed to forward, as we can’t always predict the winter weather,” he reflects.

“Most of these visual images are cultivated from our collection of photos from the 1950s onward, although we do feature one picture from the late 19th century, continues Trombley. 

“We have wonderful photos of downtown Saginaw during the Christmas season, and of Saginaw’s old Victorian Court House that featured a candy cane walk, and images of Christmas lights on the Water Works building.  One of their earlier displays in the mid-20th Century promoted how Saginaw had the ‘World’s Best Water’, with the completion of the pipeline to Whitestone point, so by projecting many of these images on large screens guests will be able to engage in a very immersive photographic experience.”

According to outreach coordinator Jennifer Vannette, a pair of youth and family events will also be scheduled around this exhibit. On Saturday, December 2nd, from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm the museum will host a ‘Cookies, Cocoa, & Santa’ event with a hands-on history component where kids can create a Victorian Christmas ornament and take their photo with Santa; and then on Thursday, Dec. 28th from 11 am - 1:00 pm during the school break the museum will host a drop-in STEM activity, partnering with the Delta Learning Channel, where they can learn about snow-based science.

Then on Thursday, November 9th, the Saginaw Choral Society is partnering with the Castle Museum to present Jazz Unplugged as part of their ‘Museum Series. Echoing the Candlelight Concerts happening in over 100 cities around the world, guests will be immersed in the Castle’s historic surroundings as they  listen to the Choral Society’s unadorned vocal performances illuminated only by the soft glow of battery-operated candlelight. Included in the Museum series is a pre-concert reception and cash bar at 5:30 PM with musical performances beginning at 6:00 PM. $40 admission includes pre-concert reception. 

Another ancillary exhibition happening at The Castle Museum is titled Skating on Hoyt Park, which according to Trombley, offers a really fun look at the long tradition of skating in Saginaw.  “Before Hoyt Park was built at one time people would actually ice skate on the Saginaw River underneath Genesee Avenue bridge and you could actually stand on the bridge and look down at people skating on really deep water.”

“It wasn’t until Jesse Hoyt gifted Hoyt Park to the city that skating in the park actually happened, because originally it was part of the Bayou System in the county and the city had a terrible time draining the park,” explains Trombley.

“It wasn’t useable until the early 20th century. By the 1920s ads started appearing asking ‘Are You Ready to Skate at Hoyt Park?’, and then by the 1930s the warming house was added to the park as a WPA Works project.  It was an amazing effort to actually drain and then artificially flood Hoyt Park.  Pinning an exact date when Hoyt Park opened is kind of like opening the refrigerator door with a flickering bulb and asking when the light came on. The first instance of it actually becoming a skating venue is hard to say, but by the 1920s it was well-established.”

And last, but certainly not least, as we move into the month of December Castle Museum guests will find the large Centennial Hall gallery filled with a new traveling exhibit starting on December 15th, just in time for winter break.

Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster 1844-2012 will showcase vibrant and creative political posters, many of which were designed by well-known artists such as Ben Shahn and Alexander Calder, amongst others. This exhibit is brought to the museum by Exhibits USA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mid-America Arts Alliance and it will fill Centennial Hall until January 19th.

This is a really exciting exhibit that covers about 170 years of political posters, specifically looking at them as an art form and the development of that visual type of communication and how it was used,” explains Jennifer. “It focuses mainly on prominent national presidential campaigns, but also includes campaigns by people who didn’t win, such as William James Bryan. Another one I’m excited to see is by James Montgomery Flagg, who was a celebrated American illustrator who created the I Want You Uncle Sam draft posters. This collection includes a poster for Franklin D. Roosevelt that he created.”

Featuring approximately 40 pieces, Jennifer says the genesis of political posters as an art from initially started from humble beginnings. “The political poster s a medium really started in the late 1840s and the first surge of using political posters began with the race between Henry Clay vs. James Polk. The Germans developed this lithographic process that enabled the use of more color and detail in the 1880s, and that process came across the ocean and then we started using it here in the United States.”

“It’s interesting to also look at the evolving stylistic changes,” continues Jennifer. “In the 1960s you start to see the ‘floating head’ look and the movement more into photographic images in the 1980s and 1990s. We’ll also be doing activities for kids every day during winter break by having free drop-in make and take activities where they can design their own personal political poster. Kids can open up supplies and become inspired to create what type of poster they would want to design if they ran for president, which will be a fun take-away item.”

The Castle Museum is open seven days a week and is located at 500 Federal Avenue in Downtown Saginaw. For further questions or information, please contact the Museum at 989-752-2861. 

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