The Twin Ports are situated on the shore of the biggest freshwater lake by surface area in the world, and with that comes a long heritage of the Ports of Duluth and Superior.
The Lake Superior Maritime Museum Association looks to preserve that heritage. LSMMA is an organization whose main goals include preservation of maritime heritage (of both the ports and the lake), preservation of maritime artifacts, funding educational and promotional programs dealing with the Great Lakes, and Lake Superior specifically.
LSMMA generates revenue to achieve these goals through visitors to the various museum attractions, such as the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center, the William A. Irvin Ship Museum, S.S. Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum, and more.
Thom Holden, the Visitor Center director and ex-officio member of LSMMA, credits the increasing number of visitors to the proximity of Duluth to the Twin Cities.
“It only takes one tank of gas to get here [Duluth] and back to Minneapolis, and you don’t have to stay overnight,” Holden said. “It’s a quick trip, but it still feels like you’re going somewhere, and it is a lot of very interesting information.”
Although the Visitor Center is free of charge, one thing that produces revenue is the gift shop inside. The William A. Irvin Ship Museum and S.S. Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum also generate revenue through ticket sales. These costs are motivating factors for people to become members of the LSMMA.
Becoming a basic member includes benefits such as complimentary tickets to both ship museum, discounts in gift shops, and discount rates at local hotels. Spending more money and becoming a premium or lifetime member offer more benefits, such as gift packages or plaque recognition (for life members).
The LSMMA also generates revenue through fundraisers, the biggest of which is the Gales of November, held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
The Gales of November is a fundraiser that commemorates shipwrecks, maritime and anything else to do with Lake Superior. The event brings in organizations to set up informational booths, and also features keynote speakers such as Mike Link and Kate Crowley, recent circumnavigators of Lake Superior.
Since the LSMMA is a non-profit organization, the funds are distributed to many outlets. They use them for upkeep of the Visitor Center and museums, as well as to sponsor events such as the Gales of November. Funds also go toward scholarships that are given to students attending the Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Visitor Center also offers many programs to schools and community members. They have more than two dozen informational programs and videos such as “Who’s In Charge?” which shows what it’s like to work on a Great Lakes ship, and “With All Hands,” which explores the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
These programs are all free of charge and are offered to any schools and community groups who plan a visit. LSMMA is also working on establishing an evening entertainment series program in 2011.
The LSMMA hopes to keep growing and gaining recognition for the museums and the association.
“We went from about 400,000 guests in the early 2000s to about 460,000 guests to the Visitor Center last year,” Holden said. “We hope to get 500,000 by the end of this year and keep growing more and more.”
Click here to learn more about The Gales of November and listen to speakers from last year's event.
Click here to get a glimpse inside the LSMMA visitors center in Canal Park and view an interview with LSMMA Park Ranger Kevin Gange.
Want to read more about Northland museums? Click here!