TUPPER LAKE - After what directors of the Tupper Lake Heritage Museum said was a successful summer, they are passing the winter by seeking donations of artifacts and money.
The museum was open from July 1 through Labor Day, and saw 458 visitors pass through its doors and sign its registry during that time.
"It's been increasing every year," said board Chairman Art Richer.
Visitors frequently told museum volunteers that they were surprised at the extent of artifacts, memorabilia and photos there, Richer said, and the museum board wants to continue to add more.
Richer said he hopes current and former Tupper Lakers will go through their attics, closets and garages during the off-season to find memorabilia and artifacts to donate to the museum. He is looking especially for family members of business and civic leaders, teachers and longtime residents.
Richer said anyone who has something to donate can contact a member of the museum board: himself, Chalice Dechene, Mike Richer, Shirley LaVigne, Judy Frey, Dianne Connor, Florette Rolley or Gail Auclair.
In addition to artifacts, the museum is also looking for monetary donations. Last season, the museum board approved the formation of the Tupper Lake Museum Historical Fund, which will allow people to make donations in memory of a loved one or to honor a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. Richer said it was established to provide for the future preservation of the community's history.
He said people have already made donations in memory of 19 locals, including Nellie Staves and Matt Girouard.
Anyone who would like to make a similar donation can find envelopes at the village or town offices, the Stuart-Fortune-Keough Funeral Home or by calling museum Treasurer Shirley LaVigne at 359-2447.
In addition to setting up the fund, other recent accomplishments for the museum include being listed on the New York Educational and Historical Registry and approved for nonprofit status by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. It also installed an electric chair so people with disabilities can get up the stairs.
The museum has existed for eight or nine years and was first housed in Mike Richer's farm house on Stetson Road. It then floated to a few other places before settling in the downtown fire hall, which the museum board leases from the town.
In the winter, the museum is shut down, sheets are draped over all the artifacts, and the heat is turned off in the building except where two fire trucks are stored downstairs.
The entrance lobby of the museum is dedicated to Lou Simmons, former Tupper Lake Free Press editor and author of the Tupper Lake history book "Mostly Spruce and Hemlock," which was re-released at the end of 2009, who often talked about wanting to create a museum that recounts Tupper Lake history; Ed Timmons, who headed up the Tupper Lake Police Department for many years; and Bill Frenette, former town historian who was on the museum's board until he died in 2007.
Inside the museum, artifacts and photos, including many from former Tupper Lake Free Press photographer Kathleen Bigrow's extensive collection, are arranged to tell the chronological history of Tupper Lake. Richer describes the museum as hands-on.
It covers Tupper Lake's roots as a logging community and addresses the importance of railroads, Sunmount, the Oval Wood Dish, the Big Tupper Ski Area, churches, schools and other companies and organizations to the town.
"We are very proud of our TL Heritage Museum, and we pledge to continue to make it the best possible," Richer said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 25 or