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Officials reveal plans for lake-related museum in Toledo

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the Great Lakes Historical Society have signed off on an agreement that will bring the society's museum — now in Vermilion, Ohio — to the Toledo Maritime Center, where the Willis B. Boyer museum ship also will be relocated after restoration.

During a news conference Thursday morning, port and historical society officials said the planned National Great Lakes Museum will open in 2012 with all-new exhibits from the society's collection of artifacts, while the Boyer will be overhauled this fall and winter and re-christened next summer with its original name, the Col. James M. Schoonmaker.

"Great Lakes history is critical to our nation's history, and it's critical to Toledo's history," said Chris Gilchrist, the society's executive director. The museum also will become "the epicenter of Great Lakes historical research," he said, with the society moving its "vast manuscript collection" and underwater archeology program to Toledo.

The society is in the midst of raising $1.2 million to $2 million needed to move its collection and is reviewing proposals from five national exhibit design firms, Mr. Gilchrist said.

"We're not just bringing out our stuff from Vermilion," he said. "We're going to create an entirely new experience."

Port authority officials said the museum will occupy the entire Maritime Center, which was built last decade using primarily federal grants for developing ferry terminals. Its exhibits will be set up in such a way that ferry operations will remain practical should such a service be developed in Toledo, said Paul LaMarre III, the port authority's manager of maritime operations.

"This will allow Great Lakes ferry-service passengers to witness Great Lakes history before they travel across the serenity of the Great Lakes," Mr. Lamarre said.

The historical society's longer-range plans call for building a 29,000-square-foot expansion to the Maritime Center, nearly doubling its size to accommodate larger exhibits and events.

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