Recently the American Museum of Magic in Marshall had a secret visitor - a famous illusionist. Museum Administrator Keli Hindenach says she’s not allowed to release the name of the magician. All she can say is that he’s from “outside the continental U.S.”
He was looking to revive an old trick, but no one he had talked to could remember how it worked.
“So he flew in for the day and he went back through our collections and our stacks and we worked with him. And he put together the pieces of the puzzle from several different collections, several different donors had contributed. So we were able to put the puzzle pieces back together and he is incorporating that specific illusion in his act. So that’s something that through having all these different collections in one place, we were able to pull out something that would have disappeared from memory,” says Hindenach.
It’s clear that there’s something brewing at old magic museum. In that same week, the museum was also visited by a curator from Belgium and a professor and historian from San Francisco.
The American Museum of Magic claims to be the second largest magic museum in the world that’s open to the public. The first is in Paris. So, the museum has always been well-known internationally. But Hindenach says recently it has really stepped into the spotlight.
Museum Archivist Alex Copeland says researchers from all over the world have been calling the museum since they held their magic collector’s weekend last May.
“We had over 150 different magic collectors from all around the world who came through the museum and this building. And they really kick-started a process, a chain of people who have been contacting us looking for primary sources on all manner of different magicians and magic tricks from magicians from around the world,” he says.
Hindenach says the museum has grown much more popular with people in Southwest Michigan. With the help of grants from local and statewide arts organizations, the museum added eight new programs last year and 12 this year.
“Things like the Magic for Grownups that’s coming up came out of all the adults bringing their kids and grandkids in and saying, 'Well, I want to play too.' So then we did Team Magic, where and adult and a child can learn together. This year it’s become - we want a date night. So we’re really listening to what- how does the community want to utilize us?" she says.
Hindenach says more programs led to more visitors, more members, more volunteers, and even more funding. Last week the museum announced it would be open daily throughout the summer. Something the museum hasn’t been able to do in its 38 years. The museum will also upgrade two of its exhibits this fall.
“October 31st is the 90th anniversary of Houdini’s death here in Michigan. So the fall we’re going to revamp the exhibit as it has and add these new items - a few of which are not common knowledge and have not been heard or seen anywhere else. So it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be interactive and it’s something that we know is going to have that national, international interest,” says Hindenach.
Hindenach says the museum will also add to its Race and Gender exhibit.
“One of the things that we know is that men and women are equally engaged in magic until they reach high school. So boys and girls are equally interested and at high school the girls drop out. And there’s a lot of STEM concepts that are tied to magic - a lot of the science and physics and things,” she says.
Ultimately, the magic museum wants to renovate its main building to make it more artifact-friendly. Hindenach says so far they’ve raised $7,000 for the roughly $17,000 renovation.
“We have track lighting that we’re adding which is a special kind of museum lighting which is much kinder to the artifacts and helps preserve them better - as well as more comfortable for the visitors. And also heating and air condition the diffused air system is something that’s standard in museums to preserve the artifacts better and also to have a better, comfortable visitor experience,” Hindenach explains.
Hindenach says the museum hopes to raise some of the money at their gala event with magician David Charvet on June 25th.