2017 Founders Award presented to The American Museum of Magic

The Board of Governors proudly announces the New England Magic Collectors Association’s 2017 Founders Award has been presented to the American Museum of Magic of Marshall, Michigan.

The Founders Award, an honor newly created this past year and to be presented biennially, was established in memory of Ray Goulet and Ed Hill, two of the Association’s founders and most dedicated and enthusiastic collectors. The award publicly recognizes an individual or an institution for long-standing and exemplary accomplishments in the disciplines of magic collecting and magic history that significantly reflect the mission and ideals of the New England Magic Collectors Association.

The plaque presented to the American Museum of Magic reads as follows:

For 40 years, from April 1, 1978, the date Robert and Elaine Lund 
opened their beloved American Museum of Magic, the museum 
has been the home of the largest publicly displayed, private collection 
of conjuring artifacts, posters, books and memorabilia in the world.

For four decades, the American Museum of Magic has collected and preserved 
rare and valuable treasures from magic’s storied past, becoming an irreplaceable
research center for collectors and historians, as well as a renowned public attraction
celebrating the lives of magicians and their contributions to the art of magic.

The American Museum of Magic is the result of one man’s dedication to celebrating the lives of magicians and to creating a permanent home for their memorabilia. 

For years, Bob Lund had assembled an extraordinary private collection of magic, a collection so extensive it filled the Lund’s suburban Detroit home and had made the creation of a museum a necessity. In September 1972, Bob frankly admitted that he and his wife, Elaine, were concerned about finding a suitable place to preserve the collection for future generations. 

After several years of searching for the right location, the couple settled on Marshall, Michigan, a quiet community of some 7,000 residents, for their museum. As Bob put it, “The vibes were good and the price was right.” He also acknowledged that Marshall valued historic preservation and would be a pleasant place to live.

In 1974, the Lunds purchased an 1868 commercial building located at 107 East Michigan Avenue, the town’s main thoroughfare. A four-year basement-to-roof restoration followed. During this marathon-like effort, the Lunds received considerable help from close friends and supporters, including Jim Alfredson, the 2012 Yankee Gathering Guest of Honor. 

Thus, on Saturday, April 1, 1978, Bob and Elaine hosted an event of no small importance for magic collectors worldwide — the Grand Opening of the American Museum of Magic. 

Bob’s love affair with magic began when he was a child suffering from tuberculosis. In the early 1930s, when he was seven years old, a visiting magician put on a show for the children at the Michigan State Sanatorium at Howell where Bob was a patient. As Bob said, “I don’t remember his name, but that was my inspiration for magic.”

 

As a teenager, Bob realized he lacked the personality to be a successful performer and turned to collecting. And collect he did, in the spirit of a true amateur — for the love of it. He amassed an estimated 750,000 pieces, including approximately 3000 posters, upwards of 10,000 books, some 50,000 photographs, and thousands of letters periodicals, playbills, diaries, manuscripts, route books, scrapbooks, catalogs, toys, magic sets, costumes, props, illusions, films, videos, audio recordings, and sundry pieces of ephemera. Today, the number may be closer to 900,000. 

Bob died unexpectedly in his sleep on October 20, 1995, at age 70. Elaine Lund became the museum’s sole owner and was determined the collection would survive intact and the museum’s doors would stay open. Contrary to Bob’s publicly expressed dislike of institutions, in January 1997, Elaine formed a non profit, tax exempt corporation — yes, an institution — the American Museum of Magic, Inc., and installed herself as President.

Two years later, Elaine purchased the vacated Marshall District Library, one block behind the East Michigan Avenue property, and promptly renamed it the Lund Memorial Library. It is now the repository for the major portion of the collection, including Bob’s file cabinets, a veritable gold mine of folders containing correspondence and ephemera on magicians from A to Z. 

Elaine Lund died at age 79 on May 1, 2006. Several months before her death, knowing the long term survival of the museum was again at stake, she granted ownership of both buildings and the entire collection to the American Museum of Magic, Inc. 

Today, the museum is run by a Board of Directors with professional expertise in administration, conservation, programming, public relations and, perhaps most importantly, fundraising.

Kate Peterson is the museum’s Director. She assumed the post in February 2017, and is fully dedicated to “keeping the spirit of Bob alive.” Yet, as the museum evolves, there are several very real challenges. Of paramount concern is the care of the collection. Conservation and preservation are of primary importance. Furthermore, one of the biggest jobs ahead is making more material accessible by creating a searchable database.

A second major concern is revenue. Because of the modest admission fees, obtaining state and federal grants is essential. So, too, is fundraising, whether through a yearly Gala or an Annual Appeal at the start of the Holiday Season. 

A third major concern is the continual maintenance of the two historic buildings. Neither was built to house rare treasures and ephemera, and money is always necessary for maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the facilities.

As one enters the East Michigan Avenue building on a visit, one is enveloped in a magical realm of striking lithos of illustrious performers such as Herrmann, Kellar, Thurston, Blackstone, and Carter. However, the majority of posters and broadsides mounted on the walls feature the exploits of their lesser known predecessors and contemporaries.

The famous Milk Can and the trunk in which Houdini was locked for his 1912 underwater escape in New York’s East River are among the highlights of the collection, as is the 500-pound bronze sculpture of the Broom Suspension performed by Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company. A number of illusions belonging to Harry Blackstone, Sr., as well as Pete Bouton’s traveling workshop in a steamer trunk, are prominently featured. 

Other significant pieces on display include Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, an exquisite Robert-Houdin wand, a cannon used by Alexander Herrmann bequeathed to Blackstone, Sr., Thurston’s Girl Without a Middle, and Houdini’s Spirit Trumpet. Doug Henning’s Zig Zag Illusion is safely sequestered in Bob’s former library, now a narrow storage area, while awaiting restoration.

Peterson and the current administration are firmly committed to Bob Lund’s lifelong motto, “Cherish the Magician.” They understand, as did Bob, that the lives of all magicians contribute to the rich variety and complexity of magic history, and that as long as magicians are cherished, the work of the American Museum of Magic will never be finished.

The American Museum of Magic is located at 107 East Michigan Avenue, Marshall, MI 49068. Admission is $5.00 for Adults and $3.50 for Children. The museum is open to the public seasonally from April through December. Tours for groups of 10 or more and school tours can be scheduled throughout the year. Researchers should contact the museum for appointments, and research fees may apply. Donations are gratefully accepted. For more information, please visit the museum’s website at www.americanmuseumofmagic.org, email info@americanmuseumofmagic.org, or call (269) 781-7570.

 

 

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