Museum Exhibits

Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective (2018- April 2020)

This traveling exhibit presents the stunning work of pilot John L. Wagner, who photographed every Michigan lighthouse while flying his own Cessna 172 airplane. Mr. Wagner published a hardcover book of his photography in 1993 which became the basis for this exhibition.

With more than 75 aerial photographs on display throughout the museum, an exhibition booklet accompanies the display to provide a location reference and more background about each Light. Additions include models and mementos of the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouses. Visitors can also take a seat to view a selection of aerial drone footage of the St. Joseph Lighthouses, provided courtesy of the Great Lakes Drone Company.



Lighting the Way: Fresnel Lenses from St. Joseph’s Lighthouses

The historical 4th and 5th Order Fresnel lenses from our St. Joseph lighthouses are restored, reunited, and on display at the Heritage Museum!
Fresnel lenses dramatically improved maritime safety and saved countless lives.  Before their invention, lights were equipped with several oil lamps and mirrored reflectors. Invented in 1822 by French physicist Augustin Fresnel, these new lenses projected light nearly 20 miles across the horizon.

St. Joseph is the only community in Michigan to have preserved two of its own Fresnel lenses.  The United States Coast Guard removed one of the historic lenses in 2003 and the other in 2012, replacing them with solar-powered, modern optics. Through an agreement to restore and display the Fresnel lenses, the Heritage Museum received both on long-term loan.





The Big Three: Boat and Shipbuilding in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph

Located in our Research Library, this exhibit features images from collections that were recently donated to the Heritage Museum. These photographs came to the museum in poor condition and the Heritage Museum’s staff spent five months carefully restoring them for preservation, research and display. The exhibit tells the story of the boat-building industry in the twin cities and includes the 1897 Truscott boat that was acquired by the Museum in the early 2000s.




St. Joe Lighthouse Tours Exhibition on the North Pier

An ongoing seasonal exhibit; open hours and tour tickets available at Made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a grant from the Berrien Community Foundation, and a gift from Entergy – Palisades Power Plant.