ZEELAND — The Zeeland Historical Society, which manages the Dekker Huis Museum and the New Groningen Schoolhouse, has hired its first full-time executive director and full-time museum manager.
The Zeeland Historical Society's management of the museum and its programming has been volunteer-led for much of the organization's history.
In 2019, the nonprofit began raising funds to hire a professional director. The effort was led by former Zeeland mayor Les Hoogland and retired Zeeland Chamber of Commerce president Ann Query.
After raising enough for several years' salary, the historical society selected Katelyn Bosch VerMerris for the role.
VerMerris holds a bachelor's degree in history and strategic communications from Calvin University and a master's degree in public history from West Virginia University and has previous experience working with the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, Lowell Historical Society and ArtPrize.
Before she was hired, VerMerris had been a member of the Zeeland Historical Society for two years.
"I really enjoyed the work that they were doing in that role as a member and the programming that they were putting out for the community was very good for the resources that they had," VerMerris said.
"I didn't grow up in Zeeland, but I had spent a lot of time here because my dad works at Herman Miller, and I know for being a small community it's a very robust community. The city has done a great job with building events and a community presence here, so I was excited to be a part of that momentum and that community growth."
VerMerris will oversee the society's marketing, fundraising and new initiatives, as well as manage rentals and growing programming at the New Groningen Schoolhouse, a restored 140-year-old schoolhouse in Holland Township.
The schoolhouse is already host to school visits and occasional event rentals, although those were paused last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, the nonprofit hopes to expand its use.
"We're hoping to develop more lecture series there and other sorts of creative kids' programming, as well as continue its use as a rental space," VerMerris said.
Under VerMerris's direction, the historical society hopes to become even more deeply engaged with the Zeeland community, including the schools, local businesses and city government.
One of the long-term goals is the development of a visitor's center for the city of Zeeland.
"The idea is that the museum will be the tourist hub, you could say the first point of entry into Zeeland, as Zeeland grows," VerMerris said. "We have a really great collection, and we want to be able to showcase that more with exhibits and programming and hopefully work with the city and other organizations to do that, and just be a bigger community presence."
New developments at the Zeeland Historical Museum, which will mark its 45th anniversary this year, include expanded hours. The museum is now open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
In addition to the new executive director, the museum's part-time staffer, Audrey Rojo, was promoted to full-time museum manager in January.
Rojo has been an archivist and researcher for the museum for several years. She will continue to curate the museum's exhibits and develop the archival collection in addition to recruiting and training volunteers and interns.
“The Zeeland Historical Society has been privileged to provide a historical museum and educational programs to the community, and we are thrilled to see where this professional leadership will take us," said Debbie Albert, Zeeland Historical Society board president, in a press release announcing the hires. "As we move forward, we continue to be better equipped to preserve our treasured past and make important connections to our present and future.”
Muyskens, Carolyn. “Zeeland Historical Society Hires Director, Museum Manager.”
The Holland Sentinel, April 21, 2021.