The Miller Art Museum and the Library: Partners Since 1974

by Elizabeth Meissner-Gigstead, Executive Director, Miller Art Museum

The Miller Art Museum was established in 1974 under the auspices of the Door County Library system and operated under the direction of the Fine Arts Board, a committee of the Friends of the Door County Libraries that was created to set policies and supervise the museum’s operation. An Art Acquisitions Committee was formed in 1975 to acquire artwork as it fit into the budget, and R. Charlie Lyons – a widely beloved, now deceased Door County art historian – was appointed as the museum’s first curator.

Amendments to the Miller’s bylaws in 1993 established a separate board of directors to oversee the institution’s daily operations, and the former Miller Art Center changed its name to the Miller Art Museum to more accurately reflect its purpose as both a cultural and collecting institution. Now it has operated successfully in partnership with the Door County Library and the Sturgeon Bay Library for nearly 50 years! 

The Miller Art Museum was a great gift to our community and a progressive idea for the time. In 2021, it is still a solid, successful model that organizations across the nation seek to develop. It is, without question, an unusual institution. 

During an era when so much uncertainty surrounds the traditional funding model for libraries and museums, there is great inspiration and excitement inherent in the Door County Library partnership, which has evolved and grown since its inception. The economic benefit to Sturgeon Bay and the broader Door County community that has yet to be realized is so exciting.