An Inside Look at the Archives of Michigan

If you’re a Michigan history buff or just love to discover new things at Michigan museums, then a visit to the Archives of Michigan or the Michigan Historical Museum  in Lansing is sure to pique your interest! Today, Mary Detloff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources takes us deep inside the Archives of Michigan for a look at Pure Michigan way back when. 

Outside the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing, MI

Tucked into a light grey archival box on a shelf in the Archives of Michigan, organized neatly in manila folders, the yellowing onion skin typing paper represents the loving correspondence of a Michigan man and woman, a World War II soldier and his wife.

“Dearest, You know now that the invasion has started …” starts a letter from Charles Westie, a Michigan solider, writing to his wife Ardith on June 6, 1944 – D-Day. During the coming weeks, Westie would serve in combat in France as part of the invasion force that turned the tide in Europe in the Allied Forces’ favor.

The Westie correspondence, between two ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, shows the difficulty of the life of a soldier, waiting in England for his orders to go to battle in Europe, and his wife, waiting anxiously in Michigan for any news from her husband.

Archivist Bob Garret sorting through a photo collection recently donated to the Archives of Michigan.

These letters, along with hundreds of thousands of documents, maps, records, photographs and other ephemera, make up the Archives of Michigan. The Archives holds more than 120 million records that tell the story of Michigan from the encounters of Europeans and Native Americans to records from Governor Jennifer Granholm.

The Archives, the Michigan Historical Museum, and the Michigan Historical Commission all marked their 100th anniversary this past year, coming into existence in 1913 with a law signed by then-Governor Woodbridge N. Ferris.  The law created the Michigan Historical Commission, and directed the body to collect, arrange and preserve historical material related to Michigan and the old Northwest Territory.

”The Archives of Michigan serves as Michigan’s memory.  It holds the historical documents, maps and photographs of state and local governments and private citizens,” said Mark Harvey, state archivist.  “The Archives collections document the tragedies and triumphs of the government and individuals of the State of Michigan.”

Archivist Bob Garrett with an original blueprint for the Michigan State Fairground from 1922.

With documents dating back to 1792, the Archives of Michigan holds a vast selection of historical documents ranging from the original blueprints and architect’s drawings of the Michigan Capitol Building to the papers of former state legislators, to naturalization records from the turn of the century, to more personal collections, such as the Westie letters and a rare diary from a Michigan soldier who witnessed the Philippine-American War in 1899.

The public can access materials from the Archives in a couple of different ways.

Archivist Bob Garrett assisting a researcher in the Archives of Michigan Reading Room.

First, you can visit the Archives of Michigan, located in the Michigan Historical Center, 702 West Kalamazoo, in Lansing. The Archives has a reference room open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The reference room is always manned by two Archives staff members, who are available to assist visitors with records requests. Visitors of all ages are welcome, and typically include attorneys, academics, graduate students, staff from legislators’ offices or state agencies, persons doing genealogy research or younger students.

Some of the more popular records in the Archives have been digitized and are available to the public on the website www.seekingmichigan.org, which is a partnership between the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan History Foundation. Seeking Michigan features 1.2 million records, including items such as searchable Michigan census records from 1884-1894, death records from 1897 to 1920 and a lot of Civil War material.

Seeking Michigan also features an online shop called Michiganology that offers unique products with a tie to the Archives, such as t-shirts and prints featuring brewery labels from early Michigan breweries, which were required to register their labels with the state. The store also sells notecards featuring old trout stamps, items highlighting the Proud Robin (once a symbol of Michigan Week) and many other items. There is also a blog maintained by archivists and staff from the Michigan Historical Museum featuring stories from Michigan’s past.

Have you visited the Archives of Michigan or the Michigan Historical Museum? What interesting items did you see during your visit? 

Mary Dettloff is senior advisor for communications for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a native of Northern Michigan.

Gear Up for Free Fishing Weekend in Pure Michigan

It’s the perfect weather for some ice fishing in Pure Michigan! Today, Elyse Walter from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us how to take advantage of winter fishing opportunities during Free Fishing Weekend February 15 – 16, 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

There are many great things about Michigan, but one of the best is the fact that you can go fishing 12 months out of the year. With a vast amount of water and a multitude of species, there’s never a dull moment for this popular outdoor activity – even when the temperatures dip.

In fact, Michigan’s ice fishing is well known and often something many anglers look forward to each year. Many claim the state’s winter months produce even better fishing than spring and summer – just ask Dale Blakley from Niles who caught the new state record flathead catfish (52 pounds) on January 12 in Barron Lake in Cass County!

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

So while many flock to the lakes once conditions are right, there are other anglers that have never set foot on the ice. It’s quite simple to go ice fishing, with a few pieces of appropriate equipment (including safety items) and lots of warm clothing you can soon be on your way. You’ll have lots of species you can target, including bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike, and lots of ways in doing so, including tip-ups, hook-and-line and spearing.

Need further incentive to drop a line this winter? Try it for free as part of the 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend, coming Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 16. This annual weekend provides two days where no fishing license is required for residents or non-residents – although all regulations still apply.

The Department of Natural Resources coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1994) as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan and allowing people to try the experience for free.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

While many individuals and families will flock to their favorite fishing hole as part of this weekend, others will join official events coordinated throughout the state that will provide hands-on ice fishing experience. An official 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend event list is available online highlighting activities (such as youth fishing tournaments) in many parts of the state, including the counties of Alpena, Arenac, Cheboygan, Clinton, Gogebic, Keweenaw, Macomb, Montcalm, Otsego, Roscommon, Tuscola, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Don’t miss your chance to experience the vast array of Michigan’s winter fishing opportunities. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing!

Have you been ice fishing in Michigan?  Where do you like to fish? 

Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She specifically works with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources. 

 

Fishing in Pure Michigan: An Infographic

With trout, walleyes, salmon, perch, bass and more ready to bite, Michigan is home to the best catches a fishing trip can offer. And with four Great Lakes, 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams, there’s no end to the places to cast your line during your Pure Michigan fishing experience.

We compiled just a few reasons why Michigan is an angler’s dream. To download a full-sized version of the graphic, click here or on the image below.

For more on fishing in Michigan, visit michigan.org.