Six Fascinating Artifacts to See at the Michigan Historical Museum

A day spent exploring a Michigan museum can cure your cabin fever in a hurry! Guest blogger Mary Dettloff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources give us some inside information on what you’ll find at the Michigan Historical Museum this winter and beyond. 

Michigan Historical Museum

Michigan Historical Museum

The end of the U.S. Civil War, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the economic boom in post-war Michigan – these facets of American history are all examined in a new special exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum called “Conceived in Liberty.”

The exhibit takes its themes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It opens with the Battle of Gettysburg and follows Michigan soldiers through the end of the war. There are stories of cavalrymen in battle, engineers and mechanics building bridges, Native Americans serving in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters and Michigan’s 102nd U.S. Colored Troops.

The exhibit then turns to the war’s end and the following two decades. It includes artifacts associated with Lincoln’s assassination, stories of Michigan’s economic expansion and diversity, and illustrations of equality and inequality following the war. The final segment, which includes the Civil War flag exhibit area, focuses on how we have remembered the war.

Some of the special artifacts included in the exhibit are:

1. An 1863 newspaper from Vicksburg, Mississippi, printed on the back of wallpaper because there was no newsprint available due to the Union siege.

2. A rosette from the casket of Abraham Lincoln. Dell Root Howard, who graduated from Coldwater High School in 1876, donated the rosette to the Coldwater Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which in turn donated to the Michigan Historical Museum in 1941. It is unknown how Howard came to possess the rosette. She was 8 years old the year Lincoln was assassinated. An illustration of Lincoln lying in state shows a very similar rosette as part of the casket presentation.ConceivedInLiberty-20141003-5273_rosette_small

3. An invitation received by U.S. Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan to attend President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral services at the White House on April 19, 1865. The card is on loan from the Library of Congress.

4.  A lady’s jacket said to be worn by a Michigan resident who was at Ford Theater the night President Lincoln was shot there.


5. A headband created by Michigan Indians from Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters for their commander, Colonel Charles V. DeLand.

6.  A tobacco pouch carried by abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth, who lived in Battle Creek after the war. She traveled to Kansas in 1879 in support of the “Exodusters,” blacks who fled the south after federal troops were withdrawn at the end of Reconstruction.

Sojourner Truth Tobacco Pouch

Family programming related to exhibit is being offered through the summer of 2015. For more information on the popular “Second Saturdays” program, go to

The Michigan Historical Museum is located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. near downtown Lansing. Weekdays during the school year, the museum is busy hosting students from across the state on educational field trips. Weekends and summer months are less crowded. The museum is an easy drive from the Grand Rapids and metro Detroit regions.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free. General admission fees for the Michigan Historical Museum, which include the special exhibit, are $6 for adults 18-64, children through age 5 are free, youth ages 6-17 are $2, and seniors 65 and up are $4. Annual passes are available, and there is no admission charge on Sundays.

Have you ever made a visit to the Michigan Historical Museum? 

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

Be A Tourist in Your Own Town with Fun Events in Lansing and Port Huron

If you’re near Lansing or Port Huron in the upcoming weeks, be sure to plan some time to take a “staycation!” These two Michigan cities will host “Be A Tourist in Your Own Town” events that will showcase all the great things to see and do in their respective areas when you want to get away without going far.  We asked Lori Lanspeary from Greater Lansing CVB and Judi Stewart from Blue Water Area CVB to give us the inside scoop on what to expect.


Child_CapitolThis year, Lansing will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its ‘Be A Tourist in Your Own Town’ event! What started out as a great way to promote the tourism assets of Lansing during National Tourism Week with a mere 12 attractions open in the downtown area twenty years ago, has now grown to a region-wide celebration of over 70 cool things to see and do in the Lansing region.

The event is set for Saturday, May 31st from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Lansing residents and visitors are encouraged to purchase a ‘passport’ for one dollar and gain entry to all the participating attractions for free that day.

PotterPark04Of course the most popular and well-attended attractions include most of the originals such as Potter Park Zoo, Impression 5 Science Center, Michigan Historical Museum and the State Capitol – but this year, some great new spots have been added to the itinerary such as a tour of Red Cedar Spirits, home to the MSU artisan distillery program. Or how about taking a free sailboat ride courtesy of the Lansing Sailing Club on Lake Lansing? Or a free pedal boat rental at Holt’s Burchfield Park? Wine tastings? Yep, Lansing’s got you covered at Burgdorf’s Winery. Or head to the campus of Michigan State University to handle some real live bugs, fly through the solar system at Abrams Planetarium or stand in the shadow of a dinosaur at the MSU Museum.

Buses are continuously circling four routes that will get you to the majority of the attractions. Pay 50 cents and ride the BATYOT designated busses all day.

Of course it wouldn’t be a passport without collecting stamps. Collect 10 or more stamps from participating attractions on the back of your passport and you can enter to win fun prizes. In celebration of the 20th year of Be A Tourist, 20 golden tickets have been randomly included in 20 of the passports sold prior to the event that are redeemable for a $20 Visa gift card.

This event is not just for residents of the area. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the plethora of things to see and do and get inspired to make plans to return!

For everything you need to know about the 20th Be A Tourist In Your Own Town check out the website.

Port Huron

IMG_7199Port Huron’s “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” event is happening June 7, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a chance for visitors and area residents to discover and rediscover the attractions and history that make Port Huron the Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes.

The event will feature many signature attractions of Port Huron. Drive or board the free trolleys and buses that will run continuously between points of interest, get on and off as you wish. Explore the River Walk, tour Michigan’s oldest working lighthouse, see how a Sea Cadet training ship operates, and learn the history of ice harvesting. Visit the original depot Thomas Edison worked in as a young inventor and dig for fossil at the science museum. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Port Huron has a variety of downtown restaurants and a new collection of outdoor art sculptures located throughout the city. Most attractions are free or discounted for the day!

Tour Stops Include:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.01.59 AMBlue Water Trolley and Bus Transfer – Chamber of Commerce-north / McMorran Place-south.  Downtown a place to explore shop and dine many new and unique restaurants
YMCA of the Blue Water Area – Austin Martiny Water Safety Class
Blue Water River Walk – Grand Opening Celebration 10 am -2pm, Official Ceremony 11 am
Vantage Point / Great Lakes Maritime Center - Flower Market and Entertainment, Great Lakes Nautical Society – ship models, Antique Outboard Motor Club – display, River Day- Kids free fishing clinic
Studio 1219 - Art Exhibits, pottery demonstration, make a tile
Carnegie Center – Historical and Maritime Museum
Huron Lady II  – The Huron Lady II will have 6 special one-hour cruises at 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Gray Fox Sea Cadet Training Ship – Docked on the Black River next to Zebra Bar on Quay St.  See how a training ship operates.
Knowlton Ice MuseumLearn about the natural ice industry, at one time one of the ten largest U.S. industries, short film, Twin Pines Farm Dairy display, kids crafts
McMorran Tower – Climb 188 steps for a bird’s eye view of the City
SC4 Natural Science Museum – “The Making of a Fossil: A Michigan Legacy” exhibit, fossil dig and other kid’s science activities
Huron Lightship Museum – Only remaining Lightship on the Great Lakes served as a floating lighthouse.  For 36 years it guided mariners into the narrow channel of lower Lake Huron.
Pine Groove – Electronic music festival located in Pine Grove Park, 3 music stages, exhibits, food & beverage, vendors, kids’ activities
Thomas Edison Depot Museum Edison conducted his first electrical and scientific experiments in Port Huron. View a film of young Tom Edison’s boyhood.
Fort Gratiot Light Station Grounds – Lighthouse climb and tour, Tourist Trot – 5K run for adults and youth, plus a shorter 2K Fun Walk (

Learn more about Port Huron’s “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” here.

Have you ever taken a “staycation” in your hometown? What did you do?

Be A Tourist in Your Own Town: Explore the Art Scene in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids

Vacations are not only fun, but they are good for you.  Studies suggest that taking a vacation is good for your health and helps to boost happiness.  While weeklong getaways to far-away destinations are popular, you can often find a great getaway by being a tourist in your own town.

Weekends are a great time to plan a “staycation” and in our new series, Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, we’ll be highlighting some of the great things to do, when you want to get away without going far.  

Exploring the arts and culture scene is not only enjoyable, it can help you learn things you didn’t know. Try visiting a museum or an art exhibit that you haven’t been to, or find a place where you can create artwork of your own. We’ve put together some suggestions for exploring the art scene in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids. You may even discover a favorite gem that was hiding in plain sight. After all, there’s no place like home.

Ann Arbor

Take a tour of Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor


Photo courtesy of Motawi Tileworks

Motawi Tileworks is an art tile manufacturer on the west side of Ann Arbor. This locally owned, nationally known art studio creates unique handmade tile reflecting the classic styles and craftsmanship of 20th Century American design. The company’s team of talented artisans uses locally produced clay and glazes hand-mixed to their own recipes to make Motawi tiles. The tiles are created for distinctive installations and as art pieces. Fun and educational guided tours are free every Thursday at 11am, no reservations required. Private tours are available by appointment for a minimum fee of $50, which includes up to ten people. $5 per person after ten people.

Ann Arbor Art Center

This unique gallery shop offers original, one of a kind artwork, fiber, jewelry, ceramics and paintings from local and regional artists. The exhibition gallery showcases the talents of different Michigan artists each month in individual and group exhibits and themed competitions. ArtVentures, an art activity studio, invites children and adults to drop in and learn about art around the world through fun, educational, hands-on projects! Group bookings are available.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after your tour, Ann Arbor is also a great culinary destination with restaurants that will satisfy any palate.


Take an afternoon to explore the Eli and Edyth Broad Museum in East Lansing

 The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is a venue featuring international contemporary art. It serves as a hub for the cultural life of Michigan State University, the local and regional community, as well as international visitors. The unique building, designed by the world-renowned, Pritzker Prize winning architect, Zaha Hadid opened to the public in the Fall of 2012. Open Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is free except for some special events.

Visit Lansing’s Saper Galleries


Photo courtesy of Saper Galleries

Saper Galleries is an award-winning gallery which features high-quality works of art of all media. Since 1978 Saper Galleries has been a leader in making available works of art by noted artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Peter Max, Pissarro, Alvar, Norman Rockwell and many other superb artists who are not yet as well known.

After a leisurely stroll through the gallery, try out a unique farm-to-table dining experience at Red Haven.

Grand Rapids

Explore the exhibits at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) collection spans Renaissance to Modern art, focusing in on European and American 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture including The Works on Paper Study which features more than 3,500 prints, drawings and photographs. The Grand Rapids Art Museum also serves as a unique gathering place in the heart of downtown with exhibitions, programming, and special events designed to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Hop on the Tram at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a botanical garden and sculpture park that serves more than a half-million visitors annually. The 132-acre grounds feature Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; one of the largest children’s gardens in the country; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens; and a 1900-seat outdoor amphitheater, featuring an eclectic mix of world-renowned musicians every summer. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, di Suvero, Borofsky, Calder and Chadwick.

Wander through Grand Rapids Public Museum


Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Museum

This education and entertainment center offers exhibits that display community treasures and explore the regions natural environment. It includes an operating 1928 carousel and the Chaffee planetarium that is equipped with the latest technology, a digital sound system and multiple video players, with numerous special effects.

Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids.

Be sure to check out the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on your way.

Downtown Market features 25,000 square feet of market space, a restaurant, a brewery, a farmer’s market, retail shops, a commercial kitchen, a rooftop greenhouse and the country’s first hands-on kitchen for kids. Visit the outdoor market where you’ll discover (and devour) the best in Michigan produce. And while you shop, why not have a seat and enjoy the talents of local entertainers. The Market Hall hosts a culinary collective of butchers, bakers, fishmongers and more. Stay awhile and enjoy all 138,000 square feet of our food lover’s heaven. Check the website for hours

Grand Rapids is also home to a number of great local breweries to quench your thirst after a long day of exploration. Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Co. and Grand Rapids Brewing Co. are just a few that helped shape Grand Rapids into Beer City USA 2013.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. For more information, visit

 Have you taken a “staycation” in your neighborhood? Let us know about some of your local favorites.