We are continually trying to tweak and improve the SeekingMichigan web site.  To date, we’ve put out over a million records and images online.  We hope to launch an e-commerce module in the next month, and then look at comments, ratings etc.  We have also begun to build out resources like our Michigan County Clerks map.  More of this type of material will be available soon.

Reaching People

In the end though, our goal is VERY simple: to reach people with stories and resources about Michigan.  So we are especially tickled when the people from the stories reach back.  A recent example is Archivist Bob Garrett’s article on the 1961 Miss Michigan, Karen Southway  (here’s the article).

Karen Southway Dewert, Miss Michigan 1960

Upon publishing the blog article on seekingmichigan.org, we quickly had a comment posted stating “I’m flattered please write”  Turns out, the comment was from Karen Southway Dewert, Miss Michigan 1961 herself.  Here is a little snippet of Karen’s message:

WHAT A CRAZY WORLD WE LIVE IN.. MY BROTHER, WHO LIVES IN AZ. FORWARDED THIS TO ME IN CHICAGO…AND YES, I FOUND TIME TO MARRY ROGER DEWERT IN JULY OF ’64.(HE PASSED JAN ’06)  WE HAD 3 FABULOUS CHILDREN, NOW IN THEIR 40’S. I BECAME A PROFESSIONAL MAKE-UP ARTIST AND PAGEANT COACH..AND MOST RECENTLY, PHOTOGRAPHER AND PHOTO EDITOR.  LAST AUGUST I CELEBRATED 47 YEARS IN THE BUSINESS. HAVE HAD MANY WINNERS; BUT THE ONES I MOST LIKE MENTIONING ARE THE THREE MISS AMERICAS I ASSISTED TO THE CROWN..MARJORIE VINCENT 1990, KATE SHINDLE 1997 AND ERICA HAROLD 2003.  JUST TO THINK THAT IN ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF, IT WILL BE 50 YEARS AGO THAT I WAS CROWNED MICHIGAN…..SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY….WHERE DID THOSE DAYS GO?  -KAREN
We keep plugging away at seekingmichigan.org.  Adding new content, thinking of new ways to serve the public.  I’m personally looking forward to a story in January about winter golfing–on a lake.  Join us and let us know what you think.  If you have comments or suggestions please share them with us.

The LANSING CITY PULSE magazine published one of our staff’s article on Lansing’s
African-American neighborhoods this week. You can read that at the CITY PULSE website.

This is one in a series of Lansing history articles. You can link to others via
the Archives of Michigan homepage

Getting back into the swing of things…

Greetings from the Archives of Michigan. Yes, I am still here plugging away. We finished an extremely busy fall which included over 20 Family History Month programs in October and a flurry of grant writing. We capped the Fall season with a music concert titled “Shout Sister Shout” a tribute to 30’s and 40’s Jazz standards. The highly acclaimed band Steppin’ In It performed the show with singer-songwriter Rachael Davis; local artist Jen Sygit opened the show. Thank you to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring the show with a generous grant.

Why music? A colleague once chided me for trying to mix the terms “archives” and “fun.” Music ties in so perfectly with the burgeoning concept of cultural heritage or cultural tourism–which like it or not–is our new mantra. Music has the potential to stir emotions about people, places, and days past. These are the same terms we use when describing history.

And it is fun.

The concert brought about 85 people to the Michigan Historical Center, about 50 had never been to the Center before. We ran a power point of historic images above the stage that garnered many questions and comments. Not huge numbers but mission accomplished nonetheless.

For the past year I have been working on the finer points of a “Michigan Heritage Collection.” The focus is Michigan Artists from original manuscripts to music scores to comic art. While some may argue that these types of materials have little research value, I would counter that it is an issue of relevance. The more we can show the importance of documentation in various parts of our life the more relevance our institutions and collections will have.

Let’s face it, many people see historic documents as nothing more than an aesthetic novelty or money making venture on Antiques Roadshow or Ebay (ever been to Bennigan’s?). Or historians see the arts (music and movies!) as inaccurate or too sentimental.

I am not suggesting we substitute academic rigors for movie night or a sing along. But, if I host a concert or film that has 50 new visitors and can talk to them about our facilities and expose them to our collections, I would want to do a concert every week (ok, maybe every month–lots of work).

If Woody Guthrie’s song about the 1913 Italian Hall disaster in Calumet, MI makes someone curious about the details of that fateful Christmas Eve or John Sayles’ “Matewan” makes someone curious about labor history, I say “great!” and don’t worry about what others might think. The arts spark our imagination. The materials in our collections fuel our curiosity. So give yourself a break, sometimes it is ok to watch the movie before you read the book.

Check out the band Steppin’ In It’s website at: www.steppininit.com or www.jensygit.com They have free audio streams. Another great Michigan artist is Sufjan Stevens.

Jen warms up the crowd

Steppin’ In It knocks out the standards.

One last request. If you read this, post a comment. Writing a blog is a two way street. It helps build community when we talk about issues whether we agree or not.

Owosso, Michigan

July 26, 2006

July 19th: Welcome to Owosso, Michigan! If you have not spent a day here. Plan to do so in the future. Owosso, MI is just north of I-69 via M-52. It is located in Shiawassee County, near the county seat of Corunna. The purpose of my visit was to meet and advise the County Historical Museum and Archives on their collections. We had a good visit. I was duly impressed with the board’s attention to detail. Their organization and storage is better than some larger institutions. The board’s questions centered around appraisal decisions, storage medium and other administrative problems. Hopefully they will benefit from my suggestions.

One item that arose that is an ongoing problem is the locating of public documents in private organization’s holdings. State or local government records’ ownership cannot be transferred to private hands; they can be placed on permanent loan however. If you or your organization has public documents, or think you might, E-mail me at harveym@mi.gov or call me at (517) 373-1415 to discuss the options.

Owosso is filled with wonderful historic homes and factories. It is home to author James Oliver Curwood’s Castle. For you Canadians, Owosso has a 24 hours Tim Horton’s! Per the usual, I cruised the town on my way home to see the sites and share some interesting photos. Enjoy.

The Tuscola and Saginaw Bay rolling stock

Steam Railroad Institute