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Announcing the Recipients of the 2023 Michigan History Alliance Grant Program

The Historical Society of Michigan awarded grants totaling $25,080 to 14 of its member organizations throughout Michigan.

Announcing the Recipients of the 2023 Michigan History Alliance Grant Program

Michigan History Alliance logo


Written By: Historical Society of Michigan

LANSING, Mich.—The Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) has announced the recipients of its first annual Michigan History Alliance® Grants. HSM awarded grants totaling $25,080 to 14 of its member organizations throughout Michigan.

The Michigan History Alliance (MHA) Grant Program is intended to provide funding for small- to medium-size history organizations in Michigan through a straightforward application and reporting process. HSM invited its member organizations with annual operating budgets under $250,000 to submit proposals for a maximum grant amount of $2,500. The Society received 82 applications for nearly $176,000—demonstrating the need for a grant program for this sector of Michigan’s cultural community.

“Small- to medium-size history organizations do great work with limited resources,” said HSM’s Executive Director and CEO Larry Wagenaar. “Many grant programs require such extensive preparation, grant program development and reporting that small organizations struggle to compete with large entities, and we also wanted to create a grant program that could help them meet basic needs. Our MHA Grant application was designed to be simple enough that a volunteer could write it in a couple of hours.”

Support for local history organizations is one of the HSM’s five central mission areas. “We have wanted to institute a grant program for our member organizations, and recent bequests to our endowment fund have allowed us to make that a reality,” said HSM Development Director Kim Loftus. “The MHA Grants will come from our annual endowment draw, not our operating budget. Although we had a relatively modest amount of money to give this year, we think our MHA Grants will make a difference to our member organizations.”

The 2023 grantees are:

  • Erwin Township Historical Society in Ironwood
  • Hessel School House – Avery Arts & Nature Learning Center in Hessel
  • Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society in Eastpointe
  • Historical Society of Clinton in Clinton
  • Manchester Area Historical Society in Manchester
  • Alcona Historical Society in Harrisville 
  • Presque Isle County Historical Museum in Rogers City
  • Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear in Maple City 
  • Zeeland Historical Society in Zeeland 
  • Lowell Area Historical Museum in Lowell
  • Historical Society of Caseville in Caseville 
  • Millington-Arbela Historical Society in Millington
  • Clinton County Historical Society Archives in St. Johns
  • Oshtemo Historical Society in Kalamazoo

Detailed descriptions of all 14 grant recipients and their projects are below. Congratulations to the grantees and all who applied for this first iteration of the grant program.

The 2023 Grant Recipients

Two Upper Peninsula organizations received MHA Grants: the Erwin Township Historical Society in Ironwood and the Hessel School House – Avery Arts & Nature Learning Center in Hessel.

The Erwin Township Historical Society will receive $2,435 to support its research library program titled “Research and Remember.” The grant will fund the purchase of laptop computers, digital voice recorders, portable hard drives, headphones and a printer to record oral history interviews with current and past residents of the Erwin Township area. As historical society secretary Joy Pelissero explained, “The stories of our parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends remind us of our shared history and bind us together as a family and community.” Erwin Township covers a large area in Gogebic County just southwest of Ironwood; the historical society is headquartered in the Erwin Heritage Park.

A grant for $2,471 went to Hessel School House – Avery Arts & Nature Learning Center located in the 1937 Hessel School House, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The MHA Grant will address three needs: the preservation and display of historic class photographs, a new printer and supplies, and programmable digital thermostats. The class photographs are portraits of Hessel students from 1938 through 1958. To better preserve and exhibit the images, volunteers will scan the originals, print them on archival paper and bind them in an oversize scrapbook. The new printer will facilitate the production of promotional materials and class handouts, and the new thermostats will help lower heating costs with better zoned temperature control. As program director Kristy Beyer noted, “These projects may be small, but they are important for improving our visitor experiences.”

Three grants will go to organizations in southeast Michigan: the Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society in Eastpointe, the Historical Society of Clinton in Clinton and the Manchester Area Historical Society in Manchester.

The Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society was founded in 2008 and opened a museum in 2011 to preserve and interpret the stories of Michigan veterans who served from World War I to the present. Its artifact collection now numbers more than 8,000 items. The museum has been seeking a collections-management software program and settled on CatalogIt, a cloud-based program recognized as one of the standard such computer systems. The $1,350 MHA Grant will allow the museum to transfer its existing computer records into CatalogIt and pay the first year of service fees.

The Historical Society of Clinton requested $500 to replace electrical wiring in its section of the Clinton Township Library and to switch old fluorescent light fixtures to LEDs. In addition to reducing the utility bill, LED fixtures emit virtually no ultraviolet light and cause less light damage to artifacts and archival materials. The MHA Grant will allow the historical society to carry out that work and focus its efforts on public programs and an upcoming history book.

A $2,500 grant will go to the Manchester Area Historical Society to help replace the roof on its historic John Schneider Blacksmith Shop. The society formed in 1976 during the United States Bicentennial Celebration to preserve and interpret the history of Manchester and the surrounding four townships. The building was built in 1877 and functioned as a blacksmith shop and carriage manufacturer until 1952; the society bought it in 1982. It is registered as a Michigan State Historic Site and serves as a facility for demonstrating and teaching the blacksmithing craft. Society president Raymond Berg noted that the roof is deteriorated and leaking, stating, “The requested grant funds will be used to purchase and install new roof sheathing and shingles for this building.”

History organizations in the northeast Lower Peninsula will receive two MHA Grants. One was awarded to the Alcona Historical Society in Harrisville and the other to the Presque Isle County Historical Museum in Rogers City.

The Alcona Historical Society will receive a $2,000 grant to renovate exhibits in the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse. Exhibits in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters showcase maritime history, the commercial fishing industry, the lighthouse itself and community life at Sturgeon Point. The society has engaged the help of a historian, an author and an archaeologist to revise its existing exhibits. The MHA Grant will help fund the fabrication and installation of 20 custom-made exhibit panels.

The Presque Isle County Historical Museum is housed in a former public library, nicknamed the Bradley House in honor of Carl D. Bradley—the famed president of the Bradley Transportation Company. The museum owns an important collection of photographs, negatives and motion picture films from the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company’s calcite quarry, and a $1,027 MHA Grant will enable the museum to digitize, preserve and play 28 motion pictures. The films cover a period from 1920 to the 1960s and show quarry operations, workers and events such as the christening of Great Lakes freighters and the final voyage of the freighter Calcite.

In the northwest Lower Peninsula, Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear in Maple City requested and received a $2,500 grant to upgrade the electrical system in its office and heritage center. Founded in 1998 as an official nonprofit partner of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear helps preserve and interpret the park’s 350 historic buildings and landscapes. Among them is the Charles and Hattie Olsen farmhouse and barn, home of the Port Oneida Farms Heritage Center. MHA Grant money will allow Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear to make electrical upgrades to the farmhouse in which the organization is installing a kitchen for events and programs. The funds will also allow the organization to run electrical wiring to the barn, where it holds other public events. Consumers Energy is installing a transformer free of charge, but as executive director Susan Pocklington noted, “in addition to all the funding of the kitchen rehab and appliances, this expense has put us over the budget.” The Historical Society of Michigan is glad to help Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear complete its project.

Two history organizations in the western Lower Peninsula will receive MHA Grants: the Zeeland Historical Society in Zeeland and the Lowell Area Historical Museum in Lowell.

The Zeeland Historical Society (ZHS) was founded in 1974 and purchased the 1876 Dirk and Leuntje Dekker House to create the Dekker Huis Museum. In 2005, the ZHS expanded with the purchase and restoration of the 1882 New Groningen Schoolhouse, which now serves as a community center and educational facility. The ZHS requested a $2,000 MHA Grant for building maintenance, specifically to replace the gutters and front steps of the Dekker Huis Museum. Maintenance projects are often difficult to fund, and the Historical Society of Michigan is pleased to help the ZHS with this project.

The Lowell Area Historical Museum needed support for its 2023 public events and will use a $2,000 MHA Grant to fund a series of four programs, a cemetery tour and a summer youth camp. Programs will include presentations about life aboard a Great Lakes freighter, west Michigan women serving in the workforce during World War I, the history of Michigan poor farms and Michigan Odawa who fought in the American Revolution. The cemetery tour will take place in September in Lowell’s Oakwood Cemetery and will be conducted by the museum’s staff and volunteers. The museum will hold its summer day camp at the Fallasburg Historical Society, where participants will explore the historic village and covered bridge and participate in activities designed to teach them about life in early Michigan.

In eastern Michigan, MHA Grants will go to the Historical Society of Caseville in Caseville and the Millington-Arbela Historical Society in Millington.

The Historical Society of Caseville in Michigan’s “thumb” area organized in 1993 and opened a museum in the former c. 1904 Maccabees Hall in 2008. An enthusiastic crew of volunteers holds seven community events every year, including a Shanty Days festival, a garden luncheon, a classic car and tractor show and a “Cheeseburger Museum” staged in conjunction with the community’s enormously popular Cheeseburger Festival. The historical society requested and received a $569 grant to purchase a color laser printer to replace its old and expensive copier. The laser printer will allow the society to produce promotional flyers and its Historic Caseville Walking Tour brochures, in addition to many other printing projects. Society funds are short this year due to the need to replace the museum porch, and the Historical Society of Michigan is glad to enable the Caseville society to upgrade its office equipment.

A $2,113 MHA Grant will go to the Millington-Arbela Historical Society to upgrade its PastPerfect collections-management software system and to purchase a new copier/printer. The society, founded in 1991 and headquartered in the historic 1887 Millington Bank, has a large and growing artifact and archival collection, which it catalogs with PastPerfect. This standard collections software system comes as a basic package but has many optional upgrades, including the capacity to allow multiple users to enter data. Society chairwoman Cindy Willson said, “The grant would allow the Museum to expand its ability to create a record and database of its collections, providing better accountability and access to the community of all the rich and varied information the Museum has to offer.” The MHA Grant will help the museum’s volunteers advance to a higher level of collections management.

In St. Johns, in the center of the Lower Peninsula, the Clinton County Historical Society Archives will receive a $2,000 MHA Grant to purchase a laptop computer and printer. The archives maintains a large and growing collection, including school records, tax rolls, church histories, scrapbooks and a recently acquired collection of 700 glass plate negatives of Clinton County people and places. The MHA Grant will allow the archives to replace its outdated office equipment and help archives volunteers continue their work on major indexing and scanning projects, enabling patrons to access information in the society’s collections.

A southwest Michigan organization, the Oshtemo Historical Society in Kalamazoo, will receive a $2,115 MHA Grant for the purchase of the PastPerfect collections-management software system. The historical society formed in 2004 to save the historic farmhouse of early settlers Benjamin and Maria Drake from demolition. The house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts many programs and events. The organization also has a large artifact collection in need of computerized cataloging, so society members have opted to purchase a PastPerfect software package. In addition to collections management, PastPerfect will allow the society to manage its membership records, volunteer scheduling and fundraising appeals.

Learn more about the Michigan History Alliance grant program.