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Announcing the Recipients of the 2024 Michigan History Alliance® Grant Program

The Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) has announced the recipients of its second annual Michigan History Alliance® Grants. HSM awarded grants totaling $25,082 to 12 of its member organizations throughout Michigan. 

Announcing the Recipients of the 2024 Michigan History Alliance® Grant Program

Michigan History Alliance logo

3/3/24

Written By: Historical Society of Michigan

LANSING, Mich.—The Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) has announced the recipients of its second annual Michigan History Alliance® Grants. HSM awarded grants totaling $25,082 to 12 of its member organizations throughout Michigan. 

The Michigan History Alliance (MHA) Grant Program is intended to provide funding for small- to medium-sized 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. HSM received 93 applications for more than $200,000—demonstrating the need for a grant program for this sector of Michigan’s cultural community.

“Michigan’s local history organizations play a vital role in preserving their communities’ heritage,” said HSM’s executive director and CEO, Larry Wagenaar. “Our MHA Grants help fund projects that enable them to carry out their missions, and the grant application is purposely designed to allow someone with little or no grant-writing experience to explain their organization’s needs. Our goal is to provide funding where it’s most beneficial.”

Support for local history organizations is one of the HSM’s five mission areas. “The Historical Society of Michigan is itself a medium-sized nonprofit,” said HSM Development Director Kim Loftus, “but several bequests have allowed us to institute this grant program to help fulfill that key mission area. We take the MHA Grant money from our annual endowment draw, not our operating budget. The MHA Grants are relatively small in size but have a significant impact for our member organizations.”

The 2024 grantees are:

  • Keweenaw Historical Society in Eagle Harbor
  • Michilimackinac Historical Society in St. Ignace
  • Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Historical Society in Harsens Island
  • Friends of the Plymouth Historical Museum in Plymouth
  • Beaver Island Historical Society on Beaver Island
  • Little Traverse Historical Society in Petoskey
  • Pentwater Historical Society in Pentwater
  • Sanilac County Historical Society in Port Sanilac 
  • Friends of the Port Hope Railroad Depot in Port Hope
  • Grosvenor House Museum in Jonesville
  • Morton House Museum in Benton Harbor
  • The Region of Three Oaks Museum in Three Oaks

Detailed descriptions of all 12 grant recipients and their projects are below.

The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, which stands near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, will receive $2,400 to upgrade its gazebo welcome center. Every year, about 10,000 to 15,000 visitors tour the Keweenaw Historical Society’s Eagle Harbor Light Station, which includes the lighthouse, a maritime museum, a commercial fishing museum, and the Keweenaw History Museum. Visitors who arrive at the site come to the welcome center for site orientation and to pay admission fees that help fund the entire organization. The grant will cover half the cost of new electrical wiring, lighting, and a heating system for the gazebo. The historical society’s vice president, Karen Hintz, explained that the project will help visitors “learn more about Keweenaw history; see an operating lighthouse; and discover Lake Superior, its ships and ever-changing weather.”

A grant for $2,400 went to the Michilimackinac Historical Society (MHS) to purchase archival storage materials and an upright freezer to secure and preserve highly flammable nitrate film and negatives. The MHS has operated the Fort de Buade Museum in downtown St. Ignace for many years and is completing its new Straits Culture Center, which will include interpretive exhibits, meeting facilities and collections storage rooms. It has committed itself to the highest standards of collections management and is currently enrolled in the American Association for State and Local History STEPS (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) program. As Executive Director Molly Paquin noted, the grant “will help us to develop our vision of having state-of-the-art collections storage for MHS.”

The Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Historical Society was granted $1,900 in funding to purchase a new outdoor storage shed. In 2011, the society opened a museum in Harsens Island’s former fire hall, which it expanded in 2021 with help from a financial bequest. The shed where tools and maintenance items are currently stored has deteriorated beyond repair, and the MHA Grant will allow it to replace that mundane but essential structure.

The Friends of the Plymouth Historical Society, which owns and operates the Plymouth Historical Museum, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and is currently renovating its Main Street exhibit to take advantage of new technologies and make it more relevant to modern audiences. The $2,400 MHA Grant will help the museum renovate and redesign the Main Street’s “Victorian Rooms”—a parlor, dining room and kitchen. The museum plans to enclose the area within a simulated house structure modeled on the 1898 Plymouth home of Charles Draper and add a second story for collections storage. The new exhibit will incorporate windows with moving images and audio effects to make it more interactive.

The Beaver Island Historical Society operates two museums on the northern Lake Michigan island—the Mormon Print Shop Museum and the Marine Museum—and two historic sites: Heritage Park and the Feodor Protar Home. It also stages many cultural and humanities programs including Museum Week and Kids Camp. The society struggles with an outdated computer system for its collections management software; the MHA Grant of $2,400 will fund a new computer workstation to enable staff and volunteers to catalog, digitize and organize its extensive artifact and archival collections.

The Little Traverse Historical Society is headquartered in the 1892 Pere Marquette Railroad depot in Petoskey. The museum includes exhibits about area history and hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year, including school field trips, an ice cream social, a bicycle festival, and a “picnic on the porch.” The historical society also has an extensive collection of documents and photographs that need acid-free archival storage containers for long-term preservation. An MHA Grant of $2,190 will fund the purchase of about 200 archival boxes that will safely house the society’s collections. 

An MHA Grant in the western Lower Peninsula went to the Pentwater Historical Society. The society, founded in 1982, has an important archival collection that includes newspapers, photographs, booklets, diaries, letters and other items that document the Oceana County community’s history. Historical society members learned how to digitize its collections with a digitization kit, including a scanner and laptop computer, that it borrowed from the Library of Michigan. The society’s members are eager to extend this work and applied for grant funding to make it possible. HSM is pleased to grant $2,000 to fund the purchase of equipment that will allow the Pentwater Historical Society to continue this project on a long-term basis.

The Sanilac County Historical Society was founded in 1964 and maintains the 1870s Loop-Harrison Mansion and 10-acre estate. Since then, the society has added 17 historic structures to the site, including a one-room school, a church and a railroad depot, as well as its most recent project, a World War II military railroad car. The society also offers many programs and events throughout the year, all of which tax its outdated electrical system. Its $2,242 MHA Grant will fund the installation of a 100-amp electrical panel and upgrades to LED fixtures. 

A $1,900 MHA Grant will go to the Friends of the Port Hope Railroad Depot to restore the historic Pere Marquette Railroad depot’s cargo area and install interpretive exhibits. The organization was founded in 2010 to restore the 1904 depot and operate it as a museum. Its current project will restore and renovate the depot’s cargo area with exhibit cases and interpretive panels, plus a functioning model railroad display. The MHA Grant will fund a portion of this effort. Restoring the depot, the Friends noted, “wasn’t merely about refurbishing bricks and mortar; it was about breathing life into the town’s history.”

In Jonesville, in the center of the Lower Peninsula, the Grosvenor House Museum will receive a $2,400 MHA Grant to restore the historic building’s front porch and upper balcony. Local businessman and politician Ebenezer O. Grosvenor served as a Michigan senator, lieutenant governor and state treasurer, and built the Italianate-style brick home in downtown Jonesville in 1872-1874. Grosvenor also presided over the Board of State Building Commissioners, which oversaw the construction of Michigan’s Capitol in the 1870s and hired the capitol’s architect, Elijah Myers, to design his own house. The Grosvenor House became a house museum in 1977.

The Morton House Museum is located in the 1849 home of town founder Eleazer Morton. The house became a museum in the 1960s but is increasingly becoming more of an interpretation center for community history. The museum is planning a series of exhibits that will trace Benton Harbor’s history from the mid-19th century to the present, with a special emphasis on the late 20th century when Benton Harbor became a 90% Black community. The MHA Grant of $2,000 will allow the purchase of wall panels and exhibit materials to enable the museum to focus on that previously neglected era.

The Region of Three Oaks Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs and documents pertaining to the community’s vast history. The museum’s volunteer staff has computerized its collections records, but needs a new laptop computer dedicated to that purpose and a new scanner to digitize photographs and photographic negatives. An MHA Grant of $850 will allow the museum to purchase that equipment to maintain its collections records and to prepare images for exhibits and public programs.

Learn more about the Michigan History Alliance grant program.

The Historical Society of Michigan is the state’s oldest cultural organization, founded in 1828. A nongovernmental nonprofit, the Society focuses on publications, conferences, education, awards and recognition programming, and support for local history organizations to preserve and promote Michigan’s rich history.