Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Does Ann Arbor Have No Historical Museum?

It's a question Dusty D wonders about every time I visit the wealth of Ypsilanti's Archives, in the basement of our beautiful Museum.

Ann Arbor has the Museum on Main Street (at left), but that's run by the county-wide Washtenaw Historical Society. And whereas they put on periodical exhibits, and have a cool collection of artifacts in the basement, it's not a city museum.

Ann Arbor also has the Kempf House, another exemplary volunteer-run project that is the nicely-done recreation of one historical home. Also not a city museum.

Ann Arbor also has the fantastic wealth of the Bentley Library, which is sort of a combination of city and U-M historical archives. It is a wonderful place, open to all. But it's not really a city archives per se. Close, though. The AADL is also archiving many beautiful old historical materials, and is fast on its way to becoming an *online* city archive--one thing Ypsilanti could improve on and learn from.

But there's no one place where you can go and tour a whole houseful of amazing preserved artifacts from throughout the long life of a city 4 times Ypsilanti's size. Or see historical info-displays, timelines, maybe some audio recordings--and so on.

This baffles Dusty D. I'm sure that with all of the extremely talented historical folks in AA (Wystan Stevens and Grace Shackman leap to mind, but there are many others I've met) the city could find enough volunteers to keep such a resource going, and tap the talents of such people in creating it. So...consider me befuzzled. A mystery.


Bob Garrett said...

Maybe Ann Arbor just isn't as cool as Ypsilanti. :- )

James said...

Ypsilanti is lucky to have had the services of those who were willing to put in the time to make the archives the wonder that it is. This began with Lewis White back in the 1930's. He was the one who started the obit file, that is the pride of the archives. Then others took up the pen after he died in the early 1960's. Why has no one in Ann Arbor led the way like White did? I have no idea.

Dusty D said...

Bob: Both cities have their strengths. But when the News announced they were closing, they allowed us to take a literal truckload of roughly 50 big file boxes filled to the brim with 8 by 5 inch envelopes.

It was the newspaper's decades-old archive.

In years past, reporters would look in this archive of clippings to get background on a story.

It contains unimaginable amounts of information, assembled over decades.

They didn't want it.

And kindly let us save it.

Right now 2 senior archivists are carefully categorizing the clippings and they are being filed in our archives. All that history will be preserved. We've been doing this for weeks now--there are SO MANY boxes of clippings!

Thank goodness this archive traveled down the road, to end up safely with us! Whew! Could you imagine losing such a resource? Many thanks to the News for their generosity.

Dusty D said...

James: You are one of those people, too, in that succession of Ypsi archivists and historians.

It amazes me to see those hand-written obit cards from Louis White.

Thousands and thousands of them...all hand-written. A labor of love.