2022 Speakers


G. Angel | Becoming a Home for All: LGBTQ Tourism in West Michigan

G. Angel is a PhD Student in Indiana University Bloomington’s Gender Studies Department


GEORGE A. BAYARD III | Researching the Other Side of the Story Using Historical Black Newspapers: Comparing Local and National News Reports Using the African American Newspaper Database

George A. Bayard III started Bayard Art Consulting in 1989. That business evolved into Bayard Gallery of Fine African American Art & Books which also fed our urge to collect items of Black history. George has owned West Michigan’s oldest gallery devoted to artists of color for 30 years. An Art Education BA from the University of Delaware, George became regional manager of Philadelphia’s largest picture frame chain before moving to Michigan. Bayard Gallery hosted Kwanzaa, Juneteenth, Underground Rail Roadshow, Authors Day, Soul of the City Festival, 100’s of exhibits, lectures, and book signings. Currently, George is the founder and Executive Director of GRAAMA, the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives. This 5-year journey has culminated with Grand Rapids only museum devoted to Black history, culture, education, and community. GRAAMA is winner of the 2018 ArtPrize Outstanding Venue award and an AASLH magazine cover for the Grandma’s Voices Oral History Project. George is a professional picture framer, conservator, appraiser, artist, lecturer, collector, historian, Black culture expert, filmmaker, writer, and arts advocate. He is the 2019 winner of the Albert Baxter Award for Local History and the Carol and David Van Andel Leadership Award 2020 and the Grand Rapid Business Journal 200 Most Powerful People Award 2019 and 2020.


Gina Bivins | Team Photo at the Grand Rapids Public Museum Sampler

Gina Zinn Bivins is a native Grand Rapidian who delights in researching local history and genealogy. Gina retired from the Grand Rapids Public Museum where she has worked and volunteered for 40 years, starting as docent and eventually serving as Customer Experience Manager. Gina’s face is well-known in our community.  You may have seen her giving local history walks or Downtown Sculpture Tours.  If you’ve been to Festival of the Arts, then undoubtedly you have seen Gina there since she has volunteered since, well, forever! She co-chaired  Festival in 1991, and was honored with the Spirit of Festival Award in 2019.  If you’ve attended Grand Rapids Historical Society meetings, then you have probably met Gina.  She has served the Society as President for the last several years, and presented on the Seymour Bieboer photo Collection of US-131 Expressway construction and Urban Renewal. If you love arts and crafts, you may have met Gina, an accomplished quilting artist, at Vinecroft Studios, a studio and gallery operated by her husband, Fred.  In her retirement, Gina continues to volunteer at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on Team Photo, where she has lots of fun!


Sophia Ward Brewer | Unearthing an Army of Women: Diversity in Our WWI Women’s Registration Cards

Sophia Ward Brewer holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University and is currently a Collections Development and Reference Librarian at Grand Rapids Community College where she holds many other leadership roles. Her career began in the Grand Rapids Public Library; and she is now an elected member of its Board of Library Commissioners, securing her place in the electoral history of Grand Rapids women. A board member of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council, she has sophisticated community knowledge of the depth, breadth, and visibility of early African American women in Grand Rapids and has shared her research in multiple formats, including in print in the Grand Rapids Times and Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.


Don Bryant | The Legacy of Lamberton Lake

Don Bryant is past president of the Western Michigan Genealogical Society and a lifelong Grand Rapids resident. Don’s mantra is that family history should involve learning the local history of where your family lived. And vice-versa, local history researchers will miss an opportunity to add valuable context unless they include the families that lived in the place you are looking to document.


Christine Byron | Researching the Other Side of the Story Using Historical Black Newspapers: Researching Michigan Places in the Negro Motorist Green Book

Christine Byron retired from her position as the Local Historical Collections librarian for the Grand Rapids Public Library. She is an avid reader of Michigan history and has collected old Michigan travel and tourist memorabilia for over thirty years. Her interest in tourism led her to research Michigan places that were listed in the Green Book. Christine serves on the boards of the Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the West Michigan Postcard Club. She is a member of the selection committee for Michigan Notable Books through the Library of Michigan. Christine and her husband, Tom Wilson,  have written five award-winning books in their “Vintage Views” series. 


Heather Edwards | House History 101: Learning How to Research the Background of your Home

Heather is trained as an architectural historian and holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning. She has worked for Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office and the City of Ann Arbor as a specialist in historic designation and as historic preservation coordinator and has also held volunteer appointments with Traverse City’s and Grand Rapids’ Historic Districts Commissions. Heather is also a practicing consultant on historic properties. Heather spent ten years serving local history patrons at the Grand Rapids Public Library, where she helped hundreds of people research their families, their historical projects, and their homes. Heather currently serves as a Chapter Executive with the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG)’s West Michigan Chapter, where she executes programs and events for a number of the chapter’s committees, including designing and organizing the virtual ACG Cup business case competition. Heather enjoys spending time with her family on Grand Rapids’ Northeast side, researching general and family history, reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and putting in many road and trail miles with running friends in pursuit of the next long-distance race.


Matthew Ellis | A Record of Crime: Exploring the Data and Stories behind the Mugshots

Since graduation from Aquinas College in 2015, Matthew Ellis has been Assistant Archivist for the City of Grand Rapids, where he does conservation work and document repair when he is not indexing municipal records and retrieving materials for researchers and city departments. He has also organized archival materials for Mary Free Bed, created a finding aid for their use, and helped plan a wall of history for display at the hospital. Outside work duties, Matt has exercised his planning and promotional skills by volunteering for the Event Committee of the Eastown Community Association and developing programming for History Detectives, a consortium of local historical groups. Also as a Trustee of the Grand Rapids Historical Society, Matt will become an important local history liaison.


Tim Gleisner | Discovering our State with the Resources of the Library of Michigan

Tim Gleisner has been the Head of Special Collections at the Library of Michigan for the last four years. Previous to this he worked at the Herrick District Library in Holland as Assistant Director and as Head of Special Collections at the Grand Rapids Public Library for twelve years. He currently sits on the City of Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission and is a Board member of the Michigan Library Association. Previously he was the City Representative on the Grand Rapids Historical Commission and Member of the Advisory Board for the Kutsche Center for Local History.


Andrea Riley Mukavetz | Unearthing an Army of Women: Diversity in Our WWI Women’s Registration Cards

An assistant professor in the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies Department at Grand Valley State University, Andrea Riley Mukavetz has a new book, You Better Go See Geri: An Odawa Elder’s Life of Resilience and Recovery, just published by Oregon State University (2021). She is devoted to creating cultural rhetorics models of scholarly practice that make visible the rhetorical traditions of Indigenous worldviews, histories, and traditions and teaches courses related to collaborative communication; the relationship between story, lived experience, and identity; intercultural communication; and Indigenous environmental justice. Her scholarship appears in enculturation: a journal of rhetoric, writing, and culture; Studies in American Indian Literature; College Composition and Communication; and Composition Studies


Ruth Stevens | Unearthing an Army of Women: Diversity in Our WWI Women’s Registration Cards

Ruth Stevens is a retired professor of Legal Studies at Grand Valley State University, who earned a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. Currently, she is a director of the board of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council and has shared her research on a variety of topics. In particular, she has done significant work on local women’s history in the Michigan suffrage movement and on area women’s legal history. She is the author of “Assistant U.S. Attorney Ella Mae Backus: A Most Important Figure in the Legal Profession in the Western District of Michigan” (Michigan Historical Review, September 2016).


Sue Thoms | Unearthing an Army of Women: Diversity in Our WWI Women’s Registration Cards

A medical features writer for Spectrum Health Beat, the news site for Spectrum Health, Sue Thoms has spent over thirty years in journalism. In 2014, while writing for The Grand Rapids Press/MLive, she developed a front-page story highlighting the work of 1930s Grand Rapids women scientists who created the whooping cough vaccine. Continued work on this one story with Julie Hoogland, fellow board member of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council and first female editor of the Press, contributed to a Community Legends sculpture unveiling and a presentation for the Historical Society of Michigan. Thoms is a storyteller captivated by narratives involving medicine and children and also the author of six children’s books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan.