2022 Programs

In 1962, The Blue Tempo bar opened in the West Michigan beach town of Saugatuck. It was one of the first gay bars in the region, at a time when state liquor laws prohibited serving gay customers. The Blue Tempo’s opening helped solidify this part of West Michigan as a “home for all,” notably the LGBTQ community. G. Angel, will discuss the flourishing of the local LGBTQ community during the 1960-70s. This presentation draws on research collected for the “Stories of Summer” project by the Kutsche Office in partnership with the Saugatuck Douglas History Center. 

Discover the history of Grand Rapids and Michigan with the wealth of resources of the Library of Michigan. In this program learn all of the online research tools that are available to any resident of Michigan. In this program learn not only what is on offer at the State Library, but also how to access these tools from your own home.

Many people want to know more about the place they invest their time and energy, the place they relax and feel safe — their home. It can be difficult to find out brick-and-mortar details, especially if your home was not designed by a well-known builder or architect. But there is so much more to learn about the history of your home beyond the era in which it was built, and the Grand Rapids Public Library has a wealth of resources that help you do just that. In this presentation, you’ll learn about the resources available to you as you begin your own house research.

Lamberton Lake, the creek, and springs all comprise a unique ecosystem in north Grand Rapids. Be acquainted with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and its most urban nature preserve. Get to know the families that developed the land from the 1860s thru to the mid 20th century in that northernmost area of Grand Rapids Township. Learn the secrets found in old newspaper articles; personal interviews will focus on tragic as well as inspirational events. Participants will learn of the early natural resources, farms, business enterprises, recreational opportunities, and even women’s history connected to Lamberton Lake that were important to Grand Rapids’ development as a great place to live.

From violating prohibition to bombing a theater, the crimes within the Grand Rapids City Archives and Records Center’s collection of mugshots and police records preserve the stories of those not often told. This program will explore the materials that make up the collection, provide an overview of the insightful data available, and give examples of the research made possible by these sources. The materials range from the late 1800s to the late 1930s, encompassing court records, turnkey logs, newspaper clippings, fingerprint cards, and the often-haunting photographs of the individuals arrested. While acknowledging the often-tragic stories of the offenders, and their victims, these sources provide an often-overlooked lens into the record of crime in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Researching the Other Side of the Story Using Historical Black Newspapers | Christine Byron and George Bayard | Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives and Grand Rapids Historical Commission
Part I: Researching Michigan Places in the Negro Motorist Green Book
Part II: Comparing Local and National News Reports Using the African American Newspaper Database

Interested in digging for information on national, state, and local African American topics, people, places, or organizations? Much information is hidden, under-reported or distorted in the usual research sources. Using the Historical Black Newspapers database at the Grand Rapids Public Library, George Bayard (Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives) and Christine Byron (Grand Rapids Historical Commission) will give examples of some of the treasures they have unearthed. Topics will include Negro League Baseball, the Keith Theatre incident in Grand Rapids, and Michigan places in the Green Book.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum has thousands of photographs in their archives. Team Photo volunteers work on cataloging them, by scanning, identifying the “who, what, where, and when,”  adding a geolocation if known, and uploading the images for viewing online by the general public. Each Team Photo member selected images that “spoke to,” delighted, or perhaps, frustrated them. Join us to learn about GRPM’s collections, enjoy the images of our town, and maybe even help us tell “the rest of the story.”  These sampler images are from the full Nov. 2021 program which is available on the Historical Society’s YouTube channel.

Our cadre of researchers will dig historical nuggets out of an astonishing new resource. Collected in 1918, Kent County’s 23,000 WWI women’s registration cards are available on a searchable database, ready to reveal the diversity of women volunteers who crossed class, religious, racial, and ethnic boundaries to create, inadvertently, a mine of treasures not limited to Grand Rapids. Sociological, historical, and geographic veins remain largely unexplored. We will highlight individuals and clusters of African American, Native American, and working women to illustrate what the cards can provide state- and nation-wide researchers; as well as fascinating tips on searching: “journalist” was not used, but “Indian” was. Tune in to explore the skills, held or desired, of a forgotten front line.