In 2017 the University of Michigan will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its founding (as the Catholespistemead or University of Michigania in the frontier village of Detroit). Such centennial events provide an important opportunity both to reflect upon the history of an institution and to consider its future.

This event is particularly important for the University of Michigan, which has played such an important leadership role in American higher education. Under the leadership of its first president, Henry Tappan in the 1850s, Michigan became one of the first true universities in America. Later it was to successfully achieve President James Angell’s goal of providing “an uncommon education for the common man”, demonstrating that public universities could achieve academic quality comparable to those of the finest private institutions and becoming what UC President Clark Kerr would call “the mother of state universities”. Indeed, throughout its history, the University continued to be a trailblazer for American higher education with significant impact on the life of the state, the nation, and the world.

In the past the University has chosen to celebrate such anniversaries through traditional convocations and major publications, e.g, launching the University of Michigan Encyclopedic Survey in 1937 and commissioning a popular history of the university by Howard Peckham, professor of history and director of the Clements Library, in 1967. But today, as the University approaches its bicentennial in 2017, it has become simply too complex and extensive to capture in a single publication or brief event. Its history, achievements, and impact involve the efforts of hundreds of academic programs and services, thousands of faculty members and staff, and hundreds of thousands of students and alumni spanning an unusually broad range of academic and professional disciplines and activities.

Fortunately, the University’s leadership in digital technology, e.g. developing the backbone of the Internet in the 1980s and more recently leading the effort to build large, searchable digital repositories of library collections and scholarly materials, provide an unusual opportunity to create and make available new resources that capture the University’s history for both scholars and interested citizens alike.

This website provides one of many portals to access this rapidly growing collection of materials designed to be easily searchable and readily available in digital form. Included in these resources are:

1)Information about the many thousands of faculty members who have served the university since its earliest years, searchable and available as biographies, memorials, and photographs.

2)Histories of the myriad academic programs of the University–schools and colleges, departments and programs, centers and institutes, with a particular focus on the intellectual life and academic impact of the institution.

3)The evolution of the Ann Arbor campus of the University through the years, with interactive maps and histories of all of the major buildings and facilities of the University.

4)Information on the important role of staff members in the University, both through brief histories and short vignettes illustrating their remarkable talent, dedication, and diversity of roles.

5)Student life through the years through an array of historical documents.

6)Information about all of the Regents and Presidents of the University.

7)The life of the University told through a series of narratives, slide shows, and videos developed by noted author, James Tobin.

8)Access to an interactive collection of memoirs by contemporary Michigan faculty members concerning the intellectual life of the University.

9)A vast collection of historical photographs and video materials made available in digital format.

It is the University’s intent to make this massive and growing collection of materials easily available over the Internet, both as a tool for those scholars studying the history of this important institution and American higher education as well as a far larger group of those simply interested in understanding how this remarkable institution, its people, and its programs came to play such an influential role in the history of the nation and the world.

The University of Michigan Campus ca 1870

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