History of the University of Michigan

Michigan Historical Collections

The Michigan Historical Collections had their beginning in the spring of 1935, when a grant of seven hundred dollars was obtained from the faculty research fund for the purpose of initiating a program of collecting research materials for the study of the history of Michigan. The success of the program's first efforts prompted the Regents, in the late summer of 1935, to establish a research assistantship for the collection, preservation, and study of materials pertaining to the history of the state's most important nongovernmental institution, the University of Michigan.

From 1935 to 1937 this particular project in Michigan history was energetically carried on. A standing committee on University archives was set up by the Regents to advise the director of the program. However, because of the close relationship between source materials on the University and source materials on the history of the state, the desirability of returning to the original broader objective of obtaining materials on the history of the state became increasingly apparent. Accordingly, in February 1938, the Regents officially designated the collections, which had been made, the Michigan Historical Collections of the University of Michigan.

Meanwhile, the steadily expanding collections had been moved from their original quarters in the University Press Building to a room in the William L. Clements Library. In June 1938, the Michigan Historical Collections were given commodious quarters in the newly opened Rackham Building.

The objective of the Michigan Historical Collections is the collection and preservation of manuscript and printed materials relating to the history of Michigan. In the section devoted to the history of the University are many more or less formal records, which have been transferred from various offices and storerooms on the campus. Except for transfers of this sort, donation has been almost solely relied upon as the means of acquisition, yet the rapidity of growth of the collections has been impressive.

Chief among the types of materials are the collected papers of individuals who have played a part in state and in University history, the records of various state institutions, including those of the University and its divisions, the collected papers of societies and organizations — patriotic, fraternal, religious, and philanthropic — maps of Michigan and of its various parts, books and pamphlets written about Michigan or by Michigan authors, and early Michigan imprints. Since the growth of the Michigan Historical Collections has been largely due to the generous interest taken in them by alumni and other friends of the University, the prospects for continued growth seem assured.

The Michigan Historical Collections are organized as a separate unit of the University. Professor L. G. Vander Velde of the Department of History has been in charge of the Collections from the beginning, assisted first by one, and more recently by two, research assistants.

Lewis G. Vander Velde


Adams, Elizabeth S."The Michigan Historical Collections of the University of Michigan."Univ. Mich. Bur. Alum. Rel., Gen. Bull. (Univ. Mich. Offic. Publ., 41, No. 9), No. 29 (1939): 3-12.

Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1932-40

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey, Wilfred B. Shaw, editor, pages 217-218