Thursday, March 31, 2022

Abundant Waters: Our Most Precious Resource

 By Gillian Macdonald 

Entrance to the Clarke Historical Library

Among a host of other exciting things happening in 2022, the Clarke Historical Library’s new exhibit explores a topic close to the heart of every Michigander…water and its value to our society. Abundant Waters: Our Most Precious Resource tackles an important question: how often do we actually think about our relationships with this most precious resource? With water at the forefront of our minds in today’s climate, the abundance of freshwater in the Great Lakes State is an aspect of our lives that we often take for granted. The Clarke Historical Library’s exhibit explores the many ways that abundant freshwater defines Michigan through five themes—politics, recreation, commerce, disasters, and the spirit nurturing aspect of water. Highlights include the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, canoe manifests from the fur trade, the pollution of the Pine River watershed and the ongoing clean-up, and Hemingway family scrapbooks showing a young Ernest Hemingway and his family enjoying Walloon Lake and the Little Traverse Bay region.

"Political Waves" Wall
Water is arguably Michigan’s defining feature. The Great Lakes State is surrounded by and encompassed in an abundance of water, freshwater to be exact. In Michigan, you are never more than six miles from a lake, stream, or waterway. Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes, 76,000 miles of rivers, 6.5 million acres of wetlands, and more than 3,200 miles of freshwater coastline. For thousands of years, the Great Lakes—and Michigan’s water in general—have provided people with freshwater for survival, spiritual rejuvenation, a means of travel, and a place to have fun. In the last few decades, conservationism has reinforced the importance of these natural wonders. Abundant freshwater is at the root of why many choose to live, work, and play in the Great Lakes State. Explore the relationships that connect us to these bodies of water through recreation, politics, commerce and transport, our defining geography, early tribal histories, nurturing water springs, and through environmental stressors.

In researching and designing the exhibit, we had to first decide on a mission statement and then themes that would best illustrate this. For all intents and purposes, this is the hardest part. What does this exhibit need to project and what is the goal? The Clarke’s voluminous collections actually answered this question for us. The sheer abundance of water and activity connected to the water found in the books and manuscript collections illustrated that all aspects of life in Michigan have a relationship with the water. Although most of us have a general awareness of the water around us—many would even proclaim a deep love for the Great Lakes State’s water—how often do we truly contemplate our relationships with it? 

Installation of Recreation wall panels

Our ideas and imaginations came to life thanks to the capable hands of John Metcalf of Good Design Group. His striking designs help tell the stories of our relationships with water. I would like to thank not only Bryan Whitledge, Kathy Irwin, and Marian Maytn for their editorial help and suggestions, but also Colleen Green, Director of the Office of Native American Programs & Student Transition Enrichment Program, for her guidance, and members of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe for their participation. The production of the exhibit wouldn’t be possible without Rebecca Zeiss, the CMU Sign Shop, CMU Facilities Management, and everyone in between. Installation of the exhibit was made all the more enjoyable and efficient with the helping hands of our capable student employees, Camille Dixson, Nova Moore, David Wright, Maggie Gipe, and Ben Ackley. 

We officially opened the 2022 exhibition on February 22. As part of the Speaker Series, Jim Diana retired director of the Michigan Sea Grant, kicked off the exhibit with a discussion about the effectiveness of Great Lakes environmental regulations in protecting our incredible ecosystem. 

Intrigued? Please come and visit us! Explore how we are connected to water through recreation, politics, commerce and transport, our defining geography, early tribal histories, nurturing water springs, and environmental stressors.

Installation of the floor graphic

In true Clarke fashion, we have also started construction on our digital exhibition. This project is being designed and created as a complementary counterpart to our physical exhibition at the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University. Under construction since February 2022, the digital exhibit is a platform dedicated to Michigander’s relationship with their water resources. One particularly important theme we are exploring is the future of Michigan’s water. Crowd-sourced videos and audio answers to these important questions can be found on our exhibit website. 

Participants responded to one or more of these questions:

1. How can we protect our most precious natural resource?

2. Why is protecting Michigan’s freshwater so important?

3. What does it mean to be a good steward of the water?

4. What does the future hold for the Great Lakes & water in Michigan?

5. What are you doing to protect the water? Should we be doing more?

6. How do you see our policymakers helping to preserve this resource?

Digital Exhibit

If you would like to participate in our digital exhibit by responding to one or more of these questions, please get in contact with us at: Check back for news about the public launch of our Abundant Waters digital exhibit in the coming weeks.

The Abundant Waters exhibit is funded, in part, by an award from the American Library Association as part of the ALA’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries program.


Monday, March 14, 2022

The Clarke Historical Library and the CMU Libraries Awarded $10,000 Grant from American Library Association

The Clarke Historical Library and the CMU Libraries have been selected as one of 200 libraries nationwide for the American Library Association’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries opportunity, an emergency relief program to assist libraries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University will use funds to build the new exhibit, Abundant Waters: Our Most Precious Resource. The Clarke Historical Library and the CMU Libraries have a long tradition of being strong humanities institutions and this competitive award, which comes with a $10,000 grant, will help support the Libraries’ ongoing programs and services related to culture, history, literature, and other humanities subjects.

The participating libraries, selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process, include public libraries, academic/college libraries, K-12 libraries, and tribal, special and prison libraries. The recipients represent 45 states and Puerto Rico and serve communities ranging in size from 642 residents in Weir, Kansas, to the city of Los Angeles. Libraries were chosen with an emphasis on reaching historically underserved and/or rural communities.

“We are so proud to be chosen for this amazing opportunity,” said Kathy Irwin, dean of University Libraries. “This grant will allow us to plan strong, enriching humanities programming and also support the people who make these programs possible.”

“The Clarke has hosted many incredible exhibits over the years—our latest, Abundant Waters, is no different. We have an ambitious goal to create a visually stunning exhibit that meaningfully resonates with people, because we want our community to develop a better understanding of all the ways that our culture and history in the Great Lakes State is influenced by lots and lots of freshwater,” said Bryan Whitledge, project director for CMU’s grant and Clarke Historical Library staff member.

“Libraries have faced significant hardships throughout the pandemic —from budget cuts to staff furloughs to building closures — especially in our communities of the greatest need,” said ALA President Patty Wong. “This crucial support from NEH will enable our beloved institutions, and the dedicated people who run them, to rebuild and emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.”

American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. View the full list of selected libraries on the ALA website.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Clarke Historical Library Welcomes a New Member to the Family

 By C.J. Eno

Earlier this year, the Clarke Historical Library was blessed with a new addition to our happy family. While the stork took a little longer than expected (supply chains and such), our newest teammate arrived safe and sound, albeit in some rather large shipping crates. After some diligent prep by Clarke staff, a little expert help from CMU Facilities, as well as the assistance of a cheerful installer/trainer from the vendor (it really does take a village), our little guy was ready to hit the ground running.

So, without further ado, please join the Clarke in welcoming our newest: the Phase One camera system (camera head and motorized column, oversize table and LED lighting).

What a bundle of joy.

Why is the Clarke so excited about a new camera? So happy you asked. For starters, the previous camera no longer worked. The former occupant of this camera room was a completely analog microfilm camera, severely outdated, and no longer repairable. While the Clarke is able to continue providing clients with analog preservation microfilming services with its remaining camera, a replacement was sorely needed.

Our new, fully digital camera is equipped with a 100-megapixel sensor, which allows it to capture images at high resolution and unparalleled clarity. It was designed with cultural heritage projects in mind and offers new imaging options for the Clarke.

The new camera can handle large format materials such as maps and newspapers especially well and can capture oversize documents without compromising any of the essential detail. Additionally, with its specialization in cultural heritage projects, the camera system comes with a clever book cradle that can safely hold in place delicate bound materials for filming. Anyone that has worked with old, delicate/decrepit bound materials knows the feeling of dread as the object slowly falls apart with each subtle jostle. The book cradle, as well as the large surface, helps to mitigate some of these unfortunate hazards of historic preservation.  

Now don’t think this is all about high resolution and document safety; the camera also streamlines our digitizing operations. Working with analog cameras can be slow and tedious for large projects, especially when the number of documents involved is in the hundreds or thousands, as is frequently the case here at the Clarke. The rapid capture photography of the camera provides quick, digitized images ready for post-processing. Considering that the camera is made with aerial-grade aluminum and designed with a minimum of moving parts, that tenure should be a long and happy one.

While the Clarke’s digitizing department has traditionally worked primarily with Michigan newspapers, expanding our largescale digitizing projects into other formats has previously been less than practical. This was unfortunate, as the full scope of the Clarke’s collections goes well beyond Michigan newspapers and covers a wide array of media and formats. With the addition of our new camera, a significant portion of these works can be digitized, not only for the sake of posterity, but for much broader accessibility to those that wish to view these irreplaceable works.