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History, Mission and Values

Our History

Although our name is fairly new, the Michigan History Center's story goes back more than 100 years. That's when the first effort to organize and sustain the Historical Society of Michigan was made. It was followed by a pioneer society organized in 1874, provision of museum space in the 1879 State Capitol, and the 1913 creation of the Michigan Historical Commission.

Since that time, through name and organizational changes, our collections have grown as state citizens and their descendants entrusted us with materials that have meaning for the future as well as the present. Our footprint has expanded through field sites and the Michigan Library and Historical Center. Opened in 1989, that facility was the first home for Michigan history built to encourage archival research, house museum exhibits and welcome learners of all ages.

In 2016, Public Act 470 created the center as an entity separate from the Michigan Historical Commission. Today, the Michigan History Center, which includes the Archives of Michigan, the Michigan History Museum and 11 museums and historic sites, continues to expand its reach - online, on trails and onsite. We share not only collections and ideas, but also the experience of asking questions, finding answers and reaching conclusions.

Our Mission

The Michigan History Center fosters curiosity, enjoyment and inspiration rooted in Michigan's stories.

We constantly seek new ways to provide opportunities for experiences that spark curiosity. We are as enthusiastic about the as-yet-untold stories of Michigan as we are about tales of Father Marquette or 19th-century lumberjacks. We are committed to providing opportunities for all people to see themselves as they experience our exhibits, our collections and our programs.

Our Core Values

  • We are a foundation and a home for Michigan history.
    We are the only combined archival and museum organization devoted to the history of all of Michigan.
  • We collect and preserve things that have meaning for the future as well as the present.
    When we accept something for our archival or museum collections, we are making a commitment to preserve it and share it for the long term. We focus on things that tell personal stories as they illustrate broader themes. We value objects and documents of everyday life. We consider potential use not only today but in the future, as people seek to understand their families, their communities and their state.
  • We get people excited about history.
    We believe that Michigan's history holds endless fascination with countless untold stories, examples of people making discoveries and decisions, and opportunities to see familiar things from new perspectives.
  • We create connections between past/present/future.
    We try to understand the past in its own context, but we do so with the goals of better understanding and navigating the present and making wiser choices as we build our future.
  • We keep our promises.
    When we accept a financial contribution or a donation for the collection we make sure the donor understands our plans for that gift. We follow through on those plans and we honor the wishes expressed through legacy gifts. We provide programs and educational experiences that match our marketing. We keep the commitments we make to each other and to our partners.

Our Impact

Michigan History Center 2018 annual report