Michigan Historical Museum
Part of the huge Michigan Library and Historical Center, the Michigan Historical Museum (702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing, 517/373-3559, www.michigan.gov/museum, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun., free) has become a pilgrimage for many history buffs. With three floors and more than 30 permanent galleries, the Michigan Historical Museum tells a detailed story of Michigan’s rise from wilderness to industrial powerhouse.
Unlike many self-serving state museums, however, the narrative here is frank and intelligent. Placards explain how within a few generations of contact with European settlers, the state’s Native American cultures transformed from self-sufficient lifestyles to those with a dependence on manufactured goods.
The Michigan Historical Museum also contains an excellent and detailed copper-mining exhibit that’s probably better than any found in the U.P. today. It features a walk-through copper mine and videos on life in the mining camps.
The third floor chronicles more recent history, including the dawn of the automobile age and the Great Depression. On the lower level, a small but choice museum store offers lighthouse prints, jewelry crafted from Petoskey stones, and one of the state’s best selections of books relating to the history of African Americans.
The Michigan Library and Historical Center complex also houses the state archives and state library, a popular pilgrimage spot for genealogists from around the country. The building itself is of interest, too, designed by prominent Detroit architect William Kessler, who relied largely on native building materials.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel