Eastern Michigan University saves historical markers; UMP book shows what’s at stake

by Heather Newman on June 3, 2010

More book details The Michigan Historical Marker Program appeared doomed after budget cuts dictated the end of its $50,000 annual budget. That is, until Eastern Michigan University stepped in this spring and volunteered to have its graduate students do the fact checking and writing of the summaries that appear on the signs, which are paid for by local communities.

The Detroit News and multiple other sources reported the change, noting that the program receives 20-30 requests annually, and that the Michigan History Foundation will serve as the administrative agency.

Laura Rose Ashlee is the editor of Traveling Through Time: A Guide to Michigan’s Historical Markers, which describes 1,500 markers throughout the state. She authored more than 500 markers while at the State Historic Preservation Office.

“Many markers honor the lives of prominent Michiganians, but they also tell us about lesser known pioneers, and Native Americans, and women, and minorities who helped shape our towns and thus the state,” she wrote. “Most of the markers focus on subjects that pre-date the twentieth century. . . .

“When I became the historical marker coordinator in 1988 I quickly realized how important markers are to the people who apply for them and to many of the people who read them. Citizens drive Michigan’s historical marker program. . . .

“Markers and their related historic sites connect us to those who came before. . . . It’s about continuity. It’s about education. It’s about fostering understanding for what people experienced as they built lives, communities, industries, and a nation. It’s about appreciation for what we have now. And, it’s about doing something to build an appreciation for history so that people who read the markers now and in the future will also feel connected to those who came before.”

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