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Department earns NEH grant for history project in Saugatuck area

  • beach scene
  • women on the beach, mid-century photo
  • car on street, 1930s

Posted on January 16, 2018

The Kutsche Office of Local History at Grand Valley received a $12,000 Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a project documenting the history of summers in the Saugatuck-Douglas area in the mid-20th century.

Kimberly McKee, director of the Kutsche Office of Local History, said the project is a collaboration with the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center; "Stories of Summer" involves capturing oral histories and digitizing photographs, newspaper articles and other materials from the era.

McKee said while the area's logging, agriculture and maritime industries are well-documented, there is a marked absence of the LGBT experience within the two communities. 

Nathan Nietering, director of the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, said the project will document the area's rise to becoming a lakeshore destination for the LGBT community, and its growing post-war tourism industry.

Working with the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, Kutsche Office staff members will conduct two history harvests at the center's Old School House in Douglas on June 2 and July 21. 

Staff members from Grand Valley's University Libraries will preserve the materials for archival purposes. Eventually, copies of oral histories and collected materials will be kept at the History Center, and on an online database.

Since it was established in 2008, the Kutsche Office of Local History has conducted multiple oral history collections of diverse populations. These oral histories include voices from Hispanic and Asian Pacific families in Holland, Native Americans in West Michigan, and families who have lived and worked in Oceana County.

For more information about the Kutsche Office of Local History, visit gvsu.edu/kutsche.