Our History

Heritage Michigan was founded in 1989 as the Michigan History Foundation by a coterie of visionary business, civic, and political leaders to raise private funds to complete exhibits in the newly constructed Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing. (The Michigan History Museum opened that year with only its 2nd floor exhibits complete.) The result: a successful campaign that provided $1.3M, matched by the State, to complete the exhibits that opened to the public in 1995. Since then, Heritage Michigan has played a significant role in numerous other projects to preserve and interpret Michigan’s history.

$11 million raised since 1989


How do we make a difference?

A recent major success was securing a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to begin to transform the exhibits at the State Museum in a manner that communicates Michigan’s rich diversity.

We raised the funds for an addition to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee and for an ongoing multi-year exhibit upgrade.

We enabled the Michigan History Center to launch its learning commons, adding classrooms, the David and Betty Morris Learning Center, and endowed support for education programs, including a pre-school program and the Governor’s Decision Room.

We helped secure a grant from the Kresge Foundation along with other donations that supported the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) partnership with the Cranbrook Art Museum for “Michigan Modern,” a design exhibition and symposium illuminating Michigan’s mid-20th century architectural heritage and importance as a center for creativity and design innovation. The exhibit also traveled to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. More recently, we secured funds for publication in 2016 of the award-winning Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America (edited by Amy L. Arnold and Brian D. Conway of the SHPO).

We served as an administrator for the Michigan Historical Marker program from 2009-17.  We also aided in erection of the Civil War-related “Michigan Cavalry Brigade” marker near Gettysburg National Battlefield Park in 2013.

We raised funds for the planning the Straits of Mackinac Heritage Center at the Father Marquette National Memorial site in St. Ignace.

We made possible an emergency rescue of drawings, photographs, and files of architect Minoru Yamasaki, designer of the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the One Woodward Building in Detroit.

On the west side of the State, we provided matching funds for a federal grant and a Michigan Humanities Council grant supporting the West Michigan Pike project, which identified and highlighted the historic resources of the Lake Michigan communities from New Buffalo to Hart/Montague. The Beachtown convention and visitors bureaus were our partners on this project.

On behalf of the Archives of Michigan, the State’s official records custodian, we have raised funds to make family history materials, historical maps, and documents available readily online at www.seekingmichigan.org.

Grants from the Michigan Humanities Council have also supported several exhibits and projects over the years, including the recent “Rock Your Mocs” series of programs on Michigan history seen through Native American eyes.

Smaller donations and grants have supported exhibits, archaeological research, educational efforts, and public programs at Fort Wilkins State Park, Fayette Historic State Park, the Iron Industry Museum, Hartwick Pines State Park, the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at North Higgins Lake State Park, the Sanilac Petroglyphs site in the Thumb, and Walker Tavern, west of Jackson, as well as the Michigan History Center in Lansing. They have helped with the preservation and access of Civil War manuscripts and the Leavenworth Photography collection in the Archives of Michigan.

In 2016 we paid for the preservation of a 170-year-old freedom paper known as a “manumission” that belonged to a Michigander who in 1846 bought his liberty from slavery in Kentucky.

Lastly, we're very proud of our legacy of helping educate hundreds of thousands of Michigan school children.