WMU Archives & Regional History Collections

The Archives and Regional History Collections support the research and teaching mission of the University and also the needs of historical and genealogical researchers. While the materials have local origins, many of the collections have broader themes and historical significance beyond the region.

Regional History Manuscripts

  • Letters, diaries, business records, organizational records, photographs, and other materials documenting the social, business, political, and institutional history of southwest Michigan.
  • Locate materials in the online library catalog.

Regional Governmental Records

  • Records on deposit from the Archives of Michigan include the public records of 12 counties in southwest Michigan: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, St. Joseph, and Van Buren.
  • Governmental records include tax records, court records and township minutes.
  • Some records are stored in an off-site facility and may require advance notice to access.

Michilimackinac Research and Translation Project Collection

  • The largest collection in the United States of microfilmed French documents about the history of European settlement in the Great Lakes and North America on loan from the Mackinac State Historic Parks. See finding aid.

University Archives

  • Departmental records
  • Yearbooks (1906-1987)
  • Photographs, catalogs, alumni publications, scrapbooks
  • Western Herald (1916 to present)
  • Some materials may be used only with permission from the originating department and confirmation by the Archives Curator or Director

Oral History

  • Collections include oral history programs conducted in the early 1960s and mid-1970s focusing on the greater Kalamazoo community.
  • Oral histories of Western alumni, faculty, staff, and friends collected 1987-2003 for the WMU Centennial.
  • To find out about the oral history holdings, and make an appointment to listen to recorded oral histories or view transcriptions, contact the Archives.
  • Some of the histories require the use of playback devices which may not be immediately accessible, such as reel to reel.

Federal Census

  • Michigan census available on microfilm through 1930.
  • Other states and territories of the United States available on microfilm through 1820.
  • Access to Ancestry Library Edition includes other states and years.

State Census

  • Kalamazoo (1837, 1884, 1894) County
  • Ottawa (1884) County
  • St. Joseph (1845, 1884, 1894) County

Books, Magazines, and Newspapers

  • City directories, county histories, and local imprints
  • Rare, out-of-print volumes relating to southwestern Michigan
  • Substantial collection relating to Michigan's participation in the Civil War
  • Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society collection of 1,700 volumes
  • Newspapers for several towns in southwestern Michigan and part of the Michigan Newspaper Project
  • Locate books, magazines, and most newspapers in the online library catalog

Photographs

  • Images depicting individuals and the social, institutional, and business activities of the region date primarily from the 1860s to the 1990s.
  • Variety of formats, including carte de visits, ambrotypes, ferrotypes, lantern slides, contemporary slides, postcards, stereopticon views, and a variety of negative types.
  • Ward Morgan collection of photographic negatives spanning Kalamazoo history from 1939 through 1980. The 26,000 image Morgan collection includes streetscapes, industries and businesses, as well as studio views of individuals and families. 500 images have been digitized.
  • Civil War and Grand Army of the Republic images relating to southwestern Michigan.
  • University photographs
    • Views of the campus from the construction phase of the original campus in 1904 through the present
    • Campus athletics, buildings, and activities
    • Some faculty and staff
    • 250,000 plus collection of photographs of the Office of University Relations

Digitized Collections

  • African American History Book - 'Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress' book, 1915 edition, fully digitized including photographs, charts, and searchable text in pdf format.
  • Caroline Bartlett Crane's Everyman's House Collection - Recently updated with more comprehensive metadata, more zoom capability, and new items: book and photos. National home design winner, built in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by Caroline Bartlett Crane: a mixed collection of blueprints, letters, and photos.
  • United States Civil War Collection - The collection consists of 8 diaries and 29 letters from the University Archives and Regional History Collections. They were written in the mid 1860s by men with connections to Michigan and the Midwest, regimental or residence, and represent diverse military experiences, ranging from a musician to a prisoner of war situation. The handwritten originals have full transcriptions that are searchable with comprehensive metadata and include page images.
  • Ward Morgan Collection - Commercial photographs from 1939-1980 showing mid 20th century culture in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area.
  • Yearbooks of Western Michigan University 1906-1975