Archives and Regional History Collection

Housed at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center, our WMU archives and regional history collection contain items that document the history of southwest Michigan and Western Michigan University.

Print and manuscript collections

Men working in Kalamazoo Paper Company circa 1906.Regional History

This collection consists of letters, diaries, business records, organizational records, photographs, publications, newspapers and other materials documenting the social, business, political and institutional history of southwest Michigan. Publications include an extensive genealogy library and cover the Midwest and beyond. 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. Holdings for each county vary and may include tax records, court records and township minutes.

Search for materials in this collection using our Library Search. For descriptive inventories of items in our Regional History collection, see our finding aids in ArchivesSpace.

Western Michigan College sign with directions to various halls.WMU History

Documenting the history of WMU, this collection includes yearbooks, catalogs, alumni publications, scrapbooks and issues of the Western Herald. It also includes many of the historical records of WMU. Some departmental records require permission from the originating department to access.

See Records Management to learn more about how WMU collects, preserves and provides access to the official records of the University.


South Burdick Street in downtown Kalamazoo in 1913. Regional History Image Collections

Zhang Legacy Collection Center is home to several large photographic collections with images depicting individuals and the social, institutional and business activities of the region from the 1860s to the 1990s. This includes the work of Ward Morgan (Kalamazoo), Adolf Haan (Berrien County), Grace Weeks (Van Buren County), Schiavone Studio (Kalamazoo) and John Lacko (Kalamazoo).  

Popcorn wagon from 1945.Ward Morgan Photography Collection

Featuring nearly 27,000 black and white photographic negatives, this collection contains images from 1939 to 1980. These photographs reflect the people, industries, built environment and commercial activities of the Kalamazoo area.

You can also view a selection of Ward Morgan photographs online.

Aerial view of Western Michigan University (alternatively Western State Teachers College) from 1934..WMU Archives Photograph Collection

This collection contains images from WMU’s history including views of the campus from the construction phase of the original campus in 1904 through the present, campus athletics, buildings, some faculty and staff, and the 250,000 plus image collection of photographs of the Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications.

You can also view a selection of WMU archives photographs online.

Digital collections

Photo of two girls reading in a bedroom taken around 1924.Regional History Digital Collections

These collections depict the history of southwest Michigan and includes the Caroline Bartlett Crane Everyman’s House Collection, “Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress” book, South Haven Lighthouse Logs, United States Civil War Collection and more.

Front page of Focus News in April 1968.Newspaper Digital Collections

Digital copies of past issues of the Western Herald, Focus, Focus News, Kalamazoo News and Augustinian newspapers can be found in this collection.

Front covers of Western Michigan University yearbooks in 1954 and 1955.WMU History Digital Collections

These collections document WMU’s history and include digital versions of yearbooks, music performances, oral histories, the Western Herald newspapers and WMU-related websites.