Applying skills learned from her role as a student assistant at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center, Nicole Page created not just one but two educational exhibits for Waldo Library. Page leveraged her library experience and knowledge as a public history major to create displays on World War II and West Michigan and Western Michigan University Hockey, with a surprising link between the two exhibits.
Page’s first exhibit explores the connections between World War II and West Michigan. All items displayed either originate or trace back to West Michigan in some unique way. Within this exhibit, you can see a collection of fascinating photographs, diaries, and a memory book that perfectly encapsulate the stories of those who lived during the war and their special connections to West Michigan.
“I picked the topic of World War II because I have always had an interest in the history of World War II and learning as much as I can about it,” Page said. “I wanted to see the connections between the war and West Michigan since one of the focuses at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center is regional history.”
Among the variety of items lies Page’s favorite: a photograph of workers that won the Army-Navy E Award for excellence in war production at the Ingersoll Steel, right here in Kalamazoo.
“Everyone looks like hard workers,” Page explained, “and in a sea of men, there is a group of women sitting that look like the iconic Rosie the Riveter with their hair tied up and similar jumpsuits on with tough faces. They were a part of making an impact on the production of important military products to help aid the war.”
The exhibit also includes an homage to Harry W. Lawson, a former Navy Commander who served in the war and later founded Western Michigan University’s hockey team, which connects to Page’s second exhibit on the history of Western Broncos Hockey.
“I had a lot of interesting discoveries within the hockey exhibit because I did not know a lot about the original club hockey coach Harry Lawson and how he started the club team out and eventually gave way to the official team," said Page. "An interesting discovery during my research is that Harry Lawson had a connection with the World War II display as he served in World War II and had his ship sink but was able to be saved two hours later.”
The exhibit features various items highlighting Western Michigan Hockey, including photographs, programs from the games, press releases, letters, and posters. Page’s favorite item in this display is the double-sided poster given to fans during a game in 1995.
“Each of these items helps give an illustrative look into our great hockey program at WMU,” Page noted. “I also chose the topic of Western Hockey for my other exhibit because going to the hockey games is some of the best WMU memories I have, and they are always fun to attend. I knew there would be a lot of materials on this topic at the Zhang to create a worthwhile exhibit.”
To create these awe-inspiring exhibits, Page explained that the first step in her research process was to talk to Lynn Houghton, regional history curator, and John Winchell, WMU archives curator. With help from the University Libraries’ online databases, Page carefully constructed both thought-provoking displays.
“The hardest part of creating the exhibit is trying to organize the material in a way that is exciting for people to look at or catch their eye,” Page explained. “I usually end up having a lot that doesn’t end up making it into the display because I didn’t want it to be overwhelming. This whole process only takes a few weeks, but usually, we have a while to brainstorm different ideas before deciding what to do.”
Even after working at the Zhang for over a year, Page still feels like she learns something new daily. Working in the archives at the Zhang has proven beneficial for Page and her future. She feels prepared to apply for internships and seek a career when she graduates this spring with a B.A. in public history.
“The Zhang Legacy Collections Center makes everyone feel welcome, whether it be students, alumni, the public, and their student employees. I had a lot of fun creating these displays over the course of this year.”
Visit Waldo Library’s second floor to view Page’s fascinating exhibits.