Historical societies bring the past to life, each with their own unique flair. In a state steeped in history like Michigan, there is plenty to learn and celebrate. If you’re wondering where the best historical societies in the state are, there’s good news ahead! Here are some great places to start if you want to learn a little more about the history of the Great Lake State.
If you're going to look into Michigan history, you might as well start with a historical society devoted to the history of Michigan as a whole. The Historical Society of Michigan represents the oldest cultural organization in the state, and offers a complete slate of special events and publications for users to check out the biggest events in the state and get some insight on what more specific items to look into. It's a great general starting point, so treat it as such.
Ann Arbor is home to the Pittsfield Township Historical Society, which is something of an unusual development as it is. Pittsfield Township is just south of Ann Arbor, and was once a very big deal in the state. Known as the “Crossroads of Michigan” as it sat astride a pair of major Indian trails that eventually became the major roadways of US-23 and I-94, Pittsfield Township may have been a big deal, but today, it's Ann Arbor that's the much bigger deal.
A trip to Bad Axe will give you a look at the Huron County Historical Society, devoted to an entire county's history. It's not the only such county-wide historical society around, but the Huron County Historical Society encompasses several museums, as well as maintains a set of noteworthy books of interest, and even a lighthouse as part of its overall purview in the Harbor Beach Lighthouse. That's a lot to handle, so check these guys out for a big slug of history all at once.
Islands are fairly numerous in Michigan, and Beaver Island is one of these. There's also a lot of history involved with Beaver Island worth noting, including that Beaver Island was home to the United States' first and only kingdom. Those who want to find out more will need to check into Beaver Island's history, and the Beaver Island Historical Society will be a big help here.
Billed as the third oldest Christian community in the United States, Mary's City of David not far from Benton Harbor represents not only a major attraction, but also its own historical society. There's quite a bit of history here, especially given how old the community is, and it offers both museums and tours for those interested to check out for themselves. Did you know this little town played in the first night baseball game back in 1930? That's just a sliver of what's waiting for you to find.
Right around Bay City, there's a historical society that's based around a decommissioned naval vessel. More specifically, it's the USS Edson, open most of the year except for a handful of days and the deepest part of winter. Offering both self-guided and guided tours, as well as a set of special events, those who ever wanted to learn about the Edson or about naval ships will have a good part of the job taken care of with the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.
Up in Calumet, a surprising part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park sits complete with its own historical society: The Norwegian Lutheran Church. Built in 1898, the church is said to be a replica of the church located in the builder's home town of Kristiansund. Containing its original 1898 Packard Reed Organ, the church is a living, breathing chunk of history in its own right, and the historical society seeks to not only preserve the church, but the events it's contained since.
Another of Calumet's entries, the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum, with its own historical society, contains a vital storehouse of information about the history of firefighting in the region, and those who engaged in the activity as well. Though the copper mines in the area shut down back in 1968, the firefighters remained, and thus the museum was born. Built around the original fire station constructed from local sandstone, the museum and the historical society that maintains it offers a look at the original structures down to a replica of the brass pole originally used to move rapidly from one floor of the building to the next.
The Historical Preservation Society of Dundee, located in the town of the same name, focuses mainly on the Old Mill Museum in the same place. Restored during the 1980s, and wholly by volunteer efforts, the Old Mill now shows off the area's history, including not only the area's original inhabitants—the Macon Indians—but also the hydro-electric generator installed by no less than Henry Ford.