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Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI 49401-9403)
Kimberly McKee (Project Director: June 2017 to March 2021)
Documenting the Histories of Summers in Saugatuck-Douglas

Digitization of heritage materials in two history harvests, collection of oral histories related to local history, and a community symposium to learn about the area’s history of tourism. The project would be coordinated by Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center to gather and preserve historical materials about shoreline communities along Lake Michigan. Although tourism supports various economic, social, and cultural development in the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas, the history of this industry is little documented in historical collections. Public historians from GVSU and the community would provide history and interpretive information about the contributed items. Digital copies would be provided to attendees and held for long-term preservation in the digital collections of GVSU Libraries, Special Collections, and Archives.

West Michigan's landscape reflects the histories of a bustling tourism industry along the shoreline of Lake Michigan during the summer. Many of these areas were profoundly transformed, garnering reputations for their acceptance of minorities. The twin lakeshore communities of Saugatuck-Douglas, became an important touchstone in thinking about the region’s LGBT history as the towns became a “home for all,” including a college youth invasion, motorcycle gangs, beach-goers, concert-goers, as well as the LGBT community. Although stories are told about motels and inns that welcomed gay customers or lax policing of state liquor laws that banned serving homosexuals, few records or oral histories discuss these topics. This project documents the area’s rise to become a destination of the LGBT community and other contemporary stories through oral histories and digitization of objects, photographs, and ephemera while the people who experienced these times are still able to share them.

Project fields:
Gender Studies; U.S. Regional Studies

Common Heritage

Preservation and Access

$12,000 (approved)
$11,798 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2018 – 6/30/2019