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Albert Kahn: Designing Detroit & the University of Michigan

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 4:20pm

Buildings by architect Albert Kahn dominate Detroit and the University of Michigan.

In this lecture and slideshow, Detroit News art critic and author Michael H. Hodges surveys Kahn’s impact on city and school, and asks why this most-prolific of designers — once world-famous — has vanished from the architectural canon.

While best known for his revolutionary factory designs, like the Packard Plant, Kahn’s non-industrial output was huge as well. In Detroit, Kahn designed the Fisher, General Motors, Argonaut, Maccabees, Detroit News, Free Press, and Detroit Trust buildings, as well as the Art Deco lighthouse at the north end of Belle Isle. At U-M, he built Burton Memorial Tower, Hill Auditorium, the Natural History Museum, West Engineering, the Graduate Library, Natural Sciences, Angell Hall, the Ferry Gate, and Clements Library (his favorite).

Michael H. Hodges covers art and area museums for The Detroit News, where he's worked since 1991. His book on Albert Kahn, which comes out in early 2017, is his second with Wayne State University Press. His first was Michigan’s Historic Railroad Stations.

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Nerd Nite #31 - The Great Pleasure (and Long History) of Creating New Kinds of Plants

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 11:14am

Basically as soon as agriculture began, humans started messing with plants, controlling their sex lives in order to transform the weeds around them into the grains and vegetables we depend on today. And while the crazy origin stories of things like corn and broccoli are in the distant past, I still use the exact same traditional methods to indulge my inner mad scientist and create new varieties of plants in my garden. The results are fun (and sometimes delicious) and will make you see the produce section of the grocery store in an entirely new way.

About Joseph Tychonievich: A life long gardener and lover of plants, Joseph has been a repeated guest on public radio’s food show The Splendid Table, wrote a book, Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener (Timber Press, 2013), spent two years working at the famed rare plants nursery Arrowhead Alpines and was named by Organic Gardening Magazine as one of “…six young horticulturists who are helping to shape how America gardens.” Joseph lives and gardens with his husband and an adorable black cat in Ypsilanti. You can find him on Twitter at @gsgardens, read his blog posts at or

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Author and U-M Planning Expert Fred Mayer Discusses His New Book “A Setting For Excellence: The Story of the Planning and Development of the Ann Arbor Campus of the University of Michigan”

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 1:55pm

Find out more about U-M architectural history and how the Michigan campus evolved when former U-M University Planner Fred Mayer visits AADL to discuss his book, recently published by University of Michigan Press: Setting For Excellence: The Story of the Planning and Development of the Ann Arbor Campus of the University of Michigan.

While there are times when the mix of old and new buildings and the chaotic activities of thousands of students can give a haphazard appearance to the university, campus planning has in fact become a highly refined form of design. This is demonstrated in a convincing fashion by this immensely informative and entertaining history of the evolution of the central campus of the University of Michigan.

By tracing the development of the Michigan campus from its early days to the present within the context of the evolution of higher education in America, Mayer provides a strong argument for the importance of rigorous and enlightened campus planning as a critical element of the learning environment of the university. His comprehensive history of campus planning, illustrated with photos, maps, and diagrams from Michigan’s history, is an outstanding contribution to the university’s history as it approaches its bicentennial in 2017. Perhaps more important, Mayer’s book provides a valuable treatise on the evolution of campus planning as an architectural discipline.

Frederick W. Mayer was the University Planner for the University of Michigan from 1968 to 2003 and served as the campus planner for the university during an important period of its growth during the late twentieth century. A Henry Rutgers scholar at Rutgers and a Sears Fellow in City Planning at Cornell, Fred was a founding member of the Society for College and University Planning and editor of Planning for Higher Education. He has written numerous articles and lectured extensively on the subject of college and university planning.

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Still Missing: Michigan's Mysterious Disappearances and Shipwrecks

Fri, 12/04/2015 - 12:56pm

What do a mild mannered grocery store manager from Northern Michigan and the infamous skyjacker D.B. Cooper have in common? How can a married couple and the aircraft they were traveling in just disappear over a populated area? What really happened to the freighter that sailed out of Grand Haven, over the horizon and into oblivion?

Join author and shipwreck hunter Ross Richardson in exploring the baffling disappearances of a person, a plane, and a ship, and other mysterious unsolved disappearances in the Michigan Region.

Ross Richardson was the National Writer Series Author Next Door for October 2014, and the Grand Traverse Scene Magazine named his book Still Missing to their Notable Michigan Books list. He has spent the last decade and a half researching Great Lakes maritime history and searching for the Michigan Region’s missing aircraft and ships. He has been involved with over a dozen shipwreck discoveries, including recent discoveries in Northern Lake Michigan. Previously, Richardson penned the book The Search for the Westmoreland, Lake Michigan's Treasure Shipwreck. He operates a popular website, Michigan Mysteries, which is dedicated to missing persons, missing aircraft, and missing ships.

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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist and Bestselling Author David Maraniss Discusses His New Book "Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story "

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 9:02am

In Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, David Maraniss, who was born in Detroit, captures this great American city at its pinnacle. Detroit in 1963 reflected the spirit of the entire country at the time, and its complicated past and future decline could be traced to this era.

It’s 1963, and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America. It was the American auto makers’ best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther’s UAW had helped lift the middle class. The air was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march.

Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of the city's collapse were evident even then. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and bestselling author of Barack Obama: The Story and others, including When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi which was hailed by Sports Illustrated as “maybe the best sports biography ever published.”

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Michigan Notable Book Author and U-M Professor Sally Howell Discusses Her Book “Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past”

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 3:50pm

Michigan Notable Books Award winning author Sally Howell speaks about the history of Islam in Detroit, a city that is home to several of the nation’s oldest and most diverse Muslim communities.

In the early 1900s, there were thousands of Muslims in Detroit. Most came from Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and British India. In 1921, they built the nation’s first mosque in Highland Park. By the 1930s, new Islam-oriented social movements were taking root among African Americans in Detroit. By the 1950s, Albanians, Arabs, African Americans, and South Asians all had mosques and religious associations in the city, and they were confident that Islam could be, and had already become, an American religion. When immigration laws were liberalized in 1965, new immigrants and new African American converts rapidly became the majority of U.S. Muslims. For them, Detroit’s old Muslims and their mosques seemed oddly Americanized, even unorthodox.

Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past explores the rise of Detroit’s earliest Muslim communities. It documents the culture wars and doctrinal debates that ensued as these populations confronted Muslim newcomers who did not understand their manner of worship or the American identities they had created. Looking closely at this historical encounter, it provides a new interpretation of the possibilities and limits of Muslim incorporation in American life and shows how Islam has become American in the past and how the anxieties many new Muslim Americans and non-Muslims feel about the place of Islam in American society today are not inevitable, but are part of a dynamic process of political and religious change that is still unfolding.

Sally Howell is Assistant Professor of History and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

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Author Jan Jarboe Russell and Holocaust Survivor Irene Butter Discuss The New Book "The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II"

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 4:12pm

Author Jan Jarboe Russell and local Holocaust survivor Irene Butter paid a special visit to AADL to discuss Russell’s new book, which features a chapter about Irene Butter.

The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II is the dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families, many of whom were US citizens, were incarcerated, with approval from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR's tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.

Author Jan Jarboe Russell is a former Nieman Fellow, a contributing editor for Texas Monthly, and has written for the New York Times, the San Antonio Express-News, Slate, and other publications. She is the author of Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson and has also compiled and edited They Lived to Tell the Tale. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, Dr. Lewis F. Russell, Jr.

Irene Butter, born in Berlin, Germany grew up as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Europe. A survivor of 2 concentration camps, she came to the US in 1945. After graduating from Queens College in New York City, she obtained a Ph.D. in economics from Duke University. She and her husband were on the faculty of the University of Michigan for more than 35 years. Since the late 1980s, she has been teaching students about the Holocaust and the lessons she learned during those traumatic years. She is a co-founder of the Raoul Wallenberg lecture series at the University of Michigan and is also one of the founders of ZEITOUNA, an Arab/Jewish Women’s Dialogue group in Ann Arbor.

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History Mysteries with Mystery Authors Carrie Bebris, Susanna Calkins, Anna Lee Huber, and Sam Thomas

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 12:14pm

Mystery buffs will marvel at this panel of award-winning historical mystery authors, each with a brand new mystery book that has just been released!

Robin Agnew of Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop moderated this event, which will included opportunities for audience questions.

Panelists included:
• Award-winning author Carrie Bebris, author of the critically acclaimed Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series (the further adventures of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters) is also a life member and regional coordinator of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her seventh book in the Jane Austen-based series, The Suspicion At Sanditon, finds Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have moved to Sanditon, the setting of Jane Austen’s final work. They have barely settled into their lodgings when they receive an unexpected dinner invitation from Lady Denham, one of the town’s most prominent residents. Thirteen guests assemble at Sanditon House—but their hostess never appears. The Darcys, like most of their fellow attendees, speculate that one of her ladyship’s would-be heirs has grown impatient … but then the guests start to vanish one by one.

• Susanna Calkins is the author of the award-winning Lucy Campion novels, which are set in 17th century London, a time period that gives Calkins the ability to write about both the plague and the Great Fire. Her main character, Lucy, began the series as a chambermaid, but in this third novel, The Masque of a Murderer, Lucy is working as a bookseller's apprentice, selling broadsides with her fellow apprentice on the streets of London. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate's daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The Quaker, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, has only a few hours to live and Lucy is unprepared for what he reveals to her — that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a mysterious secret he had uncovered.

• Anna Lee Huber is the award-winning and national bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mystery series, set in Scotland in the 1830’s. In A Study In Death, the fourth riveting mystery in the series, Lady Kiera Darby is commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, but is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband. When she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, the physician is called and Lord Drummond appears satisfied to rule her death natural. However, Kiera is convinced that poison is the culprit and intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death, no matter who stands in her way.

• Historian and teacher Sam Thomas is the author of the Bridget Hodgson series, set in 17th century York. All of the mysteries in the series focus on Bridget's work as a midwife. His latest novel, The Witch Hunter’s Tale, finds the Puritans scouring the British countryside for witches with often heartbreaking consequences. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?

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Poets & Patriots: A Tuneful History of the United States Through The Tale of Francis Scott Key’s Most Famous Song

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 10:03am

The story of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the story of the United States itself. The melody was famously set to new words by amateur poet and lawyer Francis Scott Key after the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.

Since the “dawn’s early light” on that now emblematic day, the song has grown and changed in ways largely forgotten today. This lecture and discussion by U-M Associate Professor of Musicology and American Culture Mark Clague explores the history of the American national anthem as a witness to the story of the nation itself.

Mark Clague is a native of Ann Arbor and longtime fan of the Ann Arbor District Library. He serves as Associate Professor of Musicology and American Culture at the University of Michigan and is editor-in-chief of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition and director of the University’s Gershwin Initiative.