A strong internet presence has become essential for historical institutions. Providing an informative, easy-to-use website helps information seekers discover what an institution has to offer, and aids potential guests in planning their visit. “Social media” sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also become increasingly more important, because they are free marketing tools and allow people to have constant connection with a site.
In recent years, many museums and archival institutions have taken the initiative to digitize their collections. Digitization preserves content for the future, and helps safeguard original materials from frequent handling by creating an accessible, digital replica. Moreover, this process makes collections available online to people all over the world, and gives the public access to these materials even if they are unable to visit the institution.
Here at the Ypsilanti Historical Society, we too are taking steps to digitize our collections and bring Ypsilanti history to life online. Links to online resources are available on our website homepage, www.ypsilantihistoricalsociety.org. Under “Collections,” there are photographs of the Museum, giving you a taste of what you will see on an on-site tour. To aid in planning your visit, our event schedule is complete with upcoming exhibits for the year.
Interested researchers should consult our “Master Database,” a listing of the material we have in the archives. This can be done at home to give you an idea of what is available prior to your visit. Are you from out of town? No problem: simply call us or send an email with what you are interested in, and we can assist your research from there. Though we are constantly updating our database and adding new items, it currently contains 23 different collections and over 20,000 entries.
Also in progress is the “Digital Photo Archives Project,” a cooperative venture between the Ypsilanti Historical Society and the University of Michigan Digital Library System. Once complete, the collection will contain approximately 5,000 photographs dating from the 1850s to the present.
A benefit of membership in the Ypsilanti Historical Society is receiving the Gleanings, which can be a great resource when researching. Through a partnership with the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries, we have been able to digitize past issues of the Gleanings. Both these and the Digital Photo Archives Project are available on our website under “Publications.”
On the right side of our homepage are links to “Online Programs.” The “Historical Highlights of Ypsilanti” section offers a look at citizens who were an integral part of the development of the city, as well as places of significance from 1900-1975. For more information on these locations, many of which that are recognized as Michigan State Historic Sites, visit our “Markers and Statues” pages.
The Willow Run Bomber Plant has left an undeniable mark on Ypsilanti. At the time of its construction, it was the largest factory under one roof in the United States, and was known for completing one bomber every hour. The plant attracted so many workers that a community emerged around it. Information on the plant is available in the Archives, and a portion of what is available is online under the “Bomber City” page.
The Ypsilanti Historical Society is not the only group working to bring Ypsilanti to life online. The “Online Programs” section also offers links to other sites that focus on Ypsilanti history. Two of these links lead to projects completed by students in the Historic Preservation graduate program at Eastern Michigan University. “Gals with Gumption,” designed as an informative website and walking tour “reflects the accomplishments and struggles of women in the city of Ypsilanti.” The “African American History” link directs to a website focused on the historic South Adams Street neighborhood, circa 1900. You can stay connected with the neighborhood by “liking” them on Facebook; search “South Adams Street circa 1900.”
Independent blogs are kept by two Ypsilanti historians, both of whom have published books on Ypsilanti history. Laura Bien keeps the “Dusty Diary,” and James Mann writes the “Ypsihistor.” Both are volunteers in the Archives; please contact us for more information regarding these blogs and their content.
Many historic sites and organizations in Ypsilanti have websites and Facebook pages that you can “like” to stay updated with news and events, including the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti, Visit Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, Michigan Firehouse Museum, Yankee Air Museum and I Grew Up in Ypsilanti.
The Ypsilanti Historical Society is also on Facebook! Please “like” us to stay updated with what is going on in the Society, see posts featuring collections from the Museum and Archives, and photographs uploaded weekly. For more information on this and our other online initiatives, please contact us by phone or email. Museum: email@example.com - 734-482-4990; Archives: firstname.lastname@example.org - 734-217-8236.
(Melanie Parker is a student in the graduate program in Historical Preservation at Eastern Michigan University and is currently serving an Internship in the YHS Archives.)