WMU News

WMU field school turns South Haven into maritime history laboratory

July 9, 1998

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- For nine students enrolled in a Western Michigan University summer field school, the lakeshore community of South Haven has become a learning laboratory -- and they'll thank the community with a carefully documented photographic exhibit of that city's history.

"Great Lakes Maritime Community History" is the focus of the three-week field school that began on July 6 and will culminate with the July 31 opening of the exhibit at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The field school is being held under the auspices of the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies. That center, which was launched last year, is a partnership between the museum and WMU's Department of History.

Working in teams, students are conducting interviews of community residents, touring maritime history sites and examining the cultural landscape to study maritime trade, commerce and tourism in the Lake Michigan community. The information they gather will be put to immediate use as they process a photo collection of nearly 3,000 images that chronicle South Haven life from the 1920s through the 1960s. The photos were the work of the late Roy McCrimmon of South Haven, whose family donated them to the museum.

"Processing the photos is an enormous job," says Dr. Kristin Szylvian, executive director of the Michigan Maritime Museum and a WMU assistant professor of history. "They focus on all aspects of South Haven's maritime history and we'll be talking to people across the community who can help us make sense of the images."

Beginning July 14, students also will tour a number of South Haven sites each morning as they gather information. They will visit the South Haven Lighthouse, tour the Jensen Fishery, examine a Great Lakes fish tug, inspect old resort hotels, visit tour ship landing sites and review the U.S. Life-Saving Service's operations. Afternoons will be dedicated to the work of preparing the McCrimmon collection for exhibit.

During the final week of the field school, students also will be involved in the South Haven Tall Ships Rendezvous, which will bring a small fleet of the traditional sailing ships to the community July 24-27. South Haven is the only Michigan stop for the tall ships this summer.

The field school will conclude with the opening of the McCrimmon Exhibit at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31.

News media: For more information about the field school or exact times of activities, Szylvian and Dr. Michael Chiarappa, WMU assistant professor of history, can be reached during the field school at the Michigan Maritime Museum at (616) 637-8078. For additional information or assistance in contacting Chiarappa or Szylvian, call Cheryl Roland, Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, at (616) 387-8412.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu


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