New Exhibit Creates Rare View of Campus History

On August 17th, the Stephen S. Clark Library celebrated the opening of its newest exhibit, Creating a Campus: A Cartographic Celebration of U-M’s Bicentennial, with a special Third Thursday Open House. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the University of Michigan, this new exhibit tells the story of the Ann Arbor campus, from before the establishment of the town to the present day.  Drawing on historical maps, photographs, plans, aerial photos, and more, it explores the creation and development of the campus, highlights the continuous Native American presence, and examines Ann Arbor’s clandestine participation in the Underground Railroad.

The first two sections of the exhibit, Campus Through the Years & The Evolution of Campus, tell the story of the creation of campus and its continuous evolution over the years under the guidance of many famed architects. The first section, Campus Through the Years, details the university’s founding in Detroit in 1817 and the Treaty of Fort Meigs, which provided the original land for the university’s use. One of the tribe’s provisions for granting the land in the treaty was the belief that “they may wish some of their children hereafter educated.”  Using the map of the first survey of the Territory of Michigan and the Hindsdale Archaeological atlas of Michigan, this section also provided a glimpse of the Ann Arbor area before the establishment of the town. Inspired by Frederick Mayer’s book, A Setting for Excellence: The Story of the Planning and Development of the Ann Arbor Campus of the University of Michigan, the second section continues the university’s story with its move to Ann Arbor in 1837 and features the work of famous architects such as Alexander Jackson Davis, Albert Kahn, Eero Saarinen, and others. Both sections include well-known campus plans and building proposals that were never used. These offer a quick glimpse into the campus that might have been.

The campus in 1919 and Burton's 1921 plan for its future

The Native American Presence section highlights the crucial role of the Native American community throughout the university’s history. Utilizing newspaper articles, photographs, and the Native American community’s own words, the exhibit sheds light on their experiences, their continued presence, and important members who made critical contributions to the university.

Honoring the Native American presence on campus

Ann Arbor on the Underground Railroad examines Ann Arbor’s clandestine participation in the Underground Railroad. While the issue of abolition was highly contentious, even within Ann Arbor, many prominent individuals throughout southeastern Michigan were actively involved with the Underground Railroad. Drawing on excerpts from Ann Arbor’s anti-slavery publication, The Signal of Liberty, and maps detailing the suspected routes to freedom, Ann Arbor on the Underground Railroad illustrates the controversial nature of the Underground Railroad within southeastern Michigan.

Creating a Campus: A Cartographic Celebration of U-M’s Bicentennial will be open until December 20th, so come and explore the university’s past and celebrate the bicentennial with us. An online exhibit will be coming soon.