Under the auspices of a grant from the Preservation Education Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Professors Marshall McLennan and Andrew Nazzaro of the Department of Geography & Geology developed three curricular programs in Cultural Resource Management. Approved by the Board of Regents on June 20, 1979, classes commenced in the Fall of 1979. In the summer of 1980, the first historic administration courses were taught at the Edison Institute followed with the development of a Historic Administration concentration in the fall semester of 1980.
Many local architectural surveys were carried out in the early years assisted by matching grants from the then Michigan Bureau of History. A concentration in Heritage Interpretation was introduced in the Fall of 1981 and a year later, students prepared a rehabilitation plan for historic Welch Hall located on EMU's main campus. In 1983 when the university administration was considering demolishing Welch Hall to replace it with a parking lot, students under Dr. Nazzaro's leadership fought for the preservation of the building. It is now listed on the National Register and with the assistance of funds allocated by special appropriation of the Michigan House of Representatives, it was completely renovated during 1988-89.
In 1984, the Program undertook a thematic National Register nomination of Greek Revival buildings in Washtenaw County (where EMU is located), and sponsorship of an on-campus historic preservation conference in conjunction with the National Trust, the National Alliance of Preservation Commissioners, and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. In recent years students have inventoried the historical, cultural and recreational resources of many communities, working on their comprehensive community interpretation plans to include Chelsea, Ypsilanti, Salem, Clark Lake, Adrian, Albian, Sylvania (Ohio), Elk Rapids and Ann Arbor.
In conjunction with EMU's Travel & Tourism program, the Program hosted the Third Global Congress in Heritage Interpretation jointly with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant and Interpret Hawaii programs and the East-West Center in November 1991. Several students and graduates of the program, as well as faculty, made presentations and attended the conference.
As a consequence of the national award from the AASLH in 1989, the Program underwent phenomenal enrollment growth, which enabled the Department to add Dr. Ted J. Ligibel to the preservation faculty in the fall of 1991.
In the mid-1990s, through the auspices of the National Council for Preservation Education and the National Register for Historic Places funded an experimental internship for the purpose of developing a cooperative relationship between university preservation programs and state historic preservation offices. Through this internship, a team of five EMU preservation students were able to survey two small Michigan communities to the north. In 1997, the Program hosted the annual meeting of the Pioneer America Society (PAS) in nearby Dearborn, where students and alumni have regularly attended and been presenters.
The Program has evolved over the years responding to the changing nature of the preservation movement and its applied nature had remained paramount. The hallmark of the Program has been its continued commitment to providing needed services to communities. In fact, the Program has assisted over fifty Michigan and Ohio communities with surveys of their historic resources; national and state register nominations; materials conservation, preservation and interpretive plans; and numerous other preservation-based activities.