Michigan Historical Center awards five fellowships to Eastern Michigan University graduate students in historic preservation

EMU students help preserve Michigan's past for the future

by Pamela Young, Published January 15, 2014

YPSILANTI - Historic preservation students from Eastern Michigan University will partner with the Michigan Historical Center to continue its work at the historic Mann House in Concord, Mich. and expand efforts to include Walker Tavern, a state historic site in the village of Brooklyn, Mich.

The partnership provides three fellowship opportunities in 2014 to EMU graduate students at the Mann House, and two fellowships at Walker Tavern.

"This was an extraordinary opportunity for us,” said Nancy Villa Bryk, assistant professor of historic preservation at EMU, who oversees the students’ work. “In the university environment we can teach theory, but when students are thrust into the world of financial, visitor and building challenges – and having an administration to work with – it provides a very real-world setting for them to learn.”

The students will deal with the challenges of working at a historic facility. In 2013, three EMU students worked at the Mann House cataloging artifacts and doing research on the Mann family and the community of Concord, located near Jackson. They also developed an updated tour of the site for visitors.

Walker Tavern started serving travelers on the Detroit to Chicago stagecoach in 1843

This is the first year for fellowships at Walker Tavern near Jackson County’s Irish Hills. The tavern, located at the Cambridge Junction Historic State Park, played an important role in Michigan’s early development.

Sylvester and Lucy Walker bought the tavern in 1843 to assist travelers on the Detroit to Chicago stagecoach, an arduous five-day trip. In addition to serving travelers, the tavern became the focal point for local political and religious gatherings. It includes an 1840s parlor, bar room, dining room and kitchen.

The students are essentially given a small museum to operate on their own with limited direct supervision, according to Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center.

“This provides them with more than a glimpse into what awaits them if they choose to work at a museum or a historic site,” Clark said. “It gives them solid work experience for their resumes along with the opportunity to support our work, and provides fresh research and insights into a historic property.”

Daniel and Ellen Mann built their two-story home in the small farming community of Concord. They had two daughters, Jessie Ellen and Mary Ida. Ellen Mann and her two daughters graduated from Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University), a fact that delights the Eastern Michigan students.

The late-Victorian building features plaster ceilings, unusual catch-release doorknobs and a marbleized slate fireplace. There are eight rooms with period furniture that includes pieces dating back to the 1840s. Restored flower and herb gardens and a carriage house with carriages, sleighs and other exhibits help illustrate the way Michiganders worked and played in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Mann sisters bequeathed their home to the people of Michigan in 1969. The house was opened as a museum in 1970.

“We are very fortunate to have the Michigan Historical Center being so open and eager to provide this experience for our students,” said Bryk.

Eastern Michigan’s historic preservation program offers a master’s degree in historic preservation, with concentrations in preservation planning; heritage interpretation, tourism and administration; conservation and technology; and general studies. A five-course graduate level certificate and an undergraduate minor in historic preservation are also available.

Established 35 years ago, Eastern’s program is the largest graduate program in historic preservation in the country. The master’s program prepares students for jobs in both the public and private sectors. Placements include federal, state and local planning agencies; state historic preservation offices and statewide non-profit preservation organizations; consultant planning and design firms; historic museums and societies; park and recreational agencies; and heritage and sustainable tourism.

More information is available at the department's web site or call 734-487-0232.

Pamela Young

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