Category: Historic

New Website Makes It Easy To Find Michigan Historical Markers, Visit Historic Places Throughout State

New website makes it easy to find Michigan Historical Markers, visit historic places throughout state

By SARAH LAPSHAN/Michigan Department of Natural Resources
and TOBI VOIGT/Michigan History Center

On the M-109 loop that runs between Empire and Glen Arbor in Leelanau County, along the Lake Michigan shoreline – near an area once touted as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s “Good Morning America” show – stands a stately sign that marks the forward-thinking of more than a century ago that recognized Michigan’s need for a statewide parks system.

This particular sign commemorates the creation of D.H. Day State Park (now part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore) and Michigan’s post-World War I movement to preserve other scenic sites as public outdoor recreation destinations.

These green-and-gold signs, known as Michigan Historical Markers, dot buildings and landscapes, sharing snippets of Michigan’s rich history.

Just about anyone who’s traveled the state’s byways and highways over the last 50-plus years likely has encountered a marker or two, and for good reason – Michigan’s historical marker program is among the nation’s oldest.

close-up view of the green-and-gold Kirtland's warbler markerSince it was authorized by the Legislature in 1955, the program has approved and placed more than 1,700 markers throughout the state, as well as in several other states (for example, in Kentucky at the Perryville Battlefield State Park, honoring the Michigan soldiers who aided the Union in this pivotal Civil War battle) and in Europe (at the home of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the French explorer who founded Detroit).

Although a marker can’t tell the full story – after all, the text is limited to a few hundred words – it does provide a great starting point to learn more.

“Michigan Historical Markers capture the stories of our state’s significant places, events and people in and around the locations where they happened or lived,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center, an agency within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that manages the marker program. The Michigan Historical Commission approves the markers and their final texts.

Historical markers originally were placed at highway rest areas, in state parks, and at locations where historic events occurred. Today, historical markers can be found nearly everywhere, including the sides of buildings, the yards of residences and businesses, and at schools.

Clark said that Michigan’s earliest markers focused on European settlement, geology, geography, Native peoples and military conflicts, but, as the program grew, it began to commemorate historically significant architecture, the contributions of individuals, and other milestones.

Stop in at the I-75 rest stop south of Grayling and you can read, briefly, about one of Michigan’s greatest wildlife conservation stories. The “Return of Kirtland’s Warbler” historical marker explains how the bird nearly became extinct in the mid-20th century as logging and other industries damaged its natural habitats, but then successful habitat restoration and conservation efforts turned the tide. The marker reads, in part:

close-up view of the Houghton historical marker“… Guided by research to mimic natural fire processes, government agencies and private conservationists began harvesting older jack pine stands and replanting the trees to restore the warblers’ habitat. … From an all-time modern low of 167 nesting pairs in 1974 and 1987, the summer population of the warbler rebounded to more than 1,700 pairs in 2007. The recovery of the species testifies to the effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts. …”

Visitors to Eagle River on the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw Peninsula can see the “Douglass Houghton” marker that honors the man who served as Michigan’s first state geologist. It was an 1841 report from Houghton, describing the U.P.’s copper country, that convinced hundreds of people to flood the Keweenaw in search of copper fortunes. The marker also highlights several of Houghton’s other contributions, including studying smallpox among the Chippewa Indians, serving as a correspondent for the Detroit Journal, and recording more than 200 plants.

One of the newest markers, installed just this past July, highlights the civil unrest in Detroit in 1967. The marker was placed on the site where the rebellion and riot began, now occupied by Detroit’s Gordon Park, on the 50th anniversary of the uprising. It sets the scene:

“In July 1967 the civil unrest that had been spreading across the United States reached Detroit. In the early morning hours of July 23, Detroit police officers raided a blind pig, an illegal after-hours bar, where patrons were celebrating the return of Vietnam War servicemen. …”

Clark says it’s this diversity of moments, milestones and memories in our state’s history that makes the markers compelling reading for both historians and citizens. Now, with the launch of a new web-based tool, Clark hopes even more people will get in on the hunt for the markers.

view of crowd surrounding the Detroit July 1967 historical markerUntil recently, curious Michiganders have relied on a list or a book – and a lot of good, old-fashioned exploring – to find the state’s historical markers. Then staff at the DNR and the Michigan History Center put their expertise together to find a way to make it easier than ever for folks to find and learn about the markers and the history they honor.

The result? A new, interactive website (www.michigan.gov/markers) that can be accessed by phone, computer screen or tablet – no special app required.

“The Michigan Historical Commission originated and pushed for this project, and DNR technical and history staff made it happen,” said Clark. “We hope this historical marker database will pique the curiosity of Michiganders, help Michigan travelers better connect to the communities they visit, and inspire everyone to keep learning more about the real stories that make up Michigan’s fascinating past.”

Once on the website, visitors will find an interactive map that shows marker sites across the state. A search box at the top right corner of the map makes it possible for users to find markers near their homes, businesses or vacation spots.

On the map, each marker is represented by a small green icon. When a visitor clicks on an icon, a menu box with title and address information pops up. The pop-up box includes clickable links that enable a visitor to zoom in on the map, learn more about the marker, or get driving directions to the marker using Google maps.

The detail link provides specific information about the marker, including its location and installation dates, an image, and the marker text. Visitors also can download a PDF copy of the marker information.

But the website is much more than just a map, said Mary Patrick, Michigan Historical Marker program coordinator.

screen shot showing map of Michigan dotted with historical marker locations“This research tool is full of features that make it practical for students, researchers, trip planners and other explorers to find historical marker information that will interest them,” she said.

For example, the filter feature (located below the map) enables visitors to pull out map results by county, theme or time period. Clark said the theme filter is particularly handy for planning road trips around topics of interest.

“If someone is interested in the early auto industry, they can select that filter to find all the markers related to that topic and use the directions feature to plan the ultimate Michigan automobile road trip,” she said.

The website also includes the ability to customize the view. Visitors can switch the style of the map by clicking on different options – from road to topographical – in the basemaps feature.

The map defaults to show only the markers, but visitors also can add state parks and campgrounds, as well as Michigan’s network of rail trails, making it easy for families planning a Michigan vacation to map out a trip incorporating visits to historical markers close to where they will be traveling.

Ortonville resident JoAnne Brodbeck is one such traveler.

“My 11-year old son has become a big history buff,” Brodbeck said. “This summer we took a trip to Mackinac Island, and read every marker he stumbled upon. I showed him this website, and he was very excited. It will make it possible for him to find and map out markers before our next vacation.”

four young boys standing in front of Mackinaw Island historical markerBrodbeck said she also plans to keep the website in mind when looking for history topics for school projects.

The Michigan Historical Marker website also was built with researchers and marketers in mind. The database upon which the map is built is available as a free download (either as a KML or CSV file) on the marker main page. It is made available as part of the DNR’s Open Data project (http://gis-midnr.opendata.arcgis.com/), which provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making.

Patrick said that although the marker website is live, there still is information to add, particularly photographs of all the markers. DNR staff are field testing and updating the database this fall, continuing to add photographs and verify information.

Michigan History Center staff also would love to hear how others are using the website.

“We encourage visitors who don’t see a marker in an exact GPS location to look around and see if it’s nearby,” Patrick said. “If they can’t find it, we hope they will let us know.” Patrick said the best way to share that information is by using the contact form link at the top of the marker website’s main page.

“There’s something fitting, and exciting, about using the latest technology to help share the pieces of our past, making these important stories more accessible to more people,” said Clark. “As information is added or updated, it will be right at users’ fingertips – we’re putting history in your hands.”

For more information, visit the historical marker website at www.michigan.gov/markers.

Michigan History Center News – July Events Around The State

July 8
Walker Wheels “Base Ball” Tournament
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 8
Celebration of Imagination
Michigan History Museum. Lansing

July 9
Farmers Market
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 9
Puzzles on the Porch
Mann House, Concord

July 10
Friends of Michigan History Meeting
Michigan Library and Historical Center, Lansing

July 10-14
Dig Camp (pre-registration required)
Michigan History Museum, Lansing

July 11
Ghost Towns in the Upper Peninsula
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 12
Adult Tea
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 13
Picnic on the Lawn Concert
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 14
Iron Ore Heritage Trail Bike Tour
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 14
Tea and Conversations with the Mann Sisters
Mann House, Concord

July 15-16
Wood Shaving Days
Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, Grayling

July 15
Summer Saturday Reading Program
Mann House, Concord

July 16
Farmers Market
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 16
Puzzles on the Porch
Mann House, Concord

July 17-21
Curiosity Camp (pre-registration required)
Michigan History Museum, Lansing

July 18
Magnificent Mansions and Courtly Cottages in the Upper Peninsula
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 19
Making A Face
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 21-22
Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar
Archives of Michigan, Lansing

July 21
Iron Ore Heritage Trail Bike Tour
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 21
Tea and Conversations with the Mann Sisters
Mann House, Concord

July 22
Picnic on the Lawn Concert
Mann House, Concord

July 23
Farmers Market
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 23
Puzzles on the Porch
Mann House, Concord

July 24-28
Dig Camp (pre-registration required)
Michigan History Museum, Lansing

July 25
Wolf’s Mouth: Upper Peninsula P.O.W. Research Behind the Novel
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 28
Iron Ore Heritage Trail Bike Tour
Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee

July 28
Tea and Conversations with the Mann Sisters
Mann House, Concord

July 29
Summer Saturday Reading Program
Mann House, Concord

July 29
It’s Daylight in the Swamps!
Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, Grayling

July 30
Farmers Market
Walker Tavern Historic Site, Brooklyn

July 30
Puzzles on the Porch
Mann House, Concord

New exhibit Grand Fish, Grand River opens Saturday at Grand Rapids Public Museum

Juvenile lake sturgeon in the palm of someone's hand

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) announced today a brand new exhibition, Grand Fish, Grand River, will open Saturday, Jan. 23. This new exhibit is a thematic extension of the current West Michigan Habitats exhibit, and includes two 10-month-old Lake Sturgeon.

Grand Fish, Grand River explores how the Great Lakes region’s largest and oldest fish, the Lake Sturgeon, once found in great abundance, is now a threatened species in our watersheds. The exhibit takes visitors through the connections to Native Americans, fishing history in the region and current science. Using artifacts from the GRPM Collections, along with the two live sturgeon, it will tie together the cultural, historical and scientific connections and explore rehabilitation efforts for this species in the Grand River and throughout the Great Lakes region.

On Saturday, Jan. 23, the GRPM will celebrate the opening of this exhibit in conjunction of the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference taking place at the Amway Grand Hotel. This event at the Museum will include special book signing of “The Great Lake Sturgeon” by author Dr. Nancy Auer. Grand Fish, Grand River will be free with general admission to the Museum. For more information visit grpm.org.

Lake Sturgeon live along the rocky bottoms of our lakes and rivers, and are an important environmental indicator for the health of our ecosystem. These fish have fossil ancestors that from the Early Jurassic Period – the age of the dinosaurs. Lake Sturgeon have affected the region historically and culturally and still do today.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has identified 24 lake sturgeon populations as distinguished by major watersheds in Michigan waters: 2 in the Lake Superior drainage, 11 in the Lake Michigan drainage, 9 in the Lake Huron drainage and 2 in the Lake Erie/Lake St. Clair complex.

This exhibit has been made possible through partnership with the DNR, Fisheries Division, Tribal Coordination Unit; Oden State Fish Hatchery; Michigan State University, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and through sponsorship by Aqua Blue Aquarium Solutions, Blue Fish Aquarium, Grand Rapids Steelheaders Foundation, Great Lakes Fishery Trust and Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is located in downtown Grand Rapids, MI at 272 Pearl Street, NW. The mission of the Museum is to be a living monument of artifacts, ideas and stories told through exhibitions, events and educational programming designed to inspire, motivate and celebrate our human bond. We enrich the life of our community through experiences of the wider world in a uniquely Grand Rapids context. For additional information including hours of operation, admission fees and exhibit/event listings, please visit grpm.org.

Michigan Historical Center Offers Special Programs Every Saturday

Starting in May, Lansing-area families and visitors can experience a special program every Saturday at the Michigan Historical Center. Programs are being added on the third and fourth Saturdays of the month to supplement the popular “Second Saturday” and “Story Circle” (first Saturday) programs that will continue at the Michigan Historical Museum.

Third and fourth Saturdays will feature two different programs that will switch off each month. The third Saturday programs are:

History a la Carte – This program will be offered May 17, July 19, Sept. 20 and Nov. 15. It will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature staffed stations set up around the museum for visitors to get a closer look at artifacts, historic photographs and more.

Picture Perfect – This program will be offered June 21, Aug. 16 and Dec. 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras or smartphones to shoot photos around the museum, including “selfies” that can be posted to the Michigan Historical Museum Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MichiganHistoricalMuseum or on visitors’ own social media (remember to tag the museum). There will be informal photo contests and special “flash allowed” spots in certain places in the museum’s permanent exhibits.

The fourth Saturday programs are:

History Live – This program will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 24, July 26, Sept. 27 and Nov. 22. Costumed interpreters portraying Michiganders from various periods in Michigan history will be on hand to tell their stories and interact with guests.

History Gamers – Offered on June 28, Aug. 23, Oct. 25 and Dec. 27, this program will feature several historic games, such as jacks and hopscotch, and allow visitors to explore historic toys and board games. The program will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and visitors can drop in any time during that period.

For a complete schedule of all Saturday programs at the museum, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

The museum and visitor parking are located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St., one block east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free. Saturday programs are included in the cost of admission. The museum is air-conditioned for visitors’ comfort in the summer.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

‘Rain Research’ and Free Admission on tap April 12 at the Michigan Historical Museum

A fun family program that explores the science of rain will be the highlight of a free admission day on Saturday, April 12, at the Michigan Historical Museum. Admission that day is courtesy of the museum’s Docent Guild.

The Second Saturday program, “Rain Research,” will highlight the day. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. families can drop by the museum to learn all about rain. Activities include making a rain gauge, creating a thunderstorm in a can and learning about the water cycle. The first 200 children who attend will also receive a free weather backpack courtesy of the Michigan Historical Center.

While at the museum, visitors can also take in the special exhibit “Lake Effects,” which explores the history and science of weather in Michigan, and the museum’s permanent galleries.

“Our museum docents help thousands of visitors each year learn more about Michigan’s history and heritage,” said Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra Clark. “By sponsoring this free admission day, they continue their great volunteer work on behalf of the museum and the Lansing community.”

Rain Research is part of the museum’s Second Saturday program featuring families and children creating make-it, take-it crafts and participating in hands-on activities that relate to the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Michigan businesses interested in sponsoring a day at the museum to provide free admission in exchange for promotional considerations should contact Carol Payne at 517-373-2565 or PayneC@michigan.gov.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, one block east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

SHPO Announces Lighthouse Preservation Grants

LANSING, Mich. — The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), announced this year’s recipients of Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) grants.

The grants are funded through the sale of “Save Our Lights” specialty license plates through the Secretary of State.

Recipient projects are chosen through an annual competitive application process. Grantees also must contribute 50 percent of the award amount as matching dollars to the project.

Light stations supported through the MLAP can be offshore crib lights or complexes of buildings on land.

“Lighthouses are synonymous with Michigan’s lakeshores,” said MSHDA Executive Director Scott Woosley. “Our transportation, commerce and recreation history are tied to these beautiful and important structures. We are pleased to announce that we will support the preservation of five lighthouses this year.”

The 2014 recipients:

  • Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, $28,000 for the Cheboygan River Front Range Light. The project includes the repointing and repairing of foundation walls both above and below grade, and rehabilitating the brick porch piers.
  • Keweenaw Land Trust, $19,970 for the Manitou Island Light Station. The project will stabilize and rehabilitate the 96-foot-long Manitou Island wooden dock structure and crib that extends into Lake Superior.
  • City of Menominee, $20,000 for the Menominee North Pier Light Station. The city will hire a consultant to prepare a historic structures report for the light station.
  • Huron County, $26,633 for the Pointe Aux Barques Light Station. The project includes window and door rehabilitation at the lighthouse.
  • Port Austin Reef Light Association, $40,000 for the Port Austin Reef Light Station. The project includes the purchase and installation of sheet piling necessary to protect and rebuild the outside perimeter of the dock.

“Since 2000, the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program has awarded nearly $2 million in grants for the preservation of lighthouses,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway. “In addition to materials and labor, the logistics involved in lighthouse preservation—the hauling of equipment and supplies to remote locations—can be costly. We applaud the commitment of the stewards who take on these projects, and we appreciate the generosity of lighthouse enthusiasts who support lighthouse preservation by purchasing a specialty license plate.”

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is financed in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Department of Interior. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on its federally funded assistance programs. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C. St. NW, Washington DC 20240.

The State Historic Preservation Office is part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), which provides financial and technical assistance through public and private partnerships to create and preserve decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents and to engage in community economic development activities to revitalize urban and rural communities.

*MSHDA’s loans and operating expenses are financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds as well as notes to private investors, not from state tax revenues. Proceeds are loaned at below-market interest rates to developers of rental housing, and help fund mortgages and home improvement loans. MSHDA also administers several federal housing programs. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mshda.

Explore Michigan Weather’S History and Influence at Michigan Historical Museum’s ‘Lake Effects’ Exhibit

“Lake Effects: Exploring Michigan Weather.”

There’s no doubt that Michigan’s unique geography figures into the weather; where else is there a state that’s surrounded by water on six sides? The exhibit (which opened in October and runs into August) explores not only how lake effects impact Michigan’s climate, but also how the weather resulting from being surrounded by water has affected the state culturally, too.

The term “lake effects” has crept into the vernacular to explain the much more significant snowfalls the state experiences in the areas just downwind of the Great Lakes. Scientifically, it’s fairly simple: The vast expanse of water cools down – as well as warms up – more slowly than the surrounding land. In winter, the air blowing across the lakes picks up moisture and when it hits land – especially at elevated altitudes – it rises, cools, freezes as snow, and falls over the countryside, as far as 100 miles inland.

The reverse is true in spring; warm air passing over cooler water causes cool breezes (and sometimes rain showers). Most years, the cooler air blowing in off Lake Michigan helps prevents fruit trees from blossoming until the danger of spring frost has passed. As a result, the western regions of the Lower Peninsula have become Michigan’s fruit belt, which helps explain why so many orchards are located just inshore of the Lake Michigan shoreline, often in hilly areas.

“Lake Effects: Exploring Michigan Weather” tackles how these unusual weather patterns have helped shape Michigan culture over the centuries. And though the emphasis on winter seems most immediately apropos, the exhibit shows how the geography influences other seasons as well.

Need a “for instance?” Take fog. Like a low-hanging cloud, fog typically forms in summer when air blowing across warm land crosses cooler water. But the reverse is true, too; in wInter, when lakes are warmer than the adjoining land, steam fog – sometimes called “Arctic sea smoke” – forms. Fog had a major effect on Great Lakes shipping before modern radar helped ameliorate its impact. In fact, the first artifact on display as one enters the exhibit is a 1940s-vintage radar unit from a Great Lakes ship.

There are a number of displays of historical weather events, such as the storm of November 1913, which sunk a dozen Great Lakes ships – including 12 in Lake Huron – and killed at least 251 sailors when an arctic front encrusted the ships with heavy snow and ice.

Other notable weather events recalled by the exhibit include the September 1881 fires, which blazed across the Thumb and scorched more than a million acres; the 1953 Flint-Beecher tornado, which cut a 27-mile path of death and destruction through Genesee County; and the blizzard of 1978, which dumped nearly 3 feet of snow across parts of the state and is coming up more often in conversation these days among those with a little gray in their hair.

Most interesting are the artifacts that would doubtless arouse the curiosity of those from warmer climes.

Old skis, boots and poles from bygone eras; a child’s sleigh, built by an employee of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company of Flint more than a century ago; ice skates and fishing gear (a tip-up, a spear and an ice shanty); and even photographs of automobiles parked on Houghton Lake as anglers pull bluegills through the ice – long before the development of Gore-Tex outerwear and Thinsulate boot liners made the pastime more comfortable – all illustrate how much winter recreation is built into Michigan’s culture.

Michigan industry is well represented, too: A display of red flannels produced commercially and sold under a variety of brands in Cedar Springs and an early gas-fire space heater help show the significance of winter to Michigan’s industrial-based economy.

For the more scientific-minded, a display on weather instruments – thermometers, barometers and anemometers, as well as the wooden shelters built to protect instruments from direct sun and precipitation — illustrates how weather events are recorded and predicted. Did you know, for instance, that the world’s largest weather vane – 48 feet high — can be found in Montague in Muskegon County?

“Lake Effects: Exploring Michigan Weather” is at the Michigan Historical Museum, located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center, 702 W. Kalamazoo, in downtown Lansing. The museum is open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

In a winter that’s been as harsh as this one, the museum offers an easy, fun way to enjoy the weather without having to put your long johns on.

www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

New Light Cast on Ill-Fated ‘Franklin Expedition’ to Find Northwest Passage

Fresh analysis of forensic and other historical data by University of Glasgow scientists has cast new light on the fate of Captain Sir John Franklin’s Royal Navy expedition to find the Northwest Passage nearly 170 years ago.

The disappearance of the “Franklin expedition”, which set off in 1845, made international headlines and led to the biggest search and rescue mission in history.

Twentieth-century analysis of ice-preserved remains found high levels of lead, prompting the theory that lead poisoning caused by inexpert soldering of the expedition’s tinned provisions had played a significant role in the catastrophe by causing widespread death and debility.

Now, a reappraisal of that theory is taking place as a result of further research carried out by Professor Keith Millar of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences and Professor Adrian Bowman of School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Glasgow, and their colleague, the archaeologist and author William Battersby.

Their analysis, published in the journal Polar Record (Cambridge University Press), has shown that whilst levels of lead in the crew were high relative to today’s levels, they may not have been exceptional in lead-contaminated 19th century Britain where lead poisoning was not uncommon. Using statistical estimation, they also showed great variation in lead levels amongst the crew which is similar to that seen in present-day, lead-exposed workers.

From this, they conclude that although a proportion of the 129 men may have suffered symptoms of lead poisoning – much as in the contemporary land-based population – the physical and mental state of others would have been largely unaffected, at least while their general health remained good.

This finding, linked to other historical evidence that suggests the crew suffered no serious debility until their provisions began to run short after more than two years in the Arctic, may justify a reappraisal of the supposed central role of lead poisoning in the disaster, suggest the team.

It is now known that the expedition had the misfortune to set out at a time when, according to ice-core analysis, Arctic climatic conditions were unusually harsh. The two ships involved in the expedition to find the Northwest Passage – HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – became trapped for two winters in a region so remote that neither rescue nor escape was possible.

“The failure of the Admiralty to equip the crew adequately in the event that the ships had to be abandoned, and delay and miscalculation in organising the rescue mission, sealed their fate as they attempted an overland retreat that was beyond their capability,” add the team.

The Canadian Government agency Parks Canada conducts an annual summer search for the expedition’s missing ships. Their eventual discovery may provide definitive answers to the Franklin mystery, suggest the researchers.

ENDS

For more information contact Liz Buie in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 2702 or email Liz.Buie@glasgow.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

A re-analysis of the supposed role of lead poisoning in Sir John Franklin’s last expedition, 1845-1848 by Professor Keith Millar and Professor Adrian Bowman, of the University of Glasgow, and William Battersby, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, is published in Polar Record, the official journal of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Michigan Historical Center Announces ‘Second Saturday’ Winter Lineup

The popular Second Saturday programs at the Michigan Historical Center return in December with a series of winter experiences designed for children and families to learn more about Michigan’s history and natural resources. The programs are offered at the center (located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing) and are included with the cost of admission.

“We have some great programs that tie into our new special exhibit on historical weather events in Michigan lined up for the winter,” said Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra Clark. “I encourage families who live in or who are visiting the Lansing region to stop by and participate in these fun, educational experiences.”

Second Saturday programs provide hands-on arts and crafts experiences for children, related to telling the stories of Michigan. All Second Saturday programs take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the center. Families can drop in anytime during that period to participate. The Second Saturday winter lineup includes:

Walked This Way (Dec. 14): Investigate what sorts of creatures have left their marks on Michigan’s earth and snow. Examine the prehistoric remains of animals, and learn how to identify modern paw prints.

Snow Science (Jan. 11): Experiment with winter weather. Learn how to measure snowfall, create your own thermometer, and discover other snow-centered activities.

Snow Games (Feb. 8): Bring the fun back into winter – try out historic and modern snow activities, learn how to make snowshoes, and discover ways to enjoy the snow.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M.L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.