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University history to be chronicled on website

By Danielle Raykhinshteyn, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2013

In 1870, Madelon Stockwell became the first woman to enroll at the University. She was followed by 33 women the next fall and together they laid the path to 2013, where about 50 percent of University students are women.

Stockwell’s story and others can now be found at a new website, University of Michigan Heritage, which celebrates the history and tradition of the University community.

The website was created to celebrate the University’s upcoming bicentennial in 2017. Kim Clarke, the University’s director of executive communications and the project manager for the website, said she views the website as the research team’s gift to the University for its 200th birthday.

Clarke; James Tobin, an associate professor at the University of Miami in Ohio and graduate of the University; and LSA senior Kaitlyn DelBene researched and wrote stories featured on the site. Clarke said the project began as a way to display the University’s legacy, “so our role at this point is to share some of those interesting stories of the past.”

“We know that the University’s bicentennial is in 2017 … so we said we better start thinking about this and the different ways to showcase the University’s history, so our role at this point is to share some of those interesting stories of the past,” Clarke said.

Serious consideration went into curating the right stories on the site’s timeline theme. She said the research team wanted to pick names that would sound at least slightly familiar to students, such as the first women at the University and William Revelli of Revelli Hall.

“When you read what the first women were dealing with, you might have a better sense of what it’s like for, perhaps, a first-generation student from a low-income family, or someone from another country,” Clarke said. “I think you’d see some similar threads even though the episodes are 120 years apart.”

The website currently contains 10 stories with accompanying photos. Clarke said the goal is to add one story each month starting next year and lasting until the bicentennial. They already have a tentative outline of stories for the coming year.

The plans for the website after the bicentennial are unknown at this point, though Clarke said she would like to see it a permanent part of the University’s archives.

Research for the website was all done at the Bentley Historical Library on North Campus, which is the official archive for the University.

Karen Jania, head of the reference division at the library, said the site shows the University is not only focused on academia but on its rich past as well.

“The way you go through the story and the way you see all the images (is) fantastic,” Jania said. “It’s for anyone who wants to learn anything about the University.”

DelBene, the LSA senior working on the project, said the site was time consuming but worthwhile because of the stories she discovered.

“It can be really challenging because you don’t know what you’re going to find, but ultimately you find a story worth telling (and) it’s super rewarding,” DelBene said.

She added that seeing the culmination of two and a half years’ work was a great moment for her.

“The most obvious draw is for alumni just because they like to still have the connection to the University now that they’re gone, and I think the most obvious interest is there,” DelBene said. “But I think for students it’s just really important, learning the history. It’s allowed me to really appreciate what’s here today and how it came to be.”

Like Clarke, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the website is the first step in preparing for 2017. He added that the University wants people to be informed of its history in order to really understand the significance of the milestone.

“What you’re seeing on the website are some of the stories that tell some of the rich history of the people, the issues and the topics that Michigan people have struggled with or gotten their heads around and really worked through for almost 200 years being captured in very unique ways,” Fitzgerald said.

“I just think there’s some really fascinating stories of people who’ve went on to do great things and also people who did great things almost in anonymity.”

Fitzgerald said the site is evidence that there is always history being made here in Ann Arbor.

“We keep on writing new chapters of the Michigan history each day and each year, so I’m confident there will be great stories to share for many years to come,” Fitzgerald said.

Follow Danielle Raykhinshteyn on Twitter at @dannierayh.


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