Tuesday, June 5, 2012

WMU Archives' Big News!

Not just one, but two exciting announcements were reported last week by Rex Hall Jr. at MLive. First, the WMU Archives will finally have a new home! A proposed 36,000 sq. ft. building, with proper temperature and humidity control, of course, will be built just north of the Oakland Dr./Howard St. intersection. [1,2] A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for July and the building is slated to be completed in the summer of 2013. [1] In order to make way for the new building and parking, we hope, Noble Lodge, once part of the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, will be demolished. [3]

Once the building has been completed the materials currently located in East Hall will be transferred to the new facility. This will undoubtedly necessitate a temporary cessation of research, but I'm sure the wait will be worth it.

So what will be the fate of East Hall you may wonder? Last October, WMU announced that it is looking to turn the East Campus into a mixed-used development. According to the proposal, East Hall would house a boutique hotel, conference center and health club. [4] Other buildings on East Campus would be converted into office space and condo/apartment units. A parking structure would be built into the side of the hill and disguised with vegetation. The character of East Hall will be maintained and in fact, several columns that were previously removed are slated for re-installation to bring the historic building, the first one built on the campus, back to its earlier appearance. [4, 5]

 (from Wikipedia, This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication )

The second announcement was no less thrilling than the first. The entire archive of the Kalamazoo Gazette was donated to WMU by the MLive Media Group. [6] This collection contains approximately 1,500 cubic feet of material. [6] According to Lynn Houghton, curator at the WMU archives “the collection includes 66 shelves of bound volumes of the Gazette dating back to 1934; 41 drawers filled with 4 inch by 6 inch photo negatives; 30 to 40 boxes of photo negatives; a large number of cartons filled with newspaper clippings; 40 cabinets filled with clippings; 98 card-file boxes; about 70 boxes of photos; numerous three-ring binders filled with photo negatives and a collection of microfilm of the Gazette’s pages from as far back as the 1830s when the newspaper first began publishing.” [6]

The Gazette archive is presently located in the old Kalamazoo Gazette building on Burdick street, but will begin the move to East Hall in June 2012. [6] The staff of the WMU archives will then begin the laborious task of cataloging the materials, a process that is expected to take months. Once cataloging is concluded the collection will be opened to the public. Those items anticipated to be the most popular will be housed in East Hall, with the remaining materials located off-site.

I don't know how easy it will be to find any particular item in the collection once it is available, but it is never too early to start working on your wish list. I know I have a few things that come immediately to mind. The count-down has begun.

For more on this story see:  Groundbreaking for WMU Archives.

  1. Ursula Zerilli. Noble Lodge to be demolished at Western Michigan University. Published 5-30-2012. Mlive.com.
  2. Paula Davis. New life for East Campus? 10-1-2011. Kalamazoo Gazette.
  3. Jeanne Baron. Restored grandeur, adapted use planned for East Campus. Published 2-13-2012. WMU News.


  1. This IS great news. As a WMU alumni I was so afraid they would demolish east campus. I am glad to hear they will maintain most of it.

  2. I think the University feels the same way. Maintaining the historical character of the buildings was very important, though probably not every structure will be saved. If they can raise the necessary funds (twice what it would cost to start from scratch) they would like East, North and West Halls to be developed for the hotel and residences. The Speech and Hearing Center would be for commercial use. Now they just need to raise the money.