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Michigan Library and Historical Center

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1985–1988, William Kessler and Associates. Bounded by W. Washtenaw, Butler, W. Allegan, and Sycamore sts.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

In celebration of Michigan's sesquicentennial anniversary of statehood, the state, the Michigan legislature, and the secretary of state opened the Michigan Library and Historical Center. This five-story, 250,000-square-foot Postmodern building serves as the home for the interpretation and conservation of the state's history. Its distinctive stepped design is faced with alternating horizontal strips of light and dark limestone above a base of polished black granite. It features full-height glass arches and atriums at the ends of the east and west wings. A courtyard with a white pine, Michigan's state tree, in the center and surrounded at the base by a fountain sculpture depicting the Great Lakes in intense blues, violets, and greens by Glen Michaels is the light and airy focus of the building. Copper covers the walls of the building enclosing the courtyard. The interior color scheme is blue, green, and brown to match the state's lakes, woodlands, and beaches. A conceptual storyline of Michigan's history in the museum flows through enlarged displays and dioramas of prehistoric times, mining, lumbering, farming, and industry, designed in concept by Jean André of British Columbia. A sculpture, Polaris Ring, by David Barr (1988) in front of the main (south) entrance is reminiscent of Stonehenge. Due to budgetary constraints in 2009, the governor issued Executive Order 2009–36 abolishing the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, while reorganizing its essential functions.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Michigan Library and Historical Center", [Lansing, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 289-289.

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