Cummings earns top history award

HOUGHTON – William J. Cummings, and the Marquette Regional History Center have received the Historical Society of Michigan’s top awards for the preservation of Upper Peninsula history.

The awards were announced during the 64th Annual Historical Society of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Conference in Houghton, which was attended by more than 220 history enthusiasts.

Cummings was awarded this year’s Charles Follo Award which is presented each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the preservation and promotion of Upper Peninsula history. The award was established in 1979 to honor the memory of Charles Follo, an Escanaba teacher who promoted and helped advance historical understanding of the Upper Peninsula.

A native of Kingsford, Cummings has devoted decades of his life to preserving and interpreting the history of Dickinson County. In addition to serving as the historian of the Menominee Range Historical Foundation, Cummings is also the vice-president of the Foundation, president of the Dickinson County Genealogical Society and chairman of the Dickinson County Library Board.

Cummings played an instrumental role in the nomination of the Iron Mountain Central Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. He also developed a walking tour featuring the architecture within the district which contains 150 historical resources dating mostly from the early 1880s to the 1960s.

In addition to his many roles within the community, Cummings has authored several publications about the area’s past with subjects ranging from great fires and business development to mining operations and historic downtown attractions.

As noted in Cummings’ nomination, “his presence is felt across the region and not a week goes by where his knowledge is not sought out by a local homeowner seeking information on their residence, local retiree seeking genealogical information, or downtown property owner seeking old photos from the museum’s archives.”

From presenting numerous programs regarding the area’s history to editing the Dickinson County Genealogical Society’s quarterly newsletter, Cummings has made a great impact on the preservation of Upper Peninsula history.

Former Menominee Range Historical Foundation Historian Beatrice Blomquist received the Follo Award in 1988, and the late Donnell R. Mitchell, former treasurer and president of the Menominee Range Historical Foundation, was the recipient in 2004.

Also honored at the Upper Peninsula History Awards Banquet was the Marquette Regional History Center. The center received the Superior Award which was established in 2006 to recognize the achievements of historical societies, museums, and other historical organizations in the preservation and advancement of Upper Peninsula history.

In 1918, local residents founded the Marquette County Historical Society and, thanks to a bequest from the estate of Mary B. Longyear, purchased a museum building that opened to the public in 1949. The society used this building until spring 2011, when the organization moved to its new facility and renamed it the Marquette Regional History Center. The new name reflects the expansion of the museum’s collection and services to include an area much larger than Marquette County.

With substantially more exhibit and library space, the museum is better able to house and display its permanent collection of catalogued artifacts which include items from the Prehistoric copper culture through contemporary times.

The museum offers an impressive variety of ongoing and special exhibits as well as many programs and tours that interpret the region’s history.

Special exhibits for 2013 include “Bikes: Gearing Up for Adventure,” on display through Aug. 11, and “The Longyear Legacy,” on display from Sept. 16 to Dec. 28.

The center also includes the J.M. Longyear Research Library which houses more than 16,000 titles and includes rare books and primary source materials by early surveyors, pioneer settlers, business leaders, and community developers.

The Charles Follo and Superior awards are presented each year at the Historical Society of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Conference. The Society will present its annual State History Awards at the 2013 State Historical Conference, held September 27-29 in Kalamazoo.

Established in 1828, the Historical Society of Michigan is considered to be the oldest cultural organization in the state. The Society, founded by Territorial Governor Lewis Cass and explorer Henry Schoolcraft, focuses on five major mission areas: publications, conferences, education, awards and recognition programs, and support for local historical organizations.

Michigan History magazine is a publication of the Historical Society of Michigan.