Bentley Historical Library
The Bentley Historical Library is an invaluable research resource for the history of Michigan and the University of Michigan. The library contains two main collections, the Michigan Historical Collections and the University of Michigan Archives, which were gathered by UM professor Lewis Vander Velde starting in 1935. The Bentley Historical Library was built in 1973 to house the archives, which have grown exponentially over the years. The library was named after Arvella and Alvin Bentley, a political family that donated $600,000 towards its construction. The library has gone through many expansions in recent years in order to accommodate its growing collection, which now consists of over 45,000 linear feet of archives as well as maps, books, and photographs.
Backstory and Context
The collections of the Bentley Historical Library are unique, varied, and immensely significant to the study of Michigan’s history as a state. Bentley holds the gubernatorial records from the last six governors of Michigan (beginning with Gov. G. Mennen Williams’ first term in 1949). The Earl and Florence De La Vergne Collection includes rare maps of the Great Lakes region and antique books about early Michigan history. The library has also played a major role in microfilming large collections of Michigan newspapers as part of a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The University of Michigan archives date back to the university’s founding in the early 1800s. It includes early sketches of campus, fight song sheet music, athletic score cards, building dedication booklets, class memorabilia, and papers of key faculty members over the years.2, 3
Today, the Bentley Historical Library contains more than 45,000 linear feet of archives as well as 10,000 maps, 80,000 printed volumes, and 1.5 million photographs.3 The library is recognized as one of the most valuable resources of historical records for the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan and welcomes “researchers regardless of academic or professional affiliation.”4