The Bentley Historical Library is open t0 the public by appointment. Learn more here.

Director’s Note

Thank you for visiting the website of the Bentley Historical Library.

The University of Michigan and the State of Michigan were born and grew up together, and it is the fortunate mission of the Bentley Historical Library to collect the materials for and promote the study of the histories of these two, fundamentally intertwined, institutions. Michigan became a federal territory in 1805 and a state in 1837, and the University was founded in 1817 and moved to Ann Arbor in 1841. The University recently celebrated this long relationship during its celebration of the 200th anniversary of its founding.

To fulfill its mission, the Bentley has become one of the largest and most successful University-based archives in America. Our collections include all historical records of the University of Michigan, as well as the largest collection of materials involving the history of people and organizations in the state (outside of the state-run Archives of Michigan in Lansing, which is the official archive for state government). We welcome the use of all our open collections by the general public. One need not be affiliated with the University to use these collections, but we particularly welcome our student, faculty, and staff colleagues from the University.

And what collections they are! To date, the Library’s holdings include materials from more than 10,000 individual and organizational donors and more are added each week. They comprise more than 45,000 linear feet of primary source material, 10,000 maps, 80,000 printed volumes, and 1.5 million photographs (just a portion of our holdings). The Bentley also holds the archives of the Athletic Department at the University, one of the largest and most accessible athletic archival collections in the country.

In addition to our holdings in the Library, our digital collections, available online through this website, include thousands of images of activities across Michigan and at the University. This includes the University of Michigan Athletic Department; archival websites of organizations, people, offices and student and faculty life at the University; and selected archival collections such as those of doctor and cereal entrepreneur John Harvey Kellogg and architect William Muschenheim.

Each year, thousands of students, scholars, writers, professors, community members, and the avidly curious pursue their passions at the Bentley. Their research has resulted in more than 1,700 published books and many thousand more research papers, honors theses, and personal family histories.

More than a thousand students a year—from the University and other educational institutions—work in our collections as part of their course assignments. We are eager to help instructors design courses that use our resources.

At the Bentley are the stories of statewide and university forebears, political leaders supported and opposed, communities visited and documented, years spent at the University of Michigan, and actors in what they thought were “local” issues that had national ramifications.

So please join us! Peruse this website, follow our Twitter feed, “friend” us on our Facebook page, attend our public events, make a gift to the Bentley of financial or historical resources.

If you let it, the always educational, often surprising, frequently moving, sometimes heartbreaking, and ultimately ennobling experience of the past will change you.

The beginning of this wonderful opportunity is just a click away.

Nancy Bartlett
Interim Director
Bentley Historical Library