Historical Society offers virtual programming

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 25, 2021


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Despite setbacks that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society has found ways to continue to offer local history to residents of West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake.

The Historical Society’s prime way of adapting has been via virtual offerings, and more are now available on its website.

Apple Island artifact exploration worksheets, an interactive map and videos that have been created are examples of what history lovers can enjoy by visiting gwbhs.org.

Apple Island

As part of an open house program last September, West Bloomfield School District Board of Education member Christy Forhan created “Apple Island Artifact Exploration Worksheets.”

The worksheets provide history on archaeological artifacts found on Apple Island, which is owned by the district.

Both children and adults can answer questions about each artifact and are encouraged to share completed worksheets with the Historical Society.

Cory Taylor, who is the office and activities coordinator for the society, described the worksheets as “pretty cool” and added, “We hope that families can enjoy them together.”

“We knew we wanted to recognize the 50th anniversary of the school district owning the island, and we had already locked her (Forhan) in as a presenter,” Taylor said. “She got this idea of creating her video, and it’s a phenomenal video. … She got really excited seeing all the artifacts. … She created these worksheets all on her own.”

The activity sheets can be found at gwbhs.org/education/apple-island/apple-island-archaeology/.


Wayside exhibits
In conjunction with an October presentation on the “Wayside Sign Outdoor Exhibits,” now called MotorCities Markers, the Historical Society generated an interactive map of 25 signs in the greater West Bloomfield area.

Signs are located in Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield and Sylvan Lake. Taylor described them as outdoor signs with information about the automotive history of the various communities.

Those interested can filter the map to a single city or look at all 25 locations at once.

According to a press release, “Each pin will have the exact coordinates of the sign’s location, along with an image of the sign itself.”

“I have an odd fascination with signs and creating maps, so I guess this was right up my alley,” Taylor said. “We have a list of all the signs, but being me, I wanted to find them for myself, take pictures, and find the actual locations so that the map was more accurate.”

The map can be accessed at gwbhs.org/education/wayside-exhibits/.


There are also several videos that can be viewed on the society’s website.

One such video is a virtual tour of Apple Island created by Forhan that includes information about its vacationing history during the 19th and 20th centuries, and a walking tour of the Orchard Lake Museum’s outdoor exhibits.

Taylor discussed other content that can be viewed.

“We created short videos for some of the Wayside signs,” she said. “The video itself is me standing next to the signs. … I talk about what history the sign is depicting.”


‘Strong position’
From the perspective of Historical Society President Gina Gregory, the society is in a “strong position,” and members of the public can help keep it that way via volunteer opportunities.

“We’re very interested in members from the community to step forward to conduct interviews with people that they know who have an interesting (history) that would be beneficial for the Historical Society to have in our archives, as well as, we have a list of people to interview,” Gregory said. “We now have the equipment to share. So anybody who wants to express an interest, we can help them and set up a Zoom interview, or if later it’s feasible, to conduct an interview in person.”

Other volunteer opportunities include digitization of VHS tapes/slides/audio cassette tapes, organization and categorization of CDs, and preparing spreadsheets for archive donations to be imported into the society’s database.

“It’s very important (to) our mission to continue to collect archives in a digital format,” Gregory said. “I especially think of our older people who have great stories to share, and we need to collect those stories.”

Aside from equipment, training and materials can be provided.

For more information, send an email to cory@gwbhs.org or call (248) 757-2451.