Residents invited to access local history on new Facebook page

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 7, 2017

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Alexander Milnikel, a recent member of the Shelby Township Historical Committee, took the group into the realm of social media by creating a page dedicated to interactive local history.

Milnikel, a 25-year-old Sterling Heights resident who earned a master’s degree in public history from Western Michigan University last year, decided to use Facebook as a platform to reach the everyday person about what occurred here in the past.

“History is full of a lot of good stories,” he said. “But also you, yourself, your culture, your community — history is where all of that comes from.”

For Milnikel, he said, understanding history helps him be a good member of his community and better understand how he can be a part of it.

“Shelby Township is a very central focal point of a lot of the local history in the Shelby Township-Utica-Sterling Heights area,” he said.

Public history, he said, is an increasingly emerging field in history that is focused on bringing the “normal person” into the realm of past events, moving away from heavily polished, academic and sometimes dense studies.

“It’s more about what hooks the public on history in very basic, very accessible ways,” Milnikel said. “Our job is to, at the very least, give them a good base and foundation in the process of appreciation of history.”

He said he also intends to work on grant opportunities, as well as facilitate and promote historical and heritage events in and around Shelby Township.

The Facebook page, which has been in existence for a few weeks, already has garnered more than 100 “likes.”

“I feel like that’ll only continue improving as more and more posts get up and word gets out,” he said. “It seems like there’s definitely an interest.”

Although the area has been settled since the 1800s, Milnikel said many people were attracted when it became urbanized in the 1940s, and many younger families are not connected to the older history.

“I’m always happy to get either comments — if someone knows history about here — or questions, so I can direct people to certain sites,” he said.

The Historical Committee has a website ripe with information about local history, but it is somewhat dense and the user often has an idea of what he or she is looking to learn about, longtime Historical Committee member Hilary Davis said.

“I’m just thrilled that Alex is working with us, and I’m thrilled that he’s working so hard on the Facebook page,” Davis said. “I love his enthusiasm. I think it’s wonderful.”

Davis said she is amazed how so many people rely on social media for their news.

“The advantage of these articles on Facebook is they just load onto your feed,” she said. “With Facebook, we can bring the knowledge of lesser-known historical ties to the public.”

Shelby Township Deputy Supervisor Brad Bates said Shelby Township has a lot of untapped potential with the Historical Committee’s amassed collection and connections to local history, and he is excited to engage the public through Facebook.

“It’s pretty exciting to see it happen,” Bates said. “We’ve got Joe Louis, the Underground Railroad, a U.S. missile base, the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal. You can trace back the state’s history to metro Detroit through Shelby Township.”

To check out the Facebook history page, go to www.facebook.com/shelbyhistory. To access the Shelby Township Historical Committee’s website, visit www.shelbyhistory.com. To schedule a guided tour of the historic Andrews Schoolhouse on the township municipal grounds, call the Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department at (586) 731-0300.

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