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GR Stories is an ongoing series hosted by the Grand Rapids Public Museum showcasing authentic stories from within the community.

About GR Stories

Created to dive deeper into the local community, GR Stories takes us throughout the Greater Grand Rapids to hear from the people themselves, sharing their rich history and contributions to the area. With in person and virtual options, these programs are bridges being built to better understand one another. As part of these programs, the Museum is actively collecting the stories and artifacts of our diverse community in the Collections. Programs in 2021 included: The History of Grand Rapids in Black and Brown: A Conversation, Polish Halls, and The 49507 Project.


The 14th Amendment:
Learning, Living, and Loving in Grand Rapids

 GR Stories – Learning

 On Tuesday, December 12, an evening at the GRPM’s Meijer Theater will showcase the play Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical, by Melvin Tunstall III, followed by a panel discussion titled “Learning”, the first in a three-part series of “The 14th Amendment: Learning, Living, and Loving in Grand Rapids.”

The evening begins with Ebony Road Players’ production of “Polkadots,” which follows 8-year-old Lily Polkadot as she navigates the challenges of being the first Polkadot in an all-Square school in the “Squares Only” small town of Rockaway. The story, inspired by Civil Rights pioneers Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine, serves as a vibrant history lesson, reminding us that our differences make us extraordinary, not outcasts.

Following a brief intermission with light refreshments, the panel discussion, “Learning” explores the real-life impact of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment on the local community. The Constitution is a living document, and its relevance is best understood through its application in daily life.

The panelists include a diverse group of individuals well-versed in the historical context of the 14th Amendment in Grand Rapids. Randal Jelks, author of African Americans in Furniture City, will serve as the moderator, guiding the discussion with expertise. Joining him are Mel Atkins, a South High graduate from the Class of 1968, and Deborah Jones, also from South High’s Class of 1968. Ed Kettle, representing Union High School’s Class of 1969, will provide unique insights, as will Teresa Neal, a graduate of Creston High School’s Class of 1977. Finally, Edye Evans Hyde, from Creston High School’s Class of 1975, will round out this panel of individuals with rich connections to Grand Rapids’ history. Together, they will offer a comprehensive exploration of the 14th Amendment’s impact on the local community.

Date: Tuesday, December 12

Location: Meijer Theater, 2nd floor of the GRPM

Cost: $25 for adults and $15 for children 17 and under

Public Health History in Grand Rapids

 GR Stories – Public Health History in Grand Rapids 

Presented at the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Overlook room on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, this program was free and open to the public thanks to the partnership between Grand Valley State University and grant support from Michigan Humanities. The program featured presentations from Grand Valley State University students Hannah Krebs, Callie Dzurisin, and Coltrane Bodbyl-Mast, who utilized the GRPM Collections and local archives for their research. Moderated by Grand Valley State University History Department Faculty Advisors Dr. Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin, Dr. Abigail Gautreau, and Dr. Matthew Daley, this panel aimed to spark meaningful discussion about the history of public health.


The Grand River Burial Mounds,
The Place Where Our Ancestors Rest

On March 25, 2023, the GRPM hosted a special program in the Meijer Theater featuring a presentation by Dr. Andrea Riley-Mukavetz and updates on the Grand River Burial Mounds Interpretation Initiative from Jannan Cotto. The program highlighted the partnership between GRPM, the City of Grand Rapids, and regional tribes to develop a consensus on caring for and interpreting the Grand River Burial Mounds. This important cultural site was constructed during the Middle Woodland period over 2,000 years ago and is listed on the Michigan State and National Register of Historic Places. The event provided insights into the ongoing efforts to preserve and interpret the site.

The History of Grand Rapids in Black and Brown:
A Conversation

The History of Grand Rapids in Black and Brown: A Conversation 

focused on the history of Grand Rapids from the perspective of Black and Brown. The presentation will feature three panelists, Dr. Randal Jelks, Dr. Todd Robinson, and Dr. Delia Fernandez. 

The 49507 Project

The 49507 Project is an artist and youth-led community celebration commissioning seven local Black and Brown artists for large scale murals on prominent buildings in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods. The Project begins with arts programming for young people, incorporates community listening sessions and summer programming, and concludes with a youth-organized community art unveiling. This is an anti-racist project by and for POC.

Polish Halls

Polish Halls have served as community gathering spaces and benevolent societies locally and nationally. This program featured a panel discussion led by Ed Sypniewski in honor of Pulaski Days to celebrate the history and heritage of the Polish community in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

If you have stories or artifacts related to the history of Grand Rapids, we would love to know about them. Contact a GRPM Curator at

Schedule Update

The 11 a.m. Planetarium Show, One World, One Sky, will not be available on Saturday, December 2,  due to a special event. Regularly scheduled programming will resume on Sunday, December 3.