Skip to content


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.

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

On Tuesday, December 12, at the the GRPM’s Meijer Theater we presented the first of a three-part series that considers the impact of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment here in Grand Rapids. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment provided the legal rationale for key civil rights Supreme Court and legislative Decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education, Shelley v. Kraemer, The Fair Housing Act and Loving v. Virginia. The Constitution is a living document, and its relevance is best understood through its application in daily life. The impact on the lives and community of Grand Rapidians are explored in this series. “Learning” explores the real-life impact of the Brown decision on the Grand Rapids Public Schools and the children that attended these schools. A 1966 study commissioned by the school board found that although there was no “de-jure” segregation in GRPS, the segregated housing patterns of the city had created a “de-facto” segregated system. The report concluded that non-white students were receiving an inferior education and that white students were missing out on the opportunities for interaction with a diverse community.

The GRPS board responded by creating a plan to integrate its schools by busing students from the predominantly South East Side of the city to schools that were located in the predominantly white districts on the West and North East sides of the city. It was determined politically difficult to bus white students to South High or other South East side schools. This was politically true despite South High’s tremendous legacy in the
city, including alum that included President Gerald Ford and singer Al Green, among many others.

The panelists were the former children who carried the burden of this integration plan. Randal Jelks, author of African Americans in Furniture City, served as the moderator. Joining him were three 1968 South High graduates (the last class) Mel Atkins, Rick Bengelink, and Deborah Jones. Ed Kettle, represented Union High School’s Class of 1969. Edye Evans Hyde graduated from Creston High in 1975 as did Teresa Neal, in

All of these panelists went on to impact lives of children in significant ways. But the experiences explored in the panel were from the vantage point of the children and how this impacted them throughout their lives. Enter with us into this important GR Story.

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

Carousel Update.

The Spillman Carousel is currently closed while we are undergoing riverfront construction. The Carousel will re-open Spring of 2025.

Carousel Update.

The Spillman Carousel is currently closed while we are undergoing riverfront construction. The Carousel will re-open Spring of 2025.

Carousel Update

The 1928 Spillman Carousel is closed while we undergo riverfront construction. The carousel will re-open in the Spring of 2025.