Celebrating Michigan Rich Cultural Heritage
The Way We Worked: Rogers City

The Way We Worked: Escanaba

The Way We Worked, a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition coordinated in Michigan by the Michigan Humanities Council, will be on display in Escanaba from Feb. 19 – March 28, 2013 at Bay College’s Besse Center Galleries – South Gallery.

“Bay College is delighted at the prospect of this exhibit, since there’s much for all of us to learn, but especially our students,” said Larry Leffel, arts coordinator for Bay de Noc Community College (Bay College). “Anything Smithsonian is high-quality, so we all look forward to our labor heritage, even the mean conditions under which many worked.”

The Escanaba Public Library is the organization responsible for bringing the Smithsonian to Escanaba.

“The Upper Peninsula is often characterized by its strong work ethic,” said Carolyn Stacey, director of the Escanaba Public Library. “We are pleased to offer our community this opportunity to delve more deeply into the nature of work, what it means to us and how it ties into our national heritage.”

Admission to The Way We Worked and the Besse galleries is free. For additional information, visit www.baycollege.edu.

Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives, The Way We Worked draws from the Archives’ rich photographic collections to tell the story of work in American culture. Why, where and how we work? What value does work have to individuals and communities? What does our work tell others about us?

The exhibition uses graphics, audio components, photo flipbooks, film and numerous artifacts from history to share the story of our national workforce. In addition, Escanaba will provide supplemental programming on the history of the local workforce. Visitors will also have the opportunity to take an interactive approach through Stories from Main Street – a website and accompanying phone application that make it easy to record and share small town memories.

About Work in Escanaba

Escanaba, like many Upper Peninsula lake towns, has a natural deep-water port critical to the shipping of iron ore: in the late 1800s the city was touted as the “Iron Port of the World.” Its shipping industry is critical and played an important role during the Civil War with its transport of iron ore, lumber and copper. Heading into the 20th Century a railway was installed, which grew the lumber industry and as a result, the region’s vast reserves of white pine were harvested and exported. Commercial fishing and mining were also important industries to early commerce in Escanaba.

The paper mill, for many years Mead Corporation’s Publishing Paper Division, is currently operated by NewPage Corporation. It has been the most prominent employer and economic driver of the last century for this U.P. city.

Tourism continues as a growing industry with Escanaba’s beaches and fishing and hunting opportunities; as well as agriculture.

Escanaba Quick Facts

  • The name “Escanaba” comes from the Ojibwe word for “Land of the Red Buck.”
  • It is located in Delta County, which has more freshwater shoreline than any county in the nation.
  • It is considered the “Banana Belt” of the Upper Peninsula due to its comparatively mild temperatures and snowfall.
  • A major attraction is Ludington Park, stretching 120 acres along the city’s waterfront, with five miles of walking trails and the historic Sand Point Lighthouse.
  • Escanaba is home to the Upper Peninsula State Fair each August.
  • Home to the Bonifas Fine Art Center, a two-time winner of the Governor’s Arts Award.


John Beck is serving as Michigan’s exhibition scholar, acting as the lead academic consultant for host communities and the Council. Beck is an associate professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University, and co-directs the “Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives” program, which explores and presents the culture of workers in the workplace.

The Way We Worked has been made possible in Michigan by the Michigan Humanities Council - with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and CMU Public Broadcasting. The Way We Worked is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils across the country. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

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TWWW: Escanaba

Venue Information

Besse Center Galleries – South Gallery
Bay College
2001 N. Lincoln Rd.
Escanaba, MI 49829

PH: (906) 786-5802

Related Events

Opening Reception
Feb. 19 from 12-3 p.m.
Besse Center - Bay College
Feautring state scholar and Escanaba native John Beck

History of Commerical Fishing in Delta County
Presented by Delta County Historical Society
Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Escanaba Public Library /City Council Chambers

Dollar-a-Day Boys
Presented by author and storyteller Bill Jamerson
March 2, 1 p.m.
Escanaba Public Library /City Council Chambers

Music from the Backyard & Front Porch
Presented by Lauren Pelon
March 6, 6 p.m.
Escanaba Public Library /City Council Chambers
Sponsored by Friends of the Escanaba Public Library

Dumping iron oore, 1930

Two tugs in the ice. Escanaba 1900's

River drivers rest on the bank of the Escanaba

All photos courtesy of Delta County Historical Society

Michigan Humanities Council

119 Pere Marquette Drive, Suite 3B, Lansing, MI 48912

p: 517-372-7770 · f: 517-372-0027


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