Press Release: Lisa Plank 2021 Gordon Olson Award winner

We received the following press release from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

For Immediate Release

Lowell Area Historical Museum Director Lisa Plank: 2021 Gordon Olson Award winner

The Kutsche Office of Local History at Grand Valley State University is pleased to announce Lisa Plank as our 2021 Gordon Olson Award winner.  Established in 2014, the Gordon Olson Award is given to one individual each year. Named in honor of Gordon Olson, former Grand Rapids City Historian and inaugural President of the Kutsche Office of Local History’s Advisory Council, Olson’s books, leadership, programming, mentorship, and advocacy have inspired generations of West Michigan residents.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions to local history. The  Gordon Olson Award recognizes individuals whose work embodies the Kutsche Office’s mission of “using history to give voice to diverse communities.” We celebrate those who help facilitate our understanding of the past and those who are documenting history as it happens in the present. Nominations are open to anyone, from historians, librarians, and genealogists, to journalists, artists, and community organizers.

When announcing the award the Kutsche Office said, “Most will know the Grand Rapids native as the Executive Director of the Lowell Area Historical Museum, the latest in a long career of bringing history out to the public in West Michigan. Plank excels at developing partnerships to share West Michigan’s diverse histories in a multitude of formats, from digitized collections to FM radio broadcasts to fostering the region’s next generation of public historians through student collaborations. Our nomination committee was also impressed with how Plank’s work acknowledges that local history is just as complex, critical, and contested as the present.”

Photo courtesy of Lisa Plank.

Grand Valley State University professors Scott Stabler and Matthew Daley nominated Plank for the award. Professor Stabler noted, “Lowell serves as the Historical Museum’s foundation, but it reaches a much broader audience as well. Though I’m not a resident, she persuaded my wife and I to attend the annual fundraiser and become members of the Historical Society. Lisa worked with GVSU Professor Abby Gautreau’s Museum Studies course… and regularly mentors interns from a variety of universities in the area. The Historical Museum has digitized a broad swath of their images and even some documentary pieces of their collection. This demonstrates the commitment to having history “in public.” Dr. Daley supports this nomination as well and concurs with Lisa Plank’s importance to not just Lowell, but history beyond those borders.”

Plank noted, “The Lowell Area Historical Museum is a wonderful place to share local history. The history of the Lowell area is rich and diverse. We strive to find creative ways to share that history with a wide audience. The staff and volunteers at the Museum are committed to bringing our history alive in inspiring ways. This includes exhibits, public displays like the downtown interpretive boards, public speakers and innovative education opportunities.”

This commitment to sharing local history was also recognized recently by the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce when they awarded the Museum with the Non-Profit Spotlight Award. “The Museum has sought to find innovative ways to bring history alive to our community and beyond. Throughout the pandemic we have introduced new projects such as the ABCs of Lowell History online project to further that goal of sharing history.

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