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The Michigan State University Museum has launched a new website for the Michigan Stained Glass Census (MSGC), a dynamic repository of architectural stained glass that reflects the state's cultural heritage.  See:

To date, the repository features more than 1,100 buildings that have more than 70,000 windows found in those buildings.

Featured windows are selected based on subject matter, technique, seasonal theme, type of building, age, and region in the state -- to showcase the tremendous variety of the art form. The Census is an ongoing project that encourages individuals and groups to better appreciate and preserve the stained glass treasures in their own communities. Hundreds of volunteer "census takers" have used research guidelines provided by cultural heritage specialists based at the MSU Museum to document buildings with architectural stained glass in their communities.  Collected data includes information on artists, architects of buildings, building functions, date and location of buildings and more.

While beautiful, expertly crafted works of art, including many by the famed Tiffany Studios, the windows also tell stories, says Betty MacDowell, MSU Museum research associate and MSGC director.

"The windows really reflect the collective values and beliefs of the community," she explains. "Particular designs may embody biblical characters and stories, while others in public buildings symbolize the area's founding, its natural resources, geography and the people who live there. They are expressions of a religious, political, and historical narrative and they are a valuable resource in understanding Michigan culture. Our state has a tremendously rich variety of architectural stained glass that we can take pride in," MacDowell adds.

The new web site includes a dynamic, searchable related database that supports greater access and research uses. (A previous site mainly presented a static set of photos and essays based on the census information.) The Census project began in 1992 at the MSU Museum under MacDowell's guidance.

The Census has already been used to support development of regional cultural heritage tours, to document changes in building uses.  In some cases the data housed in the MSGC is now the only existing record of windows that have have lost to theft or building destruction, MacDowell notes.

MSU connections
The Michigan Stained Glass Census project regularly involves MSU students in a variety of roles - as Census Takers, housing collected materials in archival conditions, as data inputters (learning important skills in working with a digital repository), conducting additional research on buildings, and writing featured window essays.

The website was developed by MATRIX, MSU's Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online, and the MSU Museum.

Additionally, the census features windows from MSU's Alumni Memorial Chapel, many of which depict themes related to the university's founding and its land-grant heritage.
Featured photo:
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church Windows, Elmira.