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Michigan Traditions and Traditional Arts

Michigan Eats: Regional Culture Through Food

Click here to see the Michigan Foodways website.
Click here to see a sample of the interpretive panels.

"The library gained so much- publicity, new connections with members of the community and local organizations, and new ventures into programming that will guide the library's long range planning."
—Cheboygan Area Public Library, Cheboygan, MI

"Many [veiwers] liked the emphasis on local traditions. The apple butter "maker' was a huge hit."
—White Lake Community Library, Whitehall, MI

We are what we eat! For Michiganders this means pasties, muskrat dinners, coneys, fish fries, cherry pie, and much more. What makes these Michigan foods? After all there is nothing that all Michiganders and only they eat. Michigan foods are those of the many communities—ethnic, regional, local—that constitute the state. State boundaries, however, do not dictate cultural boundaries. Nonetheless, it is possible to generalize about Michigan’s food and foodways by looking at food traditions in specific regions and locales. The term “foodways” means more than just food; it includes the entire complex of behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs associated with food, from cultivation to consumption. “Michigan Foodways,” a traveling exhibition from the Michigan State University Museum, examines factors such as physical environment and history in the development of Michigan’s food traditions.

The exhibit consists of 34 interpretive panels that convey in words and images many of the diverse food traditions found around the state. The exhibit also includes historic and contemporary objects from the Michigan State University Museum and private collections that illustrate various aspects of Michigan foodways, such as: kitchen utensils; implements used in the production of maple syrup; and packaging from some of Michigan’s best known food producers, like Kellogg, Jiffy, and Vernors. Visitors can also listen to clips from food-themed songs and stories about Michigan food on the exhibit’s interactive listening station. The exhibit, which traveled to six Michigan communities in 2007-08 in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute’s “Key Ingredients: America By Food” exhibit, has been redesigned to feature additional content from those communities (Calumet, Cheboygan, Chelsea, Dundee, Frankenmuth, and Whitehall).

This exhibition is eligible for funding through the Michigan Humanities Council's Arts and Humanities Touring Program. For more information, click here.


No current bookings. This exhibit is available.

This exhibition has been displayed at the following sites: Saginaw County Fair, Chesaning, MI; Choices Conference, East Lansing, MI; Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo, MI; Lorenzo Cultural Center, Macomb Community College, Clinton Twp., MI; Schoolcraft College, Livonia, MI; and Dowagiac Area Museum, Dowagiac, MI.

  Rental fee
(12-week period)
$2,000, plus shipping
  Number of pieces: 48 objects, 34 standing interpretive panels
  Running feet required: 1000 square feet
  Insurance Value: $30,000
  Security requirement: Lockable, limited access display area; trained guards or comparable protection system; provisions to prevent public from touching objects; object handling by museum professionals; temperature and light controls; fire protection according to local ordinances
  Additional materials available: Press materials.

This traveling exhibition is a Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Traditional Arts Program activity supported in part by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Photo of Evelyn Makela making Cornish pasties.

PICTURED: Evelyn Makela assembles Cornish pasty.
Photograph by Christine Saari, all rights reserved,
Michigan State University Museum.

Click here to learn more about Michigan Foodways

Photo of Derek Forney barbequeing ribsPICTURED: Derek Forney barbecues ribs in a demonstration of his food culture. He often barbecues for fundraisers for his church, Hope United Methodist of Southfield.
Photograph by Dave Kenyon, all rights reserved, Michigan State University Museum.

Photo of woman carrying a tray of paczkis
PICTURED: One of the many bakeries in Hamtramck that make thousands "paczki" for the Tuesday before Lent.
Photograph by Al Kamuda, all rights reserved, Michigan State University Museum.




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