The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center of St. Joseph, Michigan, is pleased to announce the continuation of our Lecture Series with the 2023 lineup of speakers. The Heritage’s Lecture Series features public talks celebrating Southwest Michigan history and culture. The series delivers experiences that inform, delight, and enlighten those interested in the heritage of the Twin Cities and surrounding communities of Southwest Michigan. 

The talks are open to the public and free.


Stay tuned for more details on each of the 2024 lectures!


Thursday, October 26, 7:00 PM

German Americans in Berrien County

Our FREE Lecture Series continues this month as we welcome Linda Williams of Trinity Lutheran to The Heritage for a wonderful history of German Americans in Berrien County. Included will be a discussion of how the German Lutheran population helped develop local churches, especially Trinity Lutheran. Join us at 7:00 PM on Thursday, October 26th at The Heritage.

Thursday, September 14, 7:00 PM

Early Michigan’s Scourge of Mosquitoes and Malaria

The challenge of mosquitoes and malaria to early settlers of Michigan was profound. Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited Michigan in July of 1831, commented a number of times as to how burdensome the mosquitoes were. The state of Michigan was known to early 19th century Americans as an area profuse with swamps, disease and other hardships. Malaria was so widespread throughout the region that all expected to suffer from it and it was viewed less as a disease than simply a reality of life. Efforts by early Michiganders to find relief from mosquitoes included the use of smudges and other techniques of limited efficacy. Quinine was a highly sought after to relieve ague (malaria) symptoms. Three aspects of early Michigan made for significant populations of mosquitoes and associated malaria; topography, the extent of forests and the amount of wetlands. Efforts to develop land through wetland drainage, and the lumber industry that cleared much of the virgin forest in the state, altered and in many cases reduced much of the mosquito habitat. Yet, many of the land attributes remain and still contribute to a significant mosquito burden in parts of the state. Join us online via Zoom for this special VIRTUAL Lecture Series event with Dr. Carl W. Doud.

Thursday, August 24, 7:00 PM

Emerging Historians Showcase

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center is proud to showcase two of our own emerging historians. Join us LIVE at The Heritage or online via Zoom as Lydia Majewski and Nolan Becker share their preservation projects, research, and adventures in Southwest Michigan’s public history.

Tuesday, July 25, 7:00 PM

OutCenter Southwest Michigan: A History of Perseverance and Progress

Join us LIVE at The Heritage on online via Zoom as MaryJo Schnell and Rich Hensel guide us on a tour of the OutCenter Southwest Michigan’s 20 years of history! Listen as they share the many ways the OutCenter’s Board, staff, and volunteers have provided safe spaces for community members to receive support, as well as the numerous ways so many have worked to create more equitable communities across Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties.

Thursday, June 22, 7:00 PM

The Evolution of the Company Town

Join us as Dr. David Benac, Associate Professor of History at Western Michigan University, presents a fascinating exploration of the ways company towns have evolved in response to geography, technology and culture while retaining a core identity as structures that facilitate control and extract wealth for outside forces. The discussion will span from colonization to current strategies used in places like Kalamazoo, as well as plans for new company towns proposed by people like Bezos and Musk.

Main Street, Benton Harbor, Michigan, 1930

Thursday, April 27, 7:00 PM

Ships or Boats on the Great Lakes

For 340 years, commercial vessels have plied the Great Lakes.   Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes will explore how economics, and technology have changed the design and purpose of these vessels from LaSalle’s Griffon in 1680 to the most recent edition to the fleet the MV Mark W. Barker in 2022!

Thursday, February 23, 7:00 PM

“The Miracle of the Straits”

St. Helena Island Lighthouse

Join us LIVE as we welcome Mark and Michele VanderVelde as our 2023 opening lecture series speakers.

YES! We are offering this event ONLINE as well!Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83678015444

Meeting ID: 836 7801 5444

Passcode: history

Wednesday, September 21, 6:30 PM 

Upstairs, Downtown – A Short Study in Urban Alchemy
Ken Ankli, Guest Speaker

Longtime resident and business owner, Ken Ankli will present parallel histories of his renovation of two historic buildings in Benton Harbor, the former Brammall Supply Company, and the Sheffield Drug Store.

Ken will trace the history of the building, their owners, and his efforts to add life to the neighborhood known as the Benton Harbor Arts District.

The presentation is offered LIVE or on ZOOM:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 850 3318 4629
Passcode: History

Sunday, June 12, 3:00 PM 

Ladies of the Lights

with Patricia Majher

Please join us as we welcome author Patricia Majher for Ladies of the Lights as part of our HERstory Lecture Series. This event is open to the public. St. Joseph Lighthouse Tour to follow book signing event.

Author Patricia Majher is a museum professional who has worked in a variety of functions for Michigan museums ranging from The Henry Ford and Mackinac State Historic Parks to the Michigan Women’s Historical Center (now the HERstory Museum). Originally trained as a journalist, Patricia has written extensively for Michigan newspapers and magazines; from 2009-16, she edited Michigan History magazine for the Historical Society of Michigan. She currently serves as administrator of the Hamburg Township Historical Museum in Livingston County, and also operates a consulting business, Majher Museum Marketing.

Children’s Event: Saturday, June 11, 10-11:00 AM 

Ladies of the Lights: Empowering young women through art and culture.

Join Miss Shoreline’s Outstanding Teen, Abigail Kalin for an hour of art, crafts, and snacks in honor of the Ladies of the Lights: Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Additional guests include other Miss Michigan contestants as they share stories of HERstory and the work of these strong women! All are welcome to this event!

Monday, March 28, 6:30 to 7:30 PM 

Little Italy Historical Park Project
with Al DiBrito

The mission of the Little Italy Historical Park Project is to preserve and promote the historical significance of Italian Americans living in Southwest Michigan.

Developing a park in an area of Benton Harbor once known as “Little Italy”, organizing events and programs, and meeting monthly will allow our members to share our heritage with and connect to our community.

Please join us as we welcome Al DeBrito, President of the Little Italy Historical Park Project.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 850 3318 4629
Passcode: History

Wednesday, February 23, 6:30 to 7:30 PM 

Unified Civic Monuments Project
Sharon and Mack Brown

Please join us LIVE on ZOOM as we welcome Sharon and Mack Brown, Founders of the African American Museum and Literature Gallery in Benton Harbor.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 850 3318 4629
Passcode: History

Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 6:30 PM

Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Conversation with Mayor Mike Garey
Recently retired St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey reflects on growing up and growing old in St. Joseph, his tenue in office, the historical importance of city, and his hopes for the future. 

Offered both LIVE and on ZOOM:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 850 3318 4629
Passcode: History

Thursday, November 18, 2021, 6:30 PM

Fatal Crossing:
The Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers

Join us LIVE on Thursday, November 18th when author Valerie van Heest will discuss her book, Fatal Crossing: Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 850 3318 4629
Passcode: History

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 6:30 PM

The History of the St. Joseph River Yacht Club

Please join us at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center as Dr. Stuart Boekeloo, a familiar voice on the history of Michigan with all points interest connecting to Southwest Michigan, speaks on the history of the St. Joseph River Yacht Club. 

February 24, 2021 at 6:30 PM

Idlewild: A Special Place for African Americans

Established in 1912, Idlewild welcomed African Americans with no restrictions at a time when segregation was rampant. The small town eventually became one of the most popular African-American resorts in the Midwest. Journey back through the decades when Idlewild offered rest, relaxation, and a respite from racism.

Morris Thomas

Professor of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences
Michigan State University

March 10, 2021 at 6:30 PM
West Michigan Pike: Road from the Metropolis to the Beaches

The West Michigan Pike (US 31) celebrates its 100th anniversary as one of the country’s first highways and later an interstate. Designed with the idea of accommodating the newly accessible automobiles, it served as a conduit to spur development and tourism in western Michigan. Its presence has created the vast tourism industry that continues to fuel our economy.

This talk will focus on how the road transformed cities and towns along its route. A particular emphasis will be paid to Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, South Haven, Holland, and Muskegon as their roles from tourist destinations to weekend getaways developed for Chicago tourists. We will also trace the development of the personal automobile as being the catalyst for this progression.

George Maniates

Instructor of History
Muskegon Community College

March 31, 2021 at 6:30 PM
Memories of Silver Beach

Please join us for an interactive discussion of Memories of Silver Beach, led by Kathy Zerler. She had the pleasure of interviewing the late Roberta Drake Terrill in her St. Joseph home for one of the chapters of On the Banks of the Ole St. Joe, a book Kathy produced to promote the city of St. Joseph.

Mrs. Terrill was the daughter of Logan Drake, founder of The Silver Beach Amusement Park. She grew up working in the park, and later became the park’s owner, and then ran it with her husband Horace “Chief” Terrill. She was exuberant about her life at Silver Beach as she shared 35 of her personal photographs as well as her own memories of growing up in a place that was designed for fun.

“The whole idea was to have fun,” Mrs. Terrill said. “Mr. Drake insisted on honesty from all of us, that’s all, and we loved working there. He didn’t want anyone cheated out of having a good time.”

April 14, 2021 at 6:30 PM
How to Find a Lost French Fort (and What to Do with It Once You Do)

When Fort St. Joseph was first discovered by Western Michigan University archaeologists in 1998, they had no idea that the site would consume their efforts for more than two decades. Archaeological investigations, interpretations, and public involvement demonstrate that the site contains important information of broad interest to students, professionals, and history enthusiasts alike. In this presentation the principal investigator discusses how we located and excavated Fort St. Joseph, what we learned, and the need for partnerships to sustain our archaeological heritage for future generations.

Michael Nassaney, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Western Michigan University

Principal Investigator of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

Past Lectures

Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 6:30 PM

Bob Myers, Director of Education, Historical Society of Michigan

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi – Keepers of the Fire

Tuesday November 10, 2020, 6:30 PM

John N. Low, JD, Ph.D., Ohio State University – Newark, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

The Jewish Heritage of Southwest Michigan

Thursday, December 3, 6:30 PM

Michael Eliasohn, Board of Directors, Michiana Jewish Historical Society

View recording on YouTube