Museum Exhibits


For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights

September 1 – October 20, 2021 

“…we had averted our eyes for far too long, turning away from the ugly reality facing us as a nation. Let the world see what I’ve seen.” – Mamie Till Bradley

In September 1955, shortly after fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi, his grieving mother, Mamie Till Bradley, distributed to newspapers and magazines a gruesome black-and-white photograph of his mutilated corpse. The mainstream media rejected the photograph as inappropriate for publication, but Bradley was able to turn to African American periodicals for support. Asked why she would do this, Bradley explained that by witnessing, with their own eyes, the brutality of segregation, Americans would be more likely to support the cause of civil rights.

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights is a nationally touring exhibition from NEH on the Road. Through a compelling assortment of photographs, television clips, art posters, and historic artifacts, the exhibition traces how images and media disseminated to the American public transformed the modern civil rights movement and jolted Americans, both black and white, out of a state of denial or complacency.

Visitors to the immersive display will explore dozens of compelling and persuasive visual images, including photographs from influential magazines, such as LIFE, JET, and EBONY; CBS news footage; and TV clips from The Ed Sullivan Show. Also included are civil rights-era objects that exemplify the range of negative and positive imagery—from Aunt Jemima syrup dispensers and 1930s produce advertisements to Jackie Robinson baseball ephemera and 1960s children’s toys with African American portraiture. For All the World to See is not a history of the civil rights movement, but rather an exploration of the vast number of potent images that influenced how Americans perceived race and the struggle for equality.

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights was curated by Dr. Maurice Berger, Research Professor, The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore. It was co-organized by The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. For All the World to See has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). It has been adapted and is being toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA). Founded in 1972, Mid-America Arts Alliance is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the United States. For more information, visit www.maaa.org or www.nehontheroad.org


Proclaiming Emancipation

Through October 20, 2021 

Proclaiming Emancipation explores historical views on the Emancipation Proclamation through the holdings of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, as well as local history sources from Berrien County. Letters, sketchbooks, diaries, pamphlets, manuscripts, books, memoirs, prints, photographs, broadsides, and ephemera, all capture reflections upon the Proclamation and the meaning of emancipation. The Emancipation Proclamation took on its full meaning as Americans on the home front, in slave quarters, on the battlefield, in contraband camps, and on the streets, wrestled with its ideas and its lived consequences.


Lighting the Way:
Fresnel Lenses from St. Joseph’s Lighthouses

The historical 4th and 5th Order Fresnel lenses from our St. Joseph lighthouses are restored, reunited, and on display at the Heritage Museum!

Fresnel lenses dramatically improved maritime safety and saved countless lives. Before their invention, lights were equipped with several oil lamps and mirrored reflectors. Invented in 1822 by French physicist Augustin Fresnel, these new lenses projected light nearly 20 miles across the horizon.

St. Joseph is the only community in Michigan to have preserved two of its own Fresnel lenses.  The United States Coast Guard removed one of the historic lenses in 2003 and the other in 2012, replacing them with solar-powered, modern optics. Through an agreement to restore and display the Fresnel lenses, the Heritage Museum received both on long-term loan.


The Big Three: Boat and Shipbuilding in

Benton Harbor and St. Joseph

Located in our Research Library, this exhibit features images from collections that were recently donated to the Heritage Museum. These photographs came to the museum in poor condition and the Heritage Museum’s staff spent five months carefully restoring them for preservation, research and display. The exhibit tells the story of the boat-building industry in the twin cities and includes the 1897 Truscott boat that was acquired by the Museum in the early 2000s.


St. Joe Lighthouse Tours Exhibition on the North Pier

An ongoing seasonal exhibit; open hours and tour tickets available at StJoeLighthouseTours.org. Made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a grant from the Berrien Community Foundation, and a gift from Entergy – Palisades Power Plant.