The Motown Museum in Detroit has some exciting plans in store for 2025, and Suzanne Grimmer (B.A.’18, Public History) is in the middle of it all, partly in thanks to the experiences she took advantage of during her time as a student at WMU.
Suzanne joined the museum in 2022 as one of its first archivists, working to digitize thousands of archival documents for the museum’s expansion in 2025. “The expansion will include a brand-new museum campus and archival research room for music historians and fans, as well as local community members interested in Detroit history and Black cultural heritage,” Suzanne explained.
Suzanne originally chose to attend WMU for its public history program, one of the few undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation, so she could do this sort of work.
“I chose public history because I loved history but didn’t see myself becoming a teacher. I wanted to work in a cultural heritage institution like a museum or archive where I would be able to engage with historical materials daily, while helping to preserve cultural memory and provide accessibility to the general public,” she said.
The opportunities available at WMU helped put her on track to do what interests her most, preserving and interpreting historical materials at a professional level. Aside from receiving numerous scholarships at WMU, Suzanne was heavily involved with the history department, where she served as Vice President of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, and co-chair and student lead for the 2017 and 2018 MLK Day Teach-Ins, which hosted panels on social issues for students and community members.
“Thanks to generous grants and scholarships from the History Department, Lee Honors College, and College of Arts and Sciences, I was able to travel abroad twice—once to Germany and once to Poland—to study historical sites related to WWII,” Suzanne said. “These experiences have helped me to secure prestigious internships and fellowships at prominent museums and archives, which no doubt led to my current position with the Motown Museum.”
After graduating from WMU, Suzanne worked toward a Master’s in Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University and worked with a number of cultural heritage institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National WWII Museum. She’s most proud of the time she spent volunteering at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland in 2021, where she lived on-site at the former concentration camp for six weeks to help process and digitize prisoner records.
“Through this work, families will be able to finally access information on their family members’ imprisonment and at Auschwitz, which for so many may be the only information they have on their family members’ last movements during the Holocaust.”
The work Suzanne does today as part of her professional career, preserving and interpreting historical documents that help history come alive for current and future generations, is not only fascinating, but of extreme importance. Current students interested in following a similar career path have some simple and straightforward advice from Suzanne:
“Apply for as many scholarships as possible, maintain good relations with your professors, and try to travel abroad if possible! Experiencing a new place and culture can truly broaden your academic and professional horizons.”
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