What is the Michigan Stained Glass Census?
The Michigan Stained Glass Census, which began in 1992, is a statewide survey of architectural stained glass that is sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum. With the help of Volunteer Census Takers, the Census is locating, recording, and photographing stained glass windows throughout Michigan. The information collected by Census Takers is maintained in a computerized archive at the Michigan State University Museum.
The Michigan Stained Glass Census is an ongoing project that focuses attention on a long-neglected portion of Michigan's cultural heritage. By researching and recording information about the origins, styles, and subject matter of architectural stained glass, the Census is creating an invaluable resource of visual and documentary material related to Michigan's social, religious, and art history. The Census is also encouraging individuals and groups to better appreciate and preserve the stained glass treasures in their own communities.
Geography: The Great Lakes in Glass
Michigan is a large state with surprising examples of stained glass in every region. Although it would be very easy to limit ourselves to the stained glass of Michigan's larger, more affluent cities, it would not reflect the information our volunteer census takers have provided us from all over the state, which has revealed an impressive diversity of stained glass in even some of our smaller, more remote communities.
Stained Glass: Not Just For Churches and Synagogues
Although it is true that the majority of Michigan's documented stained glass is in places of worship, it still surprises some people to see the wonderful representation of stained glass we have shown in non-religious settings. Some of our most interesting windows in Michigan have been found in government buildings, libraries, homes and elsewhere. We have featured historical scenes, literary windows and non-representational stained glass, as well a variety of windows with scriptural themes. As for the religious stained glass we do show, we make every effort to represent the variety of denominations that exists around the state.
Life After Tiffany
It is important for us at the Michigan Stained Glass Census to educate our audience about the artists and studios that have created this art and often go unrecognized. We try to feature a variety of studios that have significance for their contribution to the development of the art form, and also show a wide range of styles and techniques over time. It is especially important that we honor the work of Michigan's stained glass artists and studios, from the Detroit Stained Glass Works (1861-1970) up to artists and studios that are still currently active.
Because we realize that many individuals want to see Tiffany windows, of which Michigan has an impressive assortment, we are happy to regularly feature them as Windows of the Month. For instance, see these examples:
- Example: October, 1998
- Example: April, 2000
- Example: February, 2005
- Example: April, 2006
- Example: April, 2007
- Example: May, 2008
Myth: Only Old Stained Glass Matters
We often get asked by prospective volunteers if we are interested in learning about new stained glass. Of course we are! Not only are we interested in older stained glass in Michigan's historic buildings, but we also want to know about and feature new architectural stained glass by contemporary artists and studios. If you know of such stained glass and are interested in registering it, please contact us.
Quality of Archival Materials and Images
Our 1100+ and growing file archive comes to us almost entirely through volunteer census takers. Our ability to feature windows often depends on the quality of the images and information that our volunteers provide to us, in addition to all of the factors mentioned above. If you are concerned about any aspect of the archival materials you are submitting, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to work with you.