Work Products - Detroit River Story Lab

Work Products

Since the Detroit River Story Lab launched in 2020, its regional partnerships have yielded a variety of collaborative work products and public events in support of local narrative infrastructure. Depending on the nature of the project, Story Lab contributions have included archival research, writing and editing, oral history collection and transcription, curriculum development, and project coordination, all aligned with the larger mission of reconnecting residents and visitors with the river and its many-layered stories. 

The representative listing below, organized according to the Story Lab’s three major public narrative project areas, is updated regularly as new project milestones are reached. Lead community partners and public launch dates are indicated in parentheses.

Place-Based Education

  • Decarbonizing the Detroit River Corridor – Designed in collaboration with the U-M School of Education’s Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research, this digital curricular module, presented through the Gala Learning Platform, is one in a series on the carbon economy in the Detroit River corridor. A sequence of scaffolded exercises uses DRSL’s carbon emissions visualization tool to teach high school students about environmental justice issues and local decarbonization policy options facing Detroit River communities. A complete teacher’s guide is also provided. (School at Marygrove, September 2023)
  • Exploring Community and Connection on the Detroit River – A display poster created by UM graduate student Crystal Cole describing her development of an experiential learning module focused on water quality and ecological connections with the river for use aboard the schooner Inland Seas (Inland Seas Education Association, November 2022).
  • The House that Changed Lives – A lesson plan based on the life and community building work of Sarah E Ray, an activist known as the Rosa Parks of the Boblo Boat. Consisting of a comprehensive, multi-media discussion guide and a curated collection of archival materials for classroom use, this adaptable curricular module will support social science classes at the middle and high school level throughout the Detroit River region (Sarah E Ray Project, October 2022).
  • Community Dimensions of Coastal Revitalization – Paired conference papers describing the partnership of the Detroit Historical Society and the Detroit River Story Lab on a variety of river-themed programming activities designed to foster place-based environmental and cultural awareness (DHS, presented May 2022)
  • Resistance on the River Curriculum – An extensive collection of learning materials and lesson plans that engages middle school students with the history of anti-slavery and anti-racist organizing along the Detroit River corridor (Detroit River Project; piloted July 2021).
  • Detroit River Skiff & Schooner Program – A hands-on learning program that connects local youth with the cultural and environmental heritage of the river through tall-ship sailing and boat-building experiences (DNR, Detroit Historical Society, and Wright Museum; piloted summer 2021).
  • Michigan Underground Railroad Heritage Gathering – Panel at an annual event sponsored by the Michigan History Center describing the initial pilot of the Resistance on the River curriculum (Michigan Freedom Trail Commission; October 2021).
  • National Humanities Alliance Conference – Panel focused on the design and creation of the Resistance on the River curriculum featuring four members of the development team (Detroit River Project; November 2021)

Community Heritage

  • Lives of Leisure and Labor on the Detroit River – An interactive essay exploring the experiences of those who built, maintained, and traveled on Detroit River steamboats at the turn of the 20th century, with special attention to key events in local labor and racial history and the ways they reflected shifting social and political attitudes of the time. (September 2023)
  • Interpretive Signage for Historic Fort Wayne – Site installations and online content, including a timeline, in support of a new interpretive plan for Historic Fort Wayne, with topics including environmental history, profiles of local civilian employees, migration and ethnic histories of southwest Detroit, Fort Wayne’s connection to the Underground Railroad, and little known Indigenous and colonial-era histories (City of Detroit, August 2022, March 2023)
  • Great Lakes Way @ Trenton – A Storymap project imagining possible futures for disused industrial sites along the Detroit River in Trenton, featuring historical contexts, interviews, and captivating site renderings. The project was created by students in a DRSL-linked Public Design Corps studio class at UM’s Taubman College. (Great Lakes Way, August 2022)
  • Detroit River Stories Podcast – A student-produced podcast series featuring interviews with local residents about their relationships with the Detroit River. (Pilot episodes released June 2022)
  • Home Archival Guide – An introduction to the practice of home preservation developed as part of the 100 Years 100 Stories project at the Detroit Historical Society. (Detroit Historical Society, April 2022)
  • Neighborhoods: Where Detroit Lives – An oral history project devoted to collecting and preserving local stories, including those of historic riverside neighborhoods like Black Bottom, Corktown, and Delray. (Detroit Historical Society, April 2022)
  • The Detroit River and the University of Michigan – An illustrated history of the many-layered connections between U-M and the region’s defining waterway dating back to the university’s founding in the early 19th century, just a few blocks from the river’s edge. (Pilot launched March 2021)
  • Wahnabezee and the River Park Question – A [hi]story-telling workshop that showcased oral histories, archival materials, and student projects on the past, present, and future of Belle Isle (Detroit Historical Society, November 2021)
  • Detroit River Region Timeline – A working prototype for a robust visual and interactive resource for exploring the environments, institutions, and actors that have shaped the Detroit River corridor over the past millennium. As it continues to expand, this tool will serve as an archive and a pedagogical resource in service of the Detroit River Story Lab’s long-term goal to assemble and curate an archive of resources in support of local organizations’ efforts to reconnect local communities with the river and its stories. By presenting the histories of the Detroit River corridor as those of a coherent, interconnected region, the timeline allows users to explore connections between the river’s past and future, provides an accessible resource for local students to learn about the places they live, and supports local organizations in amplifying marginalized voices the river’s long and storied history. (Pilot launched December 2021)
  • Congressional Resolution – A formal commemoration of the International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument, noting the creation of the new Resistance on the River curriculum, and urging the river’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, H.Res.739, 117th Congress (Detroit River Project; introduced 10/21/21)
  • Underground Railroad Research Guide – A compilation of regional history resources focused on struggles for freedom in the Detroit River borderland including a selected bibliography, annotated lists of digital and physical archives, miniature biographies of local freedom seekers and abolitionists, and suggested angles for future research (Detroit River Project; completed May 2021)
  • River Heritage Resource Map – An interactive digital map that catalogues approximately 100 public heritage sites, public spaces, and trails along the Detroit River corridor, providing a visual argument in support of regional heritage development efforts relating to the Underground Railroad and other historical events (Detroit River Project and Michigan History Center; completed May 2021)
  • Heritage Designation Primer – A resource guide providing an overview of state, national, and international heritage designation opportunities and protocols (Detroit River Project; completed May 2021)
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Inventory  – A database of existing and proposed World Heritage Sites in the US and Canada, with locations, descriptions, and designation criteria (Detroit River Project; completed May 2021)
  • UNESCO Designation Gap Study – A comprehensive overview of progress made over the past fifteen years towards eventual UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Detroit River, identifying specific sites warranting further research and suggesting possible next steps (Detroit River Project; completed May 2021)

Nonprofit Journalism

  • Detroit / Rouge River Storybooth Blitz – A day-long event hosted at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge providing an opportunity for local residents to share and document their knowledge and insights into the history of the rivers as well as what they might envision for their futures (Planet Detroit, Friends of the Rouge; August 21, 2021)
lsa logoum logoU-M Privacy StatementAccessibility at U-M