Memoirs of Robert P. Swierenga:
After publishing Dutch Chicago in 2002, which was a reprise of my own heritage growing up among the Dutch Americans of Chicagoland, I decided to grow where I was planted in Holland, Michigan. As research professor at the Van Raalte Institute, my office was in the same building as the Joint Archives of Holland and one block from the Holland Museum Archives—the city archives. Why not write a city with a flourishing downtown, the De Zwaan Windmill, and the annual Tulip Time festival that draws tens of thousands of tourists.
The Van Raalte Institute is dedicated to preserving the Dutch Reformed heritage in America, to documenting the history of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, and to keep alive the history of the city and region. Several amateur historians had thought to write a comprehensive of Holland; some even started to write. But none got very far. I have the background as a professional historian, the author of many books, and the time and resources to complete the work. It took ten years to read all the city newspapers, starting with Dutch language newspapers in 1850 and continuing with English language papers from 1872. All are available on microfilm. I also used city and private collections, interviews, manuscript censuses, and other records.
I spent a year researching photo collections in archives and private hands and scanning several thousand for consideration. From these I selected 900 for the books. The comprehensive name/subject, 200 pages in length, required nearly six months to compile. I worked with a graphic designer on the attractive dust jacket cover images for the three volumes, and chose maps for the six end pages that could run across the centerfolds.
Holland, Michigan could not have been written without the support of colleagues at the Van Raalte Institute—director Jack Nyenhuis who assigned student assistants and raised the necessary publication subsidy, series editor Donald Bruggink, Dutch translator Nella Kennedy, Reformed church historian E. William Kennedy, and copy editor JohannaH Smith.
No small city, let alone large cities, have a history as complete as this one. It should put the city of Holland, Michigan, on the map for more than tulips and windmills.
On September 28, 2014 the Historical Society of Michigan awarded Holland, Michigan its 2014 book award in the commercial and university press division.