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UP History Awards given today in Sault Ste. Marie

LANSING, Mich. — The Historical Society of Michigan has announced the winners of its 2024 Upper Peninsula History Awards.

Each year, the society presents two Upper Peninsula-based awards: the Charles Follo Award for individuals and the Superior Award for historical organizations located in the U.P. The awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the preservation and promotion of Upper Peninsula history.

The 2024 awards will be presented at the 75th annual U.P. History Conference during the History Awards Banquet today in Sault Ste. Marie. The society will also present the History Hero Award at this event, which recognizes individuals who play an important role in advancing Michigan history and have longstanding ties to HSM.

The Charles Follo Award is named in honor of Charles Follo, a schoolteacher from Escanaba who worked to establish historical societies and promote the history of the U.P. This year’s award recipient is Diedre “Dee” A. Stevens of Sault Ste. Marie. Stevens has contributed countless hours of work as a volunteer with the Chippewa County Historical Society. Her research in past editions of area newspapers led her to create several searchable databases that she has shared with the historical society.

Stevens cataloged and indexed the society’s extensive collection of photographic prints and negatives and created a filing system for the photo vault and its corresponding database. She also translated her research into numerous lectures and programs.

Stevens has contributed to the creation of vertical files in the Bayliss Public Library’s Steere Room, served as a member of the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Historic Development Commission and written several articles and books about the region. Stevens shared her knowledge of the Soo as a narrator for the Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours company.

The Historical Society of Michigan established the Superior Award in 2006 to recognize historical societies, museums and other historical organizations that have preserved and advanced U.P. history. It was awarded to the Great Lakes Shipwrecks Historical Society. In 1978, a group of scuba divers and educators founded the society to discover, explore, document and interpret Lake Superior’s historic shipwrecks.

The society established the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at the Whitefish Point Light Station and also operates a museum site in the old U.S. Weather Bureau building in Soo Locks Park in Sault Ste. Marie.

Those museums have become two of Michigan’s most popular tourist attractions and draw about 80,000 visitors every year. Museum visitors learn about Great Lakes maritime history through exhibits that relate tales of life and loss on Lake Superior.

In addition to its work on shipwreck recovery and various site exhibits, the society has shared its findings with national audiences in video documentaries and in collaboration with the National Geographic Society and the Discovery Channel. The society gained international recognition for its recovery of the bell of the lost freighter Edmund Fitzgerald.

Phil Porter of Cheboygan will receive HSM’s History Hero Award during the 2024 conference. This award was created in 2017 to recognize and celebrate people who have made significant contributions to promote Michigan history and have supported the mission of HSM.

In his professional career with Mackinac State Historic Parks, Porter touched the lives of millions of people. He started out as a tour guide at Fort Mackinac, and later joined the Mackinac State Historic Park’s permanent staff as curator of collections. He then became curator of interpretation and chief curator, and in 2003 became director of the parks. He served in that capacity until he retired in 2020.

Millions of visitors to the Straits have benefited from his expertise, as has everyone associated with the Historical Society of Michigan. Hundreds of the society’s conference attendees have enjoyed his session presentations and keynote addresses, and his program about cottages on Mackinac Island holds the attendance record for the Society’s History Hounds lecture series. Porter also helped guide the Society through his service on the board of trustees from 2015 to 2021.

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