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James McBurney. Young American Womanhood, 1929, black-and-white photographic reproduction. Courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan’s Union and League

Curated by: Nancy Bartlett
January 28 - May 7, 2017
The Jan and David Brandon Family Bridge

Ask U-M students, alumni, or fans what symbolizes the University of Michigan, and you’ll likely hear the Big House, the Diag, along with the Michigan Union and the Michigan League. Since they officially opened in 1919 and 1929, respectively, the Union and League have been destinations for generations of Wolverines yet few know the rich history of the buildings’ origins or about the architects who brought them both to life: brothers and U-M alums Irving K. and Allen Pond.

The exhibition, organized in celebration of the University of Michigan’s bicentennial in 2017, illuminates the architecture and bustling student life of these iconic buildings using original drawings, renderings, photographs, color studies, and even dance cards from the Bentley Historical Library, which serves as the University of Michigan archives. These fascinating documents reveal how the buildings were conceived, constructed, and first occupied by students and alumni. Guest curated by Nancy Bartlett of the Bentley Historical Library, the exhibition reveals how the Ponds meticulously conceived and constructed the two clubs—one for men, one for women—by weaving ideas about gender and society into the very fabric of the buildings themselves.


Lead support for Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan’s Union and League is provided by the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment.