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A Message from the Director

Since its establishment in January 1993, the Albertus C. Van Raalte Institute has grown and prospered, thanks to the generosity of its major donor; the support of administrators at Hope College, of which we are a part; the knowledge and energy of Institute staff; and the guiding hand of Providence. For the first time in its brief history, the Institute is issuing an annual report. This document describes not only the Institute's productivity during the 1996-1997 academic year and some of our plans for 1997-1998, it also provides a history of the Institute up to this time, beginning with the vision which led to its creation.

February 1997 marks the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Holland Colony in western Michigan. The Institute celebrated this important occasion with the publication of a new biography of the founder, Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot, which is described later in this report. Dr. Jacobson, Dr. Swierenga, and I continue to contribute actively to the sesquicentennial celebration through numerous engagements to speak, lecture, and make presentations on Dr. Van Raalte and local history. (A list of publications and presentations by Institute members is included in this report.) Additionally, I have been a member of the city's committee to plan the year-long celebration during 1997 which will culminate in the visit of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, and her husband, Mr. Peter Van Vollenhoven, in early October, and have assisted Hope College Provost Jacob E. Nyenhuis in bringing to fruition a project first envisioned seventy-five years ago: the creation of a larger-than-life bronze statue of Albertus C. Van Raalte and its siting in Holland's Centennial Park. My other committee responsibilities include serving as chair of the Joint Archives of Holland Council, as treasurer of the Dutch-American Historical Commission, and as a member of the Dutch-American Heritage Committee.

An important part of the work of the Institute is developing and fostering contacts with other institutions in this country and in the Netherlands. Major collaborations between scholars from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and our Institute occurred during 1996 and 1997. In the fall, Dr. Robert P. Swierenga and I gave lectures in the Netherlands at the Conference of the Historical Documentation Center for Dutch Protestantism in Amsterdam and the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg. The conference theme was "Sharing the Reformed Tradition: the Dutch North-American Exchange, 1846-1996." Dr. George Harinck and Dr. Hans Krabbendam, conference organizers and speakers, visited Holland, Michigan, in the spring to participate in the Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies (AADAS), cosponsored by the Joint Archives of Holland at Hope College and the A. C. Van Raalte Institute, and organized by Professor Larry J. Wagenaar, archives director. Each of the four of us who had delivered papers at the Amsterdam conference spoke again. (The collaboration is described more fully later in this report.) Planning for publications to be issued from the Institute is ongoing. Dr. Swierenga is heading up this effort, through which the members of our staff believe the Institute can make a strong contribution to the field of Dutch American studies.

All of us at the Institute appreciate the support of Hope College administrators, especially Assistant Provost Alfredo Gonzales, Provost Jacob E. Nyenhuis, Business Manager Barry L. Werkman, Vice President for Business and Finance William K. Anderson, and President John H. Jacobson. We are particularly grateful to Tom Renner, Director of Public Relations, for his expertise and energy in providing assistance with many of the Institute's publications. We are also fortunate to have a strong collegial interaction with the Joint Archives and its staff, Professor Larry Wagenaar, Professor Geoffrey Reynolds, and Ms. Lori Trethewey.

The Institute is open daily during the week between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., staffed by our new secretary and receptionist, Mrs. Karen Schakel. Except when I am traveling or fulfilling speaking and committee responsibilities, I am in my office during these hours. All fellows have offices at the Institute and are available to assist visitors by appointment. The phone number of the Institute is 616-395-7678, the fax number is 395-7120, and we can be reached by e-mail at We always enjoy meeting friends and visitors at the Institute and encourage their visits. Many who come to consult with us add to our knowledge of the field of Dutch American studies. If you have not yet stopped in at the Institute, please do so at your convenience. We also serve good coffee.

Elton J. Bruins

Director, A. C. Van Raalte Institute