What is the value of investing in corporate heritage?
In 2014, Meijer, a family-owned, Midwestern supermarket chain, was renovating its corporate headquarters. The company decided to devote part of its new campus to a Heritage Center to showcase Meijer’s transition from a small-town grocery into a regional supercenter, and planned to move its company archives to a larger, more modern facility adjacent to the new museum at 2929 Walker Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49544. In doing so, Meijer made a major investment in its heritage. HAI, in collaboration with company executives, museum staff, and design firm Gallagher & Associates, was determined to make that investment pay off.
Developing an Accessible Archive
Our archivists provided Meijer with a preliminary assessment and inventory of select historical materials to help the company prepare to move its archival collection to the new facilities. We visited the corporate headquarters to review Meijer’s collection, which was spread across several storage areas.
The assessment team inventoried more than 500 assets, also reviewing an estimated 230 linear feet of archival records and 230 linear feet of artifacts, artwork, promotional items, and other memorabilia. For each item, archivists created an identifying number and brief description, indicated the item’s location, and made note of any special conservation needs. They tagged and photographed historically significant objects so that they would receive special attention during the move. Archivists also flagged items that could help tell Meijer’s story in the Heritage Center.
Telling the Meijer Story
Next, HAI collaborated with Gallagher & Associates to develop content for the Heritage Center exhibits. Working with Meijer employees, researchers and writers crafted the story of the company. Centered on the artifacts selected from the Meijer Historical Archives, the exhibits explore the core values and history of Meijer, from its beginnings through its expansion across Michigan and into five other states.
Our team then developed exhibit concepts, researched and developed content, identified artifacts, wrote panel text, and acquired images for the 5,000-square-foot museum. Researchers also provided content suggestions and media assets for interactive exhibits.
One of the most important collections in the Meijer Historical Archives is correspondence received over the years from customers, employees, and suppliers. They include letters to Fred Meijer, son of the company founder. These original documents, highlighted in an exhibit called “Legacy of Letters,” demonstrate Meijer’s longtime commitment to community engagement. Multimedia touchpads along with the original letters allow visitors to view those relationships up close. Other exhibits present memorabilia from the years when the company operated under the name Thrifty Acres. Video testimonials feature former and current employees who continue to craft Meijer’s legacy. They highlight the family-owned company’s focus on quality products, customer service, competitive pricing, innovation, health and wellness, and community investment.
The Meijer Heritage Center opened in September 2016 and continues to inform and inspire employees, their families, and the community. The value of Meijer’s investment in its history is reflected in the enthusiastic response of Heritage Center visitors. “FANTASTIC exhibits—Very well done!!! It’s good to see Meijer people still honor the family and company history,” one visitor noted.
- “Very nice work all around on this—detailing the history and showing our commitment to being customer-centered dating back to the beginning. I’m proud to be part of this amazing team.”
- “It [the museum] is awesome-it brings back the memories of our ‘early years.’ Fred would be so proud of this!”
- “What an amazing family and community Meijer is! So well documented and represented in the Heritage Center. Absolutely love it!”
- “It makes me proud of the history and knowing that something can have such longevity and still feel like a family.”
- “FANTASTIC exhibits-Very Well Done!!! It’s good to see Meijer people still honor the family and company history.”
- “An exciting learning experience. Thank you for sharing the Meijer family and story with the public. Very proud of Meijer.”
- “What a phenomenal tribute to Meijer’s history!”
– Visitor comments after visiting the Meijer Heritage Center