Telling the Story of Meijer through its Archives and Heritage Center
Meijer, a family-owned, Midwestern supercenter chain, renovated its corporate headquarters in 2012. The campus plan included a new Heritage Center to showcase Meijer’s transition from a small-town grocery into a regional supercenter. The plan also included moving the company archives to a larger, more modern facility adjacent to the new museum. Throughout the project, History Associates worked closely with prime contractor Gallagher & Associates, company executives, and museum staff to help Meijer preserve and present its unique company history.
Exploring the Meijer Historical Archives
History Associates provided a preliminary assessment and inventory of a selection of Meijer’s historical materials to help the company prepare for moving its archival collection to the new facilities. A team of archivists visited the company’s headquarters to review Meijer’s collection, which was located in several storage areas.
The assessment team inventoried more than 500 assets, reviewed 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, brief description, location, and made note of any special conservation needs. They tagged and photographed items of historical significance so that they would receive special attention during the move. Items that could potentially be used to support the Heritage Center were also readily identified.
Telling the Meijer Story
History Associates subsequently assisted Gallagher & Associates by developing content for the Heritage Center. Combined with the artifacts selected from the Meijer Historical Archives, History Associates researchers and writers worked with Meijer employees and various Michigan repositories to tell visitors the story of the company’s beginnings and core values through to its expansion across Michigan and into five other states. Work included concepting, content development and research, identification of artifacts, scriptwriting, and image acquisition for the 5,000-square-foot museum. Researchers also provided content suggestions and media assets for interactive exhibits.
Enhancing the Story with the Archives
One of the most important collections in the Meijer Historical Archives is correspondence received over the years from customers, employees, and suppliers. Some of these were letters to Fred Meijer, son of the company founder. These original documents, highlighted in an exhibit called “Legacy of Letters”, provide an ideal demonstration of Meijer’s longtime commitment to community engagement. Multimedia touchpads as well as 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. There are also video testimonials from former and current employees who continue to craft Meijer’s legacy as a family-owned company focused around 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 members of the public. Enthusiastic comments from Heritage Center visitors reflect History Associates’ effectiveness in finding and presenting information and artifacts from Meijer history in a way that speaks deeply to company culture. One visitor noted, “FANTASTIC exhibits-Very Well Done!!! It’s good to see Meijer people still honor the family and company history.”