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Historian Jay Follis Chronicles Titanic’s West Michigan Connections at Loutit District Library | Arts & Culture

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Historian Jay Follis Chronicles Titanic’s West Michigan Connections at Loutit District Library
Historian Jay Follis Chronicles Titanic’s West Michigan Connections at Loutit District Library

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – The story of the Titanic is well-known. The maiden voyage of the famed “unsinkable” ship ended in disaster in April 1912 when it struck an iceberg and sank. Of the over 2,200 passengers onboard, including many of the world’s wealthiest, only 705 people survived.

 “But did you know that Michigan has several connections to the disaster?” asks historian Jay Follis.

Mr. Follis will be the special guest lecturer on Thursday, April 16 from 7-8:30 p.m. at  Loutit District Library, presenting his engaging and informative program “Titanic: West Michigan Connections.”

“More than 60 passengers aboard the doomed liner were from Michigan or heading to our state,” he explains.  These included the ultra-wealthy who booked 1st Class accommodations to those in 3rd Class immigrating to the state. Each had their own dreams and aspirations.

And each, according to Follis, “has their own fascinating stories.”

One of the obscure threads he has investigated is the unexpected ties the Great Lake State has to the famed ocean liner.  In his program “Titanic: West Michigan Connections,” Follis will present amazing, yet little-known stories of: several Michigan passengers aboard the doomed liner; how within weeks of the sinking a Michigan college student launched a now-century-old publishing company with his book about the Titanic; and how a hometown hero met the rescue ship Carpathia in NY Harbor and led the Senate investigation into the disaster; plus many more.

Follis also shared a similar presentation for Titanic: the Artifact Exhibit - the renowned traveling exhibition of items recovered from Titanic’s debris field - during its stop at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

While he doesn’t exhibit any recovered objects, Follis will display several actual White Star Line of artifacts, showcasing authentic objects from Titanic’s sister ships that are identical to items used onboard and found at its wreck site. Rare photos, postcards, sheet music, and newspapers surrounding the event can also be viewed.

During his engaging multi-presentation, with both he and his wife Barbara dressed in period attire, you’ll be introduced to many Michigan lives lost, rescued or forever impacted by the iconic disaster.

As a researcher and museum professional, Jay Follis has passionately pursued many facets of American history, including a fascination with the R.M.S. Titanic that has lasted over four-decades. In fact, Jay gave his first public presentation about the Titanic to a historical society when he was only 14.

During the past few decades, Follis has given hundreds of presentations throughout the United States.  He first joined the Titanic Historical Society in 1979, and in addition to his studies of Titanic and the White Star Line, he has been the Marketing Director and Collections Registrar for the Gilmore Car Museum for the past 14 years, and founded the Tucker Automobile Historical Collection and Library in 1999 and served as its director for 15 years. Follis has been interviewed by numerous TV, radio and print outlets, and has served as a consultant to automotive restorers, journalists, and television productions, including PBS, The Discovery Network, History Channel and National Geographic Channel.

The public is invited to attend Follis’ program, entitled “Titanic: West Michigan Connection, on Thursday, April 16 in Program Room A at the Loutit District Library. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Follis’ program is free to the public in the library’s Program Room A. For more information on LDL programs, visit www.loutitilibrary.org or call 616-842-5560, ext. 200.

Loutit District Library is located at 407 Columbus Avenue in Grand Haven, Michigan. LDL serves 35,540 residents of the City of Grand Haven, the City of Ferrysburg, Grand Haven Charter Township, Robinson Township and that part of Port Sheldon Township in the Grand Haven Area Public School District. LDL offers a collection of over 145,581 items and provides educational, informative, cultural, and recreational programs for all ages. LDL is a member of the Lakeland Library Cooperative.