Holland’s boat-building heritage is highlighted in the recently published book “Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America” through a chapter by Geoffrey Reynolds, who is the Mary Riepma Ross Director of the Joint Archives of Holland at Hope College.
The book explores Michigan’s role in the development of Modernism throughout the 20th century not only in the United States but globally through nearly 30 essays and interviews. It was published earlier this month by Gibbs-Smith as a project of Michigan Modern, an ongoing effort established in 2008 to highlight the state’s design heritage.
Reynolds contributed the chapter “Plastic Fantastic: Holland, Michigan’s Fiberglass Boatbuilding Industry.” The chapter illustrates the use of fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) to build boats, starting in the 1940s through modern day.
“In the 1950s boat builders discovered that fiberglass would allow them to design boats that would lead to new boat sales and increased profit margins for years to come,” Reynolds said. “This technology steadily spread throughout American boat manufacturing plants, including Holland, Michigan, placing the town among the leaders in the industry.”
Reynolds, who also holds an appointment as a professor at Hope, has been with the archives since 1997 and has been director since 2001. His scholarly interests include Michigan’s boat-building industry in particular. Among other presentations through the years, he delivered the address “Plastic Fantastic: Holland, Michigan’s Boat Building Industry and the Use of Reinforced Fiberglass Plastic” during the statewide symposium “Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America,” held at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids in June 2014. In 2013, he was the guest curator for the exhibition “From Craft to Industry: The Boat Builders of Holland,” featured at the Holland Museum from June 13, 2013, through March 1, 2014. His book “From Craft to Industry: The Boat Builders of Holland, Michigan”
is being published by The History Press and is due out in May 2018.
The editors of “Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America” are Amy L. Arnold, who is the preservation planner for the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, and Brian D. Conway, who is Michigan’s state historic preservation officer. Other chapters with a West Michigan focus include “Grand Rapids Furniture and Mass-Produced Modernism,” by Christian G. Carron, and “Threads: The People, Events, and Beliefs that Make Herman Miller What It Is Today,” by Steve Frykholm and Clark Malcolm.