Morand brings passion for New Haven to city historian role

Appointed by New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, Michael Morand, director of community engagement at the Beinecke Library, will help celebrate the city’s rich past.
Michael Morand

Michael Morand (Photo by Allie Barton)

Michael Morand, director of community engagement for Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, has been appointed New Haven’s official city historian by Mayor Justin Elicker.

A New Haven resident since 1983, Morand brings a demonstrated passion for local history and a devotion to the Elm City to the unpaid role. His initial five-year term runs through Dec. 31, 2028. 

[E]very time I speak with Michael Morand, I learn something new and interesting about New Haven,” Elicker said in his announcement. “Michael has a deep love for the Elm City, and he has the knowledge, experience, and passion to help our residents and institutions better explore and understand New Haven’s history, while inspiring community engagement and action from the lessons we learn from it.

I’m thrilled he’ll be our next city historian.”

As city historian, Morand will help residents and others interpret, celebrate, and learn from New Haven’s rich past.

New Haven has more accessible cultural heritage material per capita than just about anywhere in the country. This means we have great opportunities to help inform and activate more New Haveners as history keepers and history makers — and make New Haven the community in Connecticut that has the most inclusive and dynamic history and archives,” Morand said.

Our city is blessed with wonderful libraries and cultural heritage and community memory groups — the New Haven Museum; the Ethnic Heritage Center and its constituents; Beinecke and other Yale Library collections; SCSU special collections; art and science museums; religious congregations; Grove Street and other historic cemeteries; New Haven Preservation Trust; among so many others — all in a compact city.”

As director of community engagement at the Beinecke Library, part of the Yale University Library, Morand organizes events and programming to make the university’s archives and collections more accessible to the local public, especially the library’s extensive holdings on New Haven and Connecticut history. Much of his work has focused on recognizing and contemplating the challenges and injustices that the city’s marginalized communities have endured and overcome.

Morand is a member of the Yale and Slavery Research Project, which was convened by Yale President Peter Salovey in October 2020 to investigate Yale’s historic entanglements and associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition.

In February, Yale University Press published “Yale and Slavery: A History,” a scholarly peer-reviewed book authored by Yale historian David Blight, with project members, that details the working group’s full findings; the book includes a chapter written by Morand. (The project’s key findings and the full book are available online for free.)

He is also lead organizer of a complementary exhibition at the New Haven Museum, “Shining Light on Truth: New Haven, Yale, and Slavery,” that draws from the working group’s key findings, with a special focus on stories of Black New Haven, including early Black students and alumni of Yale. 

We know how committed and passionate Michael Morand is about preserving and sharing interesting facets of New Haven history,” said Carolyn Baker and Diane Petaway, co-presidents of the Greater New Haven African American Historical Society. “Over the years, we have collaborated with him to uncover exciting and precious stories from our common past, to unlock hidden narratives, and to share the power of history with so many.”

Morand serves as chair of the Friends of the Grove Street Cemetery; on the board of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and the W. E. B. Du Bois Museum Foundation (USA/Ghana); and as chair of the history committee of the Dixwell Community House.

Morand’s prior public service includes two terms as first ward alder in New Haven and membership on the State of Connecticut Judicial Selection Commission. He has served as chair of the board of the New Haven Free Public Library and its affiliated foundation, as past president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, as vice president of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and on other civic boards.

He is the third person to serve as city historian, following Richard Hegel and Judith Schiff, the longtime chief research archivist at Yale, who held the role until her death in 2022.

Dick Hegel and Judy Schiff were both friends and mentors I deeply cherish,” Morand said. “I am grateful to Mayor Elicker for this opportunity, inspired by the mayor’s commitment to honest and inclusive history, and honored to follow in a trail Dick and Judy blazed.”

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