Valerie van Heest, NCIDQ, serves as a project manager, curator, and designer at LvH. Having coupled her professional career in interior architectural design and graphic design with a lifetime of maritime and general history studies and is uniquely qualified in the design of museum exhibits. She holds a BA in interior design from the Harrington Institute of Interior Design in affiliation with Loyola University, has thirty years’ experience as designer, project manager, graphic designer, and marketing manager with major architectural firms in Illinois and Michigan and cofounded LvH in 2007, managing, co-curating, and designing each commission.

Believing in the power of entertainment to educate, Valerie has written and directed over ten documentary films, two of which debuted at the prestigious Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck, Michigan, written six books, four of which received prestigious awards, and is a prolific public speaker with a schedule of over 40 presentations annually. She has written articles regularly for Michigan History Magazine, Seaway Review, Lakeland Boating, Wreck Diver Magazine, Inland Seas and other historical journals and maritime-related publications.

She has also served in on the board of directors for three non-profit maritime organizations, contributing her management, design, underwater archaeological and writing skills to a variety of projects, including directing over two-dozen underwater shipwreck documentation projects. Her work in that capacity often overlaps her museum work. She has successfully written three grants that led to the development of museum exhibits and companion publications.

Her body of work led to her receipt of the Joyce Hayward Award for Historical Interpretation from the Association for Great Lakes Maritime Heritage in 2017 and an award in 2007 from the Historical Society of Michigan for her efforts in preserving and promoting Michigan’s maritime history.

William LaffertyWilliam Lafferty, PhD, serves as the curator at LvH. He holds a BS, MA, from Purdue University and a PhD from Northwestern University. He has taught video and film production and communications history and theory at Purdue University, Iowa State University, and Wright State University as an associate professor. His professional scholarship, generally focused upon technological innovation in the film and broadcasting industries, has appeared in periodicals such as the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and anthologies such as Hollywood in the Age of Television. Twice Lafferty has received awards from the Broadcast Education Association for his research on the historical development of American broadcasting.

Lafferty began collecting artifacts, photographs, and other historical material related to the maritime history of the Great Lakes, at the age of ten. That interest becoming his life-long avocation. He has contributed maritime-related articles to the journals of the Steamship Historical Society of America and the Chicago Historical Society, among others, and to the anthology A Fully Accredited Ocean: Essays on the Great Lakes, published by the University of Michigan.

He was named 2016 Historian of the Year by the Marine Historical Society of Detroit, is the coauthor of the award-winning Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader funded by a Michigan Humanities Council grant, coauthor of Unsolved Mysteries: The Shipwreck Thomas Hume, and winner of the 2007 Barkhausen Award for Original Research in Maritime History. He is considered one of the Great Lakes’ preeminent maritime historians.


J. Andrew Baer, serves as the firm’s architectural consultant. Based in Holland, Andy received a Bachelor’s of Architecture from the University of Texas-Austin, in 1982 and his professional license in 1986. Since then, he has enjoyed a quietly prolific career as a sole proprietor.  Andrew’s broad range of practice experience, hands on approach to the job, ability to communicate with a wide range of clientele, and his commitment to the community have given the practice a firm footing. He consults with LvH on projects as needed for any architectural development, as well as the design of three dimensional exhibits and the structural components of  exhibits.