Category Archives: Staff

Archives Recovering from October 26 Fire

Originally published in Tech Today, November 1, 2012
by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Tech

The Michigan Tech Archives are recovering from the Oct. 26 fire and ensuing water damage. Though the facility remains closed, recovery crews are working to restore the area and its documents, with the aim of reopening it to the public.

At about 11:30 a.m. Friday, a fire broke out in the archives stacks, located on the garden level of the J. R. Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library. A fire alarm sounded and sprinklers were activated.

Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services responded immediately, as did Houghton City Police. The Houghton City Fire Department received a call at 11:50 and was on the scene at 11:57 a.m. They left after the fire was fully extinguished, before 1 p.m.

The fire was contained within a few square yards, but water damage was extensive. The floor was flooded, and several stacks of documents were heavily sprayed by the sprinklers and fire hoses.

Some of the most heavily damaged documents were pulled by fireman onto the floor.

The response from the University community was almost instantaneous.

“We were genuinely overwhelmed by the number of people who were calling and coming to the building to see what they could do to help,” said Archivist Erik Nordberg. “Staff from the archives and library were on the scene immediately, along with Public Safety and the custodial staff. We saw people from the social sciences department, from the Pep Band . . . As soon as they heard what was going on, there was an outpouring of assistance. We were all sharing in this tragedy.”

Facilities’ custodial staff worked into the night, removing water from the area and installing dehumidifiers. Library staff followed their emergency response plan and arranged for freezer trucks to be sent from Green Bay to pick up the water-damaged documents.

Meanwhile, dozens of library staff, faculty and students from across campus, National Park Service experts, and community members came to the scene to help. They removed boxes from the stacks, re-boxing and sorting them. They identified those with water damage so they could be loaded onto the Green Bay-bound trucks for freezer storage.

Library and archives staff, as well as dozens of volunteers, worked to re-house some of the wet records.

A total of 688 boxes of water-damaged documents were loaded onto the trucks, and in less than three hours they were on their way to Green Bay. Belfor, a worldwide disaster recovery and property restoration firm, is shipping the frozen documents to Fort Worth, Texas, to be freeze-dried.

On Sunday, Belfor set up a drying room in the library to restore documents that don’t require freeze-drying. The company also conducted clean up of the archives site, including air filtration and odor control.

Less than 20 percent of the documents in the archives stacks were affected. Nordberg estimates that only a small amount of material may be damaged beyond repair.

Archives staff members are on duty, but the area is closed to visitors until further notice. The public and members of the University community are welcome to call 487-2505 or email copper@mtu.edu with questions.

Detective Sargent Dale Hillier of the Michigan State Police District 8 headquarters in Marquette is leading the fire investigation. A ceiling light in the archives stacks was severely charred in the fire, but the actual cause will not be known until the report is complete.

University Librarian Ellen Marks had high praise for the archives and library staff, citing Nordberg, Archivist Beth Russell, Strategic Initiatives Librarian Julie Blair, who drafted the emergency response plan, and Senior Project Archivist Rachael Bussert.

A drying room was constructed by personnel from Belfor to help with damp materials not sent to Green Bay.

“Everything worked so well because of the quick response of the Houghton police and fire departments, Public Safety and our own Scott Ackerman [IT principal systems analyst], who’s a volunteer firefighter,” she said. “John Lehman [assistant vice president for enrollment services] did an excellent job as incident commander, and all the many student and faculty volunteers were wonderful. I’d like to give a special shout out to Pat Martin [chair of social sciences] and the social sciences students. We are so appreciative.

“I’ve only been here two years, but it’s clear to me that Michigan Tech is a place where everyone really knows how to pull together,” she said. “I’m really grateful.”

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The fire and disaster recovery have been covered by several media outlets:

- Garret Neese article in the Tuesday October 30 edition of The Daily Mining Gazette.
- Television news piece from Marquette-based WBUP ABC Channel 10.
- Text and image piece from Marquette-based WLUC TV6/FoxUP.

Associate Press distributed a version of the story which was picked up by additional media sources, including the Detroit Free Press

Exhibit Explores Michigan Tech History

A new exhibit in the reading room of the Michigan Tech Archives explores 125 years of history at Michigan Technological University. Documents and memorabilia make up the exhibit, showing how the University has grown and changed with time. The University’s unique culture can be seen in everything from a class catalogue from 1890 – when the University was still the Michigan Mining School and focused on training mining engineers – to a range of Winter Carnival promotional buttons. The exhibit was created by Archives’ student assistant Annette Perkowski.

The Michigan Tech Archives is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and is located on the ground floor of Van Pelt and Opie Library. For further information e-mail copper@mtu.edu or call 906-487-2505.

A sample of the memorabilia and documents included in the exhibit.

Archives’ Summer Intern Megan Dirickson

The Michigan Tech Archives is pleased to have the assistance of Megan Dirickson as a graduate student intern this summer. Megan is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a master of science degree in information studies with a specialization in archives and preservation. During her archival coursework Megan also completed a practicum working with manuscript collections at the Texas State Archives. She is a board member of UT’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists and has previously worked as a conservation technician with Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation and as a graduate intern with UT’s Blanton Museum of Art.

While in Houghton, Megan will be assisting with public service in the Michigan Tech Archives reading room, particularly during the busy summer genealogical research season. She is also working to arrange and describe a recent acquisition of research and administrative files from Michigan Tech faculty members Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich relating to their ongoing Isle Royale wolf-moose predator-prey study.

A native of Texas, Megan (and her husband, Will, and dog, Faolan) have been enjoying the scenery and milder weather of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

Calumet Visitor Center Hosts Archives’ Exhibit

J.W. Nara documented many aspects of life in Michigan's Copper Country, including the underground work of miners. Nara's photography is the topic of an exhibit visiting Calumet through June 24. Nara image 42-142 courtesy Michigan Tech Archives. Click on the image for additional information.

 

A traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, is open to the public at the Calumet Visitor Center of Keweenaw National Historical Park at 98 Fifth Street in Calumet, Michigan. The exhibit, “People, Place, and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara,” explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara. The exhibit continues through June 24 and is open during the Visitor Center’s normal public hours, severn days per week, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

John William Nara was born in Finland in 1874. He later immigrated to the United States and established a photographic studio in Calumet, Michigan, in the heart of America’s most productive copper mining region. In addition to posed studio portraits, J. W. Nara’s lens also captured the people, place, and time he experienced in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Copper mining and industry are an important part of the story, but Nara also captured the Keweenaw’s rural landscape, including local farms, shorelines, lighthouses, and pastoral back roads. 

Keweenaw National Historical Park will host a public program at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 23 in conjunction with the exhibit. Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Technological University, will give an illustrated presentation, “Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara.” The presentation features dozens of historical photographs of the Keweenaw and explores themes of commercial photography, family, and recreation that are depicted in Nara’s photography. 

The traveling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Interpretive panels highlight the people, places, and times that J.W. Nara experienced during his lifetime and include material on urban life, farming, and the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection. 

The exhibit will remain on display at the Calumet Visitor Center through June 24. For more information on the exhibit, contact Keweenaw National Historical Park at 906-337-3168 or the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 / copper@mtu.edu.

Archives Seeking 2012 Summer Intern

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections seeks a graduate student intern for Summer 2012. As a regional history manuscript collection, the Michigan Tech Archives collects material broadly documenting the Keweenaw Peninsula and environs associated with Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula.

The intern selected will receive substantive experience in both public service and collections handling activities. The intern will assist in day-to-day public service activities, including greeting and assisting researchers, retrieving and shelving historical records, and assisting university and community patrons with use and duplication of materials.

The intern will also gain experience in organizing, describing, and processing archival collections. S/he will apply theories of appraisal, organization, and description to working manuscript collections. This includes researching people or events covered by a collection, sorting, cleaning, arranging, boxing, and creating a full finding aid complete with appropriate index terms. The intern will likely work with several recent accessions relating to Isle Royale, its contracted ferry service, and the ongoing wolf-moose predator-prey scientific survey which began in 1958.

Preference will be given to applicants currently enrolled in a graduate archival studies program, but consideration may be given for equivalent forms of education and experience.  Applicants must possess the following skills: 

  • Knowledge of contemporary archival practices, policies, and procedures, including arrangement and description, and familiarity with DACS, LCSH, and AAT.
  • Demonstrated analytical and research skills.
  • Ability to work independently and exercise initiative, discretion, and judgment.
  • Ability to work collegially and effectively with others.
  • Knowledge of basic computing and software in the Microsoft Office Suite.

This is a part-time summer position from June 25 to August 31, although the start and end dates are flexible. The intern will be expected to work 30 hours per week and will be paid at the rate of $10.00 per hour. There are no benefits included with this position and the successful candidate will be expected to cover his or her own travel expenses to Houghton, Michigan. Although housing is not provided, Michigan Tech may have dormitory housing available at an affordable rate. Enjoy exquisite scenery, moderate temperatures, and many different outdoor activities!

To submit an application for this position please mail, fax, or e-mail cover letter and resume to:
Michigan Technological University Archives
    Attn: Graduate Student Summer Intern Position
Van Pelt and Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
copper@mtu.edu
tel: 906-487-2505
fax: 906-487-2357

Review of applications will begin on April 12.
Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Archives Seeks Two Archivists for Grant Project

The Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections seeks two temporary full-time archivists to work on an NHPRC grant-funded project to arrange, preserve, and describe to current archival standards 92 manuscript collections that document the lives and residents of Michigan’s “Copper Country,” a four-county region in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Collections to be processed are primarily paper-based and include diaries, personal papers, organizational records, and corporate documents relating to Michigan’s historic Keweenaw copper mining district.

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SENIOR PROJECT ARCHIVIST
24 months / $33,075 annual

The Senior Project Archivist will supervise the arrangement and description of 92 collections comprising 1,329 feet of manuscript material. This position will develop and implement a processing plan and will supervise and participate in the hands-on aspects of the project. This includes organizing and arranging textual and non-textual materials according to professional archival standards, developing and maintaining written finding aids, inventories and databases, and assisting in the development of metadata for collection management software. The Senior Project Archivist will also have responsibility for updating/correcting subject and authority records for MARC output, production and correction of standardized EAD output (including the use of style sheet templates in oXygen, an XML authoring and editing software), transfer of EAD and MARC records to web servers, OCLC WorldCat, and the library’s local catalog. Descriptive work will provide links from catalog records, registers, and the collection guide to stable URLs for the web-based EAD finding aids.

Further details about this position, including required and desirable education and skills, are available on the Michigan Tech jobs site at https://www.jobs.mtu.edu/postings/274

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PROCESSING ARCHIVIST
21 months / $30,000 annual

The Processing Archivist will work with other project staff to develop and implement a processing plan, organize and arrange textual and non-textual materials according to professional archival standards, develop and maintain written finding aids, inventories and databases, identify materials needing further treatment, and assist in the development of metadata for collection management software.

Further details about this position, including required and desirable education and skills, are available on the Michigan Tech jobs site at https://www.jobs.mtu.edu/postings/272

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Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.

TO APPLY:

Please visit https://www.jobs.mtu.edu/ and look under Staff Job Openings. Questions concerning this opening should be directed to the Michigan Tech Human Resources Department at jobs@mtu.edu.  Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.

November 7 Open House Celebrates Completed Cataloging Project

Army cadets in the military-mining course at the Michigan College of Mines visited the Quincy mine in 1918. Image #MTU-166-03-0001, Michigan Tech Archives.

The public is invited to an open house at the Michigan Tech Archives at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, November 7, 2011. The event will mark the completion of a two-year project to improve description of the Archives’ extensive holdings of regional manuscript material. The initiative was funded through a $167,600 grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration

During the project, Archives’ staff conducted a box-by-box survey of its entire collection, totaling more than 7,000 cubic feet and including personal papers, diaries, organizational records, business materials, mining company records, maps, newspapers, and other historical documents. Conservation and preservation assessments were made and some donations merged together into larger, single collections. 

The project identified more than 700 discrete collections and created standardized descriptions providing information about the size, content, and dates of coverage for each collection. These descriptions are now accessible to researchers through the Archives’ web site, the online catalog of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, and OCLC WorldCat, an international online resource for printed materials. Through this work, the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives have been revealed to potential researchers throughout the world. 

The November 7 event is open to the general public and refreshments will be served. A small display will highlight interesting materials discovered and described during the project. These include the June 1853 journal of civil engineer L.L. Nichols describing construction of the ship canal and locks at Sault Ste. Marie, a 1915 beer delivery log book from the Bosch Brewing Company, coded telegrams from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company,  illustrated weekly reports showing military-mining courses at the Michigan College of Mines during World War I, printing samples from the Keweenaw Printing Company, and original fieldnote books from the ongoing wolf-moose ecological study on Isle Royale. 

The event will also introduce Elizabeth Russell, recently hired as a full-time archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives.  Russell was the primary cataloger on the two-year grant project and has accepted a regular position with the Archives. 

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu 

Archives Welcomes New Archivist (well, sort of)

Elizabeth Russell begins the position of full-time Archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives Tuesday, November 1, 2011. She was selected from a pool of candidates following a national search. Although new to this professional archivist position, Russell has been employed with Michigan Tech as project cataloging archivist on a two-year grant-funded initiative to complete collection-level descriptions of the department’s manuscript collections. The project, funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, was completed on October 31.

“Beth has contributed significantly to the success of the NHPRC grant as well as being a highly regarded member of the service team in the Archives,” noted Ellen Marks, University Librarian and Library Director. “She has an interesting background in different types of archives, sailing and cooking that has led her to her new, permanent home in the Copper Country.”

Russell’s hire into this position continues efforts to improve description of the Archives’ manuscript collections. “Beth’s experience is perfect for the types of cataloging and collections work at hand,” indicates Erik Nordberg, University Archivist. “She has extensive direct experience with cataloging archival material and is closely familiar with software and standards such as MARC, OCLC, and LCHS.”  Her two years’ cataloging work in Houghton has also provided her with a detailed knowledge of local history and local cataloging rules which will be essential to the Archives’ future success.

Before moving to Michigan, Russell was collections cataloger for Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History from Providence College and a Master of Library and Information Studies with a concentration in special collections, manuscripts, and archives from the University of Rhode Island. She has completed training from the Society of American Archivists in Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS).

Russell fills the position of Archivist which became vacant when Julia Blair accepted the position of Strategic Initiatives Librarian for the J.Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library.

Archives Moves Toward New Technologies

Working on mark-up of an EAD file during Michael Fox's recent archival description workshop.

The Archives was closed Thursday-Friday, September 8-9, 2011, so that staff could be  trained in several new software tools.

Michael Fox, recently retired from the Minnesota Historical Society, spent three days with staff of the Michigan Tech Archives (as well as some other friends). Fox reviewed some basic elements of how manuscript collections differ from museum and library collections. It is important to realize that unlike other item-level collections, archives have complex inter-relations within their manuscript collections. Very few archives catalog material to the item level. Instead, they gather descriptive data at the collection level, as well as information about groupings of documents in folders or within collections as records series. The hierarchical relationship between individual documents, the folders they reside in, the series of which they were created, as well as the overall collections which hold them require complex systems of description.

Encoded archival description (EAD) is a standard which has emerged in recent years to help archivists create and hold this type of hierarchical descriptive information. It uses extensible mark-up language (xml)  to take previous types of written inventories and finding aids and turn them into a standardized data format (it also relies on a descriptive standard called “describing archives: a content standard,” or DACS, to ensure that the contents of individual fields is consistent across the board). With information about our collections held in EAD format, the Michigan Tech Archives will be able to export information to web sites and other places where potential researchers might discover our collections.

This work is not for the faint of heart, however, and will involve many changes in the way that we do our work at the Michigan Tech Archives. One of these changes will be the migration of collections information to a new open source archival collections management software tool called Archivists’ Toolkit. AT will allow us to gather a variety of information about our collections, including both descriptive information and internal administrative notes about preservation and processing. From AT, we’ll be able to output descriptive information compliant to the EAD standard. We’ll also be able to export catalog records compliant to the library world’s MARC standard.  In these formats, we’ll be able to update and share information through sites like OCLC’s Worldcat and ArchiveGrid.

Although this may sound like technical mumbo-jumbo to some of our non-archivist researchers, it will mean a dramatic improvement to the variety and level of information that researchers may discover about our holdings.

We were pleased to have Fox’s training workshop supported through grant monies from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission. Over the course of the last two years, NHPRC’s funding of our current ‘basic archives’ grant has provided the first steps in this move toward better and more standardized description. During this period, we have already created collection-level records for each of the manuscript collections held at the Michigan Tech Archives (you can read some of these on our blog over here). With NHPRC funding for Michael Fox’s visit, we made the first steps toward implementation of Archivists’ Toolkit, EAD, and the next steps in our program.

Look for additional updates here.