Category Archives: Staff

Archives Team Phoenix Competes in the Amazing Challenge

Team Phoenix
MTU Archives Team Phoenix-Dan Michelson, Airen Campbell-Olszewski, Rachael Bussert, and Julie Blair

A band of four merry archivists from the Michigan Tech Archives  competed in the Michigan Tech HuskyPaw Amazing Challenge on June 15. The competition, based on the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race, took teams through both physical and mental challenges in the Houghton and Hancock area. Some of this year’s challenges included scavenger hunts at the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and Bookworm, mini golf at Portage Lake Golf Course, and an obstacle course at the Michigan Tech Challenge Course. Archives staff trained extensively for the physical aspects of the event by lifting 20 lb boxes above their heads, climbing  ladders, and pushing heavy book carts. The team took sixth place out of the thirteen teams competing. Not too shabby.

Coming Home

A woman skis home after a journey through the winter woods. Photo from the Copper Country Photo Collection, No Neg 2006-02-21-001

They say you can’t go home again, except that sometimes you can.

Two years ago, I made a hard decision to step away from my work as an archivist after six years at the Michigan Tech Archives for the opportunity to work closely with Library Director Ellen Marks as a member of the library’s management team. It is my very good fortune to return as acting University Archivist, filling the vacancy left by Erik Nordberg four short weeks ago.

The Archives has gone through some changes in two years. The biggest challenge the Archives faces is met by the remarkable team of Disaster Recovery Associates, Airen Campbell-Olszewski, Allyse Stahler, Shannon Houle, and Quincy Higgins Arney. You can read about the Archives’ long journey to recovery from a small fire and the subsequent water issues arising from the responding sprinklers in this blog. A few days ago, the last shipment of 350 boxes of material, was delivered from restoration company Belfor, marking the home stretch for this phase of disaster recovery.

Progress continues apace as NHPRC-funded senior project archivist Rachael Bussert and processing archivist Daniel Michelson apply professional standards of archival arrangement and description to a select group of our collections in order to make them easier to find and work with by interested researchers.

The Archives is always busy in the summer, when visitors come from all across the US and often from outside the country to explore our rich and varied genealogical collections. This summer will be especially exciting, as we anticipate many new friends by way of FinnFest 2013. Archives staff will collaborate with the Houghton County Genealogical Society at the FinnFest Tori to provide information about genealogical resources for visitors searching for information about ancestors who may have lived and worked in the Copper Country.

Not everything in the in Archives has changed. Archivist Beth Russell, who first came to us through another grant and stayed on as a permanent staff member, has improved access to archival collections and rediscovered a wealth of material that has helped bring voice to the lives of people documented in previously obscure manuscripts. Sawyer Newman, who began as a student three years ago, is now a pillar of the public service desk.

The Archives continues its strong commitment to public programming as well. Travel grant researcher Robert Goodrich will visit the Archives this month, and will give a talk on his research into how the Austrian Habsburg dynasty shaped the ethnic identity of Copper Country immigrants. Goodrich’s presentation will be at 7 PM on Thursday, June 13, in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

It’s an exciting time to be coming home to the Archives. Four weeks have flown by as I reacquaint myself with collections and colleagues, meeting old friends and making new ones.

Archives are full of stories. I’ve told you a little bit of mine, and I look forward to hearing yours.

Julie Blair

Archives Welcomes Interim University Archivist

The staff jumps for joy!

The Archives is happy to welcome Julie Blair back as the Interim University Archivist, beginning on April 25, 2013.  Julie has had extensive experience with our archives from the public and technical services dimensions, has knowledge of and ties to the community and the departments most associated with the archives, andhas gained a great deal of knowledge about grant support and other financial matters.  As the chief author of the library and archives disaster recovery plans, she will provide leadership in wrapping up the recovery efforts.

We know that Julie and the Archives will do justice to the foundation established by Erik.

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 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.”


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 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 /

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
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.


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


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


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


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