Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

National Park Helps With Preservation

Keweenaw National Historical Park is assisting the Michigan Tech Archives in preserving records of the Copper Range Company.  During our current processing and cataloging project (funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission), some documents of the former mining company and its common carrier railroad were discovered to be a bit moldy. This isn’t an unusual discovery for records of former industrial enterprises, as documents were often stored in damp and dirty mining structures. Although the Michigan Tech Archives storage facilities have reasonable temperature and humidity control, there is always a danger of a mold outbreak.

Through a collaborative effort, some of the most valuable of these records were physically delivered to the Calumet facilities of Keweenaw National Historical Park for treatment. The materials were cycled through the Park’s Wei T’o freeze drying machine, a process that kills a variety of pests, including mold. Upon return to the Archives, additional work will be undertake to physically remove the dead mold spores from the material before they become a permanent part of our collections.

Many thanks to Brian Hoduski, Museum Curator and Chief of Museum and Archival Services Division, and Jeremiah Mason, Archivist, for their welcoming and professional assistance with this important preservation work.

Jeremiah Mason, archivist for Keweenaw National Historical Park, adjusts controls on the Park's Wei T'o freeze dry machine. The Park is assisting with mold decontamination on records from the Copper Range Company.

This preservation work is undertaken with the generous support of the National Park Service and its staff, equipment and facilities.  Processing of the Copper Range Company archival records is supported through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission


Vandals!

What are footprints doing on this Copper Range Company document?

A note from Florence E. Gregorich documents that certain records from the Copper Range Company’s old Boston headquarters were sent to Houghton for the use of Dr. J. Robert Van Pelt (former president of Michigan Tech and the library’s namesake) in writing a history of the Copper Range Company.

In September 1976, vandals broke into the warehouse and scattered many of the records.  Due to a lack of time and manpower, there was no attempt to reassemble the records before they were moved into storage at White Pine Mine, from where the material was later donated to the Michigan Tech Archives.

Most likely the vandals were frustrated to have gone to the trouble of breaking into a warehouse only to discover boxes of records, rather than electronics.  However, I like to think that they did this specifically to make trouble for future archivists.  I imagine them shouting “archive this!” as they fling the papers across the room.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.


Isle Royale & the Copper Country

As this year’s graduate summer intern at the Archives, I’ve come a long way this summer.  I mean this both in terms of distance (over 1500 miles from Austin, Texas!) and in my knowledge and appreciation of the Copper Country.  While working with the staff here and with the collections, I’ve learned much more about copper mining than I ever imagined I would ever want or need to know.  It is safe to say that I’ve grown fond of this area and its unique history.

My project this summer was to process the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection.  The Isle Royale wolf-moose project has been ongoing for over 50 years now, studying the relationship between moose and wolf populations on the secluded island.

A sample of the forms of photographs in the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection

While working with the collection, I was fascinated in how the research and record-keeping practices changed over the decades, both with changes in leadership and with changes in technology.  Early manuscripts in the collection were edited by physically cutting and taping type-written pages, while later manuscripts were edited in a word processor. Hand-drawn graphs similarly became computerized, and photographs changed to digital formats. Perhaps some things in field research will withstand technological changes–I simply can’t imagine an iPad taking the place of a field notebook.  Technology loses its charms when removed from other modern conveniences on a remote island wilderness.

Aside from its ties to Michigan Tech, the wolf-moose project may seem to be in a world all its own, far removed from the Copper Country.  But my experiences this summer have led me to believe that this is far from true.  Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula sit, like two peas in a pod, on each end of the Lake Superior basin.  They are each unique in their own right, through their history, geology and ecology.  And yet they share, at least in my mind, a pristine quality and sense of mystery.  Surely they have secrets yet to be uncovered.

Graduate intern, Megan Dirickson, in front of the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection

The Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection contains correspondence, administrative records, data collection files, manuscripts, reports, and publications.  The bulk of materials date from 1957-1999, covering Durward L. Allen’s and Rolf O. Peterson’s leads on the project. The collection is quite varied in format, including annual reports, photos, raw film footage, field guides, 169 field notebooks, newspaper and journal articles, and maps of Isle Royale.  Whether you are interested in ecological research, the history of this study, or the more personal side of the project, there is something for everyone in this collection.


A Unique Home Storage Solution

Harold Putnam Photograph Collection Slides
These Slides are Vitamin Fresh

Sometimes when processing manuscript collections we archivists come across unique home storage systems. These slides from the Harold Putnam Photograph Collection have been stored in a waxed paper box with the Harold Putnam’s original filing system.  Although FRESHrap may have kept the slides vitamin fresh for many years the slides will be moved to a less adorable, but more practical archival container.  In the archives we store our photographic material in  enclosures that have passed the photographic activity test (PAT.) The PAT basically uses accelerated aging to predict the interaction that will occur over time between the photograph and the enclosure. Photograph albums and scrapbooking supplies that have passed the PAT can even be found at retailers such as Target and Joanne’s Fabrics. Enclosures that have passed the PAT will always indicate as such on their packaging.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and  Records Commission.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission


A Copper Range Railroad Poet

As part of a grant-funded project to process manuscript collections, I have been working closely with the records of the Copper Range Company and its subsidiary holdings.

In 1913, the Copper Range Railroad Company (CRRR) constructed the Painesdale Cut Off, which altered the course of the main line built in 1899.  As in all of the CRRR’s construction projects, most of the work was done by contractors.  To keep track of labor costs, CRRR maintained force accounts, which documented the amount of hours worked by each pay grade of workers.

Although the title page doesn’t indicate it, there is something unusual about this particular force account.  Specifically, the second page:

You may boast about your railroad with its roadbed superfine;

With rolling stock, ect., [sic] hard to beat;

With a startling good record of its long trains ‘there’ On Time,

Or about its sumptuous meals you gladly eat;

Or the grandeur of the scenery that you see when on your way,

Or the stations and the comforts found therein;

Or the cars’ illumination that makes things bright as day;

Or the manners of the train crews that sure win,

If you’d always keep a talking you could not my ‘pinion change,

Or make me think in any different way!

For I’ll always ‘stick up’ proudly for the good old

Copper Range

“The Speedy, On Time, Copper Country Way.”

—Norman T. Bolles, August 1913

Admittedly, it isn’t Shakespeare (if still better than anything I could do).  The rest of the book contains the expected details of the construction.  The track and steam shovel gangs (later joined by a cable gang) worked Monday through Saturday, while a watchman was employed on Sundays.

So who was this poetic railroad man?  Unfortunately, the employee records processed to this point do not include him.  However, there was another Bolles working for the CRRR at the time.  Fred Robert Bolles, better known as F. R. Bolles, was promoted to General Manager in 1912; a position he held until 1920.

At this time it was quite common for whole families to work for a single company in various capacities.  Although the idea of F. R. Bolles hiring his close relatives would be considered nepotism today, it was a widely accepted practice at the time.  On the other hand, Norman Bolles may have already been an employee before F. R. was made general manager.

As the processing of the CRRR records continues, it may be possible to find out more about Norman T. Bolles.  Yet whoever he was, we can thank him for reminding us of the serendipity involved in archival research.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.


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.


Grant Funds Two Archivists

Senior Project Archivist, Rachael Bussert
Processing Archivist, Daniel Michelson

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has begun a two-year project funded by a $168,000 grant from the “Detailed Processing Projects” program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The grant will be used to improve access to 92 historic collections documenting the history of the Michigan’s Copper Country. The grant supports two project archivists, Rachael Bussert, Senior Project Archivist, and Daniel Michelson, Processing Archivist, to arrange and describe 1,329 cubic feet of documents to the folder level following minimal processing standards.

The collections document a wide range of regional history, from copper mining, railroad, and maritime industries to records of local schools, churches, and social organizations. Among the collections to be processed are records of several Michigan copper mining companies, including a large collection from the Copper Range Company and records relating to the Victoria Mining Company and the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.  Researchers will also find valuable primary resources about businesses such as the Keweenaw Co-op and The Daily Mining Gazette, as well as social groups like the Miscowabik Club in Calumet and Fortnightly Club in Hancock.

The project will utilize the Archivists’ Toolkit to produce EAD finding aids that will be accessible through the Archives’ web page, the Michigan Technological University Library catalog, and OCLC ArchiveGrid. While the majority of the collections will be processed according to the Greene and Meissner’s “More Product, Less Process” minimal processing philosophy, some personal papers, local business, and non-profit records may require a more detailed approach. The project will maintain metrics on processing rates for different types of records.

Updates and interim reports posted to the Archives’ blog site will allow the public to follow the project’s progress and learn more about the methods used by the project archivists. Archives’ staff will also promote the project through presentations to local community organizations, professional groups, and schools. The project will help to better preserve the collections and greatly improve their discovery and use by researchers.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the granting agency of the United States National Archives and Records Administration. The Michigan Tech Archives is a department of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library and is located in the library building in the heart of the Michigan Tech campus in Houghton, Michigan. For further information, contact the Archives at 906-487-2505 or at 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.


Historical Collections Now Searchable

A group of new online search tools has enhanced the search and discovery of historical records in the collections of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in Houghton, Michigan. The improved access is the result 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. 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 have been revealed to potential researchers throughout the world via a number of online tools.  A full listing of the collections, including collection number, title, and brief description, is now available on the Michigan Tech Archives blog: http://blogs.mtu.edu/archives/nhprc-cataloging-project/collection-registers/.

Catalog records for each collection are also available on the Voyager catalog at Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library: http://ils.lib.mtu.edu/vwebv/searchAdvanced. Visitors may limit their searches by the location “Archives Manuscript Collection.” These records allow searches of collection names, keywords in their brief descriptions and histories, and also using standardized subject headings.

Versions of these catalog records are also searchable through WorldCat, an international bibliographic database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a global cooperative of libraries, archives, and museums. The general public can search the main WorldCat catalog: http://www.worldcat.org/. Participating OCLC member institutions may also search these records through the FirstSearch version of WorldCat which allows researchers to limit type to “Archival Materials” and limit availability to library code “EZT” for Michigan Tech archival collection records.

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


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