Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

Exhibit Highlights Calumet Photographer J.W. Nara

The Michigan Tech Archives premiered a new traveling exhibit about the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara at a special opening event on Wednesday, December 16, on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library at Michigan Technological University.  The exhibit will remain on display at the library through February 7, 2010.

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.

The 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. The exhibit is designed as a touring exhibit and will travel to libraries, museums, and schools following its initial installation in Houghton. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The exhibit text was written by Michigan Tech archivists Erik Nordberg and Julia Blair, while the graphic layout design was completed by Mike Stockwell at Cranking Graphics.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.

 
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 The exhibit consists of 10 vinyl ‘banner up’ panels. Here is the introductory panel, which discusses J.W. Nara’s life and photography business. J.W. did a lot of studio work, some if it fanciful like the onset pic of the bartender training the dog. nara-jrvp-2

 

 

 Four panels explore themes of recreation, rural life, urban life, and family life captured through Nara’s lens. Each panel enlarges a detail photograph of individuals to life size from an inset image.

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 The remaining five panels explore themes concerning the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike, which Nara experienced – and photographed – first hand. One of our ulterior motives with this exhibit was to position ourselves a bit for planning for strike centennial commerorative activities in 2013.

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There is also a collapsible literature rack which holds free giveaway copies of an eight-page exhibit catalog. The catalog includes most of the text from the exhibit, as well as three cut-out Nara photo postcards.

Here are a few photographs from the exhibit opening event: picture-028

Members of the Nara family recognize ancestors in the exhibit.

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Bill and Eloise Haller of Houghton.

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With Tech VP Dan Greenlee with University Archivist Erik Nordberg at the opening. Dan grew up in Calumet and had nice things to say about the exhibit, too.

The event was covered by local television and newspaper media.

Here is a link to the newspaper article which appeared in the December 17, 2009, issue of The Daily Mining Gazette:

http://www.mininggazette.com/page/content.detail/id/507930.html

 

 

 

 

 

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The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display near the Research Help Desk on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.


Scott Turner’s Doctoral Hood

It’s been a busy fall semester for the Archives. Nine individual classes have incorporated archival sources into their coursework this semester, which means at least 200 students were regulars in the reading room over the past 15 weeks, studying different aspects of the University’s history, such as broomball, the Pep Band, and the Ford Forestry Center, as well as poring through civic and mining company records in search of documentation on the Quincy Smelter, the lives of copper miners, the history of the St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.

Although the semester is winding down, we’re still seeing last minute student researchers making a final effort to uncover more content or verify source citation information. (Find help citing archival sources at our web pages http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/citation.aspx.)

In addition to the normal bustle of our well-used reading room, the Archives recently played host to a photo shoot.

UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.
UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.

Photographer Calvin Goh (UMC) used the Archives Reading Room as a fitting backdrop for his images of recent graduate, Cameron Hartnell, PhD, Industrial Archaeology. Here, the photographer is captured at his craft:

Cameron’s doctoral research focused on the archaeological remains of the Arctic Coal Company on the island of Spitsbergen, or Svalbard. An earlier Tech grad, Scott Turner, spent six years in the early 20th century working for the ACC at Spitsbergen.

Through his doctoral research, Hartnell became quite familiar with the Scott Turner Collection, housed here at the Michigan Tech Archives. To honor the man whose papers were invaluable to his own research, Hartnell approached the Archives with a unique request: to wear Turner’s doctoral hood in the University’s midwinter commencement ceremonies.

Turner wore this hood when he received an honorary PhD from Michigan Tech in 1932 and it was donated to the Michigan Tech Archives along with corporate records, personal correspondence and other artifacts by Turner’s family following his death. According to Hartnell, the intricate folds and pockets of the graduation hood served a very practical purpose in the past. Students at one time kept a bit of bread or fruit in the pouches so they could continue their studies while they ate.

Doctoral hoods are part of a long academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.
Doctoral hoods are part of an academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.

 

The following overview on Turner’s life and accomplishments is excerpted from an article by Erik Nordberg, first published in the Michigan Tech Alumnus, 2002.

Scott Turner began his mining career in a somewhat ordinary manner, completing his BS and Engineer of Mines degrees at the Michigan College of Mines in 1904 at the age of 24.  A native of Lansing, he had completed an associate’s degree at Ann Arbor before taking up the mining trade as his life’s passion.  Yet from these humble Michigan roots, numerous mining jobs and work as an assistant editor for the Mining & Scientific Press took him to the four corners of the globe within the first few years of his career.

In 1926, he received a call from the United States government requesting his service as Director of the Bureau of Mines.  Although an important federal appointment, many noted its added significance under then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, one of the nation’s most prominent mining engineers.  Turner spent eight years at the helm of the BOM, overseeing difficult changes associated with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing onset of the Great Depression.  During this period, Turner returned to Houghton to receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1932.  He received similar honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Colorado School of Mines, and Kenyon College.

A chance meeting with John Longyear in London in 1911 directed a major change in Turner’s career.  The Marquette, Michigan, lumber and mining man was interested in potentially profitable iron and coal deposits in Spitsbergen, an unclaimed arctic island north of Scandinavia.  Turner accepted the position of manager for Longyear’s European interests, an assignment that would keep his attention focused on Spitsbergen for nearly six years.  In addition to a “small fixed annual salary,” he received a bonus of 5% of the company’s net profits.

His work in Spitsbergen was marked by many unusual feats.  The mines proved particularly difficult to develop; only 750 miles below the North Pole, the Arctic Coal Company was the first company to successfully implement modern mining methods at so high a latitude.  In addition, the land was “terra nullius,” meaning that no single nation had ownership of the place.  Through permission of the U.S. government, Turner represented American interests in the region – perhaps the only time that a civilian engineer has been enlisted to maintain American sovereignty overseas.

It was on one of Turner’s many trips across to Spitsbergen that he became a participant in another of history’s infamous incidents.  On May 7, 1915, as it neared the coast of Ireland, a German torpedo struck Turner’s ship, the S.S. Lusitania, just a few decks below the engineer’s cabin.

The mining engineer’s work continued in earnest.  Following his discharge from the hospital, he continued his journey to Scandinavia and arranged for the sale of Longyear’s Spitsbergen properties to Norwegian interests (on his trip from England to Norway, his ship narrowly missed destruction by bombs dropped from raiding German Zeppelins).  Looking to escape the growing European turmoil, Turner headed south, pursuing work in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.  He completed a two-year stint in the Naval Reserves at the tail end of World War I and then spent the next seven years of his life as “Technical Head” for the Mining Corporation of Canada.  This work took him to various parts of that country – as well as China, Mexico, Russia and South America — on exploratory and mine development work.  He often traveled with his new wife, the former Amy Pudden, whom he had married in Lansing in 1919.

Following his departure from the Bureau, he pursued a variety of consulting work.  At one point he was an officer or director of nine mining companies.  He even returned to Spitsbergen to review the progress of mines he developed decades earlier. His life work was capped in 1957 when he received the Hoover Medal, a special honor commemorating civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers.  Recipients are selected by a special board with representatives from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME).

Scott Turner died in July 1972, just one day shy of his 92 birthday.  In his later years, when not hunting or fishing, Turner would talk regularly of his life’s adventures.  But it was his spot on the Lusitania that always singled him out for the most attention.  He responded to endless requests for interviews and completed dozens of questionnaires about the incident.  In the mid-1950s Turner donated the Boddy life belt that had saved his life to the museum at Michigan State University.  It is not clear what became of a cast iron medal he owned, minted in 1915 by the German government to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.  The medal had been uncovered during some road construction in Washington, D.C. and had been presented to Turner as a survivor of this historic event.

Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.
Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.

The staff of the Michigan Tech Archives congratulate Cameron Hartnell on his achievement and are pleased that our collections – both paper and fabric – were such integral parts of his study and graduation.


Archives adds Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection

 

The Michigan Tech Archives has opened the Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection for research.  The collection, accession # 08-083A, comprises three cubic feet of documents, correspondence, and photographs. The materials were donated by Pete Nissila in 2009, following the closure of the family’s greenhouse and nursery business in Ripley, just east of Hancock.

 

Originally called Nissila & Makela Livery and later as the Scott Street Livery, the business began as a livery stable, providing horses and carriages to individuals, companies, and for funeral services.  It was located on Scott Street in Hancock. 

 

Eventually, the business evolved into a floral shop.  After returning from service in Europe during WWII, Carl Nissila took over the shop along with his wife Gertrude.  He attended Michigan State University from 1948-1950, earning a degree in horticulture.  The floral shop started in the home on Scott Street and later moved to a location on Quincy Street, where it remained until 1952, when the business moved again to Ripley.  The location in Ripley had been in place since the early part of the century, originally being home to a local competitor, Dale’s Greenhouse. 

 

In 1984, Carl and Gertrude retired, and Carl’s son Pete and his wife Jill took over the business.  Pete was a recipient of a master’s degree in horticulture from Oregon State University in Corvallis.  Locally, during his management of the greenhouse he hosted a weekly radio show on WZRK-FM and offered gardening classes.  The business remained active until 2008, at which time the property went up for sale. 

  

This collection was processed by Autumn Hall-Tun, a graduate student intern in the Archives during the summer of 2009.

 

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Aerial view of Nissila Greenhouse and surrounding buildings east of Ripley.  The photograph is image #ACC-08-083A-Pt 2  (you can view the record by clicking this link: http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=681606).