Category Archives: Photographs

Workshop: Introduction to Archival Research

Ever wonder how to start a historical research project? Not sure where to find the right documents to answer your question? Unclear how a research archives operates?  Join Michigan Tech archivists Julie Blair and Erik Nordberg at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1, for an introduction to archival research. The workshop will take place in Room 244 of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

This session will provide a general overview of research using historical records. The workshop will include an introduction to historical research methods and attendees will learn how to locate, integrate, and cite archival material in their research. Presenters will discuss what is meant by phrases like “manuscript collection” and “primary source,” how to describe different types of archival sources, and learn about the similarities and important differences between archives, libraries, and museums.

Attendees will also learn how to use the Keweenaw Digital Archives to easily find historic images online, how to create an account, make a digital album, and add their own comments and observations to the photos. The session will draw upon numerous examples from the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives, which collects historical material about Michigan Tech and the people, communities, and industries of the surrounding Copper Country.

This workshop will also be repeated at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, and is part of a weekly series of programs offered by the Van Pelt and Opie Library. For more information on the Library’s workshop series, visit their blog.


Keweenaw Digital Archives Reaches 10,000 Images

This photograph, showing a group of copper miners at an unknown location, was the 10,000 image added to the Keweenaw Digital Archives. Image #ACC03-153D-01-02 from the Van Den Belt Photograph Collection.

 

The Keweenaw Digital Archives, a web-based collection of historical photographic images of Michigan’s Copper Country, added its 10,000th image on Friday, November 19.  The collection is drawn primarily from the photographic holdings of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collations and document the social and industrial life of the Keweenaw Peninsula. 

“It’s been an incredible experience,” remarks Christine Holland, library assistant with primary responsibility for adding content to the system. “I’ve lived here all my life, but it really wasn’t until I started scanning photos for the digital site that I really began to appreciate the buildings, places, and history around me.” 

“People know the Keweenaw was a historic mining district, but you can’t see any mining here today. Looking at these historical photos, seeing miners working underground, seeing thousands of copper ingots on the docks, or the crowds dressed in their finery on city streets — that’s when you really begin to understand what happened here.” 

Initial funding for the digital archives initiative was part of the Michigan Tech Archives “Interior Ellis Island” ethnic history project. A donation from Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack, Michigan, supported the purchase of computer and scanning equipment necessary for the work. A grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, supported the more significant aspects of the project.   

“This is an incredible milestone for our digital collection,” noted Erik Nordberg, University Archivist. “We began this project in March 2006 and have grown from success to success over the last four years. It’s a testament to Christine’s efforts that we have been able to create such a rich and varied public resource in such a short time.” 

The Keweenaw Digital Archives includes photographs from a variety of sources and covering a variety of periods. Some of the earliest images include the work of local photographers J.W. Nara, J.T. Reeder and Adolph Isler and date well before 1900. More recent images include photos from Michigan Tech campus photographers and alumni, as well as a large number from Houghton’s local newspaper, The Daily Mining Gazette. Topics include copper mining, local cities and towns, social life, maritime and lighthouses, campus life and athletic teams, and almost every aspect of life in Michigan’s Copper Country. 

When asked for some of her favorite images, Holland stops to think. “That’s a tough question. One that immediately springs to mind is a 1909 photograph of the first dirigible to fly over Houghton. I was able to track down a newspaper article about the event and the reporter commented on how the balloon, named The Comet, did a figure eight around St. Ignatius Church.” 

“Personally, I’ve always loved to see the interior decor of Victorian homes. And I really like photographs of social activities like picnics. It’s interesting to see the clothing people wore and the way they did their hair. It makes you think about how things have changed, but also how things have stayed the same.” 

The public can visit the Keweenaw Digital Archives online at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu  In addition to searching for images by keyword, visitors can browse by subject, or search for just the most recent images added to the system. Interactive features allow the general public to submit comments about individual images, develop their own online photo album, or generate a duplication order for photographic prints or digital scans. 

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

Detail of image #ACC03-153D-01-02, showing young boy amongst copper miners. From the Van Den Belt Photograph Collection, Michigan Tech Archives.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

  

Update:
The Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton’s local newspaper, ran a nice story about our milestone in the December 2, 2010 edition.  The story is in online as part of their web edition and an image capture of the the front page of the paper is attached below (the story is on the lower right). 

  

    


Traveling Photograph Exhibit Visits Ontonagon

 

J.W. Nara sold copies of photographs as souvenirs. This image, copied from an unknown published source, shows a load of logs from Ewen which were displayed at the World's Fair.
J.W. Nara sold copies of photographs as souvenirs. This image, copied from an unknown published source, shows a load of logs from Ewen which were displayed at the World's Fair.

“People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara,” a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, has moved to the Ontonagon County Historical Society museum in Ontonagon. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and will be open to the public through September 25 during the museum’s regular hours. 

On Friday, September 3, the Society will host a public reception and program in conjunction with the exhibit installation. Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Technological University, will give an illustrated presentation, “Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara” featuring dozens of historical photographs of the Keweenaw. The presentation is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at the museum complex. 

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 traveling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Robert and Ruth will be attending the reception.  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 Ontonagon County Historical Museum through Saturday, September 25. Its next stop will be the Finnish-American Heritage Center in Hancock, Michigan.


Archival Instruction:The Working Man

Today I led an archival instruction session for Michigan Tech Instructor and doctoral student Gary Kaunonen’s Revisions class. Kaunonen encourages his students to incorporate primary sources into their research, and we’ve introduced several of his classes in the past to working with archival material. This semester the class research project emphasizes “the working man.”

When we conduct instruction sessions for undergraduates, along with the ins and outs of what to do when you come to the Archives, we select samples of archival material that demonstrate the inter-relatedness of different records. Being able to touch and read actual historical material often sparks interest in students that weren’t particularly interested in history before (hard to believe, I know!). It also gives us a chance to talk about inherent bias of manuscript records and critical evaluation of sources.

I approached this particular session with an eye toward revealing the lives of ordinary people, and I thought I’d share some of the resources I presented to Kaunonen’s Revisions class. I focused on four broad themes: Worker Housing, Copper Miners, Communities, and Non-mining Activity. What follows is a very cursory overview of material selected.

Copper Range Companies Collection

CR 212, 10-9

Record of House Repairs, Painesdale

c. 1943-1950

This document includes photos and blueprints of company housing in Painesdale, Michigan. It shows the range and variety of housing provided by Copper Range to its workers, from a simple 4-room dwelling to the more well-appointed physician’s residence.

Browne, Mary Jo Rowell. A Comparative Study between Miner’s Homes in Cornwall, England and the Miner’s Homes of the Cornish in Michigan. University of Minnesota, unpublished thesis, 1986.

Mine Worker Housing in Calumet, Michigan: 1864-1950; Historic and Architectural Survey. Keweenaw National Historic Park, Calumet, Michigan. 2000.

From the Copper Country Vertical Files:

Agriculture – Losses and Troubles: (Although the topic is a serious one, I had to smile at the grim-sounding subject heading for this file.)  In it are such things as a newspaper article entitled “Grasshoppers gobbling up U.P. crops,” and coverage of unusual periods of drought in the Keweenaw. A photocopy of the table of contents for the March/April 1984 issue of Michigan History magazine indicates that it was devoted to Michigan farming, including the Upper Peninsula.

Cities & Towns – Company Towns

Copper Miners – Accidents

Lumbering

From the Copper County Photo Files:

Agriculture

Building – Houses – Exterior

Cities & Towns – Calumet

Copper Mines & Mining – Underground Scenes

Lumbering – Camps Scenes

Social Life & Customs

Social Life & Customs – Celebrations

Social Life & Customs – Picnics

Mining Company Employment Cards

Houghton County Mine Inspector Reports

I selected a few representative samples of employment cards from both the Quincy Mining Company and the Calumet & Hecla Minnig Company. In particular, I used the C&H employment card of John Lakner, who was unfortunately killed on the job, because the Mine Inspector’s Report for Houghton County includes the incident in which Lakner met his demise on November 13, 1905. I wanted to illustrate to the students that with some sleuthing, a researcher can sometimes find documentation of an event or person in more than a single source. It is often the piecing together of different primary accounts that creates a more complete picture of a person, place, or event from the past.

Quincy Mining Company, Spy Reports

Box 341

There is a set of correspondence in the Quincy Collection that reveals how the mining company planted company spies among their workers in order to find out about any seditious activity brewing. Spies were obtained through several detective agencies, among them the famed Pinkerton Agency. Such men worked as miners and laborers, living like the men they observed. They reported back to the agency, who sent anonymous reports to the mining companies. They reports provide a glimpse into the daily activity of the working man, on and off-duty. Quincy wasn’t alone in this practice; C&H also employed company spies.

Houghton County Jail Records

Circuit Court Chancery Journals

These two volumes journal all matters that came before a judge of the court for a particular period of time, and document jail activity. It is possible to see evidence of labor unrest during periods of mass arrests for disorderly conduct, or to find out what kinds of behavior were considered socially disruptive. Some things don’t change much; assault and battery are still a crime. “Insanity” and “bastardy,” however, are dealt with in entirely different ways today than spending a night in the slammer. Some things change for the better.

A series of reports on Congressional Hearings on Conditions in the Copper Mines of Michigan were convened in response to the 1913 copper miners’ strike. These reports contain eyewitness testimony of life in and out of the Keweenaw copper mines, and are a real treasure trove of information about the lives of mine workers and their families almost 100 years ago.

These are just some of the sources found in the Archives that yield information about “The Working Man.” If you’d like to find out more, our reading room is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or feel free to drop us a line at copper@mtu.edu.


Winter Carnival Underground

WINTER CARNIVAL UNDERGROUND

Ever wonder what is going on in the mines during the winter months?  My curiosity was answered when I ran across photos of some beautiful ice sculptures only Mother Nature could make.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Take a look and see if you agree.

MS003-012-GN119-7
MS003-012-GN119-7
MS003-012-GN119-8
MS003-012-GN119-8
MS003-012-GN119-9
MS003-012-GN119-9
MS003-012-GN119-10
MS003-012-GN119-10
MS003-012-GN119-13
MS003-012-GN119-13
MS003-012-GN119-21
MS003-012-GN119-21

All of these photos came from the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection MS003 Box 12 Negative 119-21.  Prints are available by request and the collection can be viewed here in the Archives reading room.


Meet the Staff

I recently gave an instruction session to a class of undergraduate student researchers on using archival resources in their writing assignments. As I led the class through the Archives work room, it occurred to me how much goes on behind the scenes in the Archives that most people never realize, and how vital each person is to our operation.

The Archives is committed to making historic records accessible to users. We’ve earned a reputation for bringing history to the campus and community through events and speakers whose research delves deeply into our collections. But the Archives would be a much different place without the hard work of our great staff. Over the next few months, I’d like to introduce you to the members of our staff, from energetic student workers to erudite archivists.

The Keweenaw Digital Archives is just one of the great things that make the Michigan Tech Archives special. Without the diligent and discerning work of Christine Holland, it wouldn’t be what it is today, a database of over 7000 cataloged digital images from the photographic collections at the Archives.

Christine has been on the staff of the Archives for ten years. Along with her regular job responsibilities of keeping the rest of us in check, she does a lioness’s share of digitizing and cataloging the thousands of historic photos you’ll find at the Digital Archives (http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/).

She has an eye for the unusual, and that particular talent has brought to light some of the more obscure and interesting elements of historic photographs that the casual observer might easily overlook. It’s not unusual to see her at the digital workstation zooming into a newly digitized image, working out the letters in a storefront sign or marquis in the background of a street scene from 1930s Houghton or some such. She’s managed to date images by noting small details like a movie advertised on a broadside in a shop window, or has called our attention to a careworn face and rough hands of a person whose name has been lost to posterity, imbuing unknown people from the past with dignity and authenticity.

Image #:ACC03-1990-6-28-04-01-01
Image #:ACC03-1990-6-28-04-01-01

One of the more interesting things she’s found captured in film was a man wearing a long woman’s dress sweeping a broom on the porch of a log cabin. Her pithy comments are a treat, and anyone familiar with our reading room knows that she’s never one to mince words. (Check out the cataloger’s comments for this image by clicking on the link below for the full record!)

http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=681418#

I’ve learned a lot about the Archives’ collection from Christine, and I’ve come to value and appreciate her particular perspective on historic images.

The inscrutable Sara Lee
The inscrutable Sara Lee

Christine is also a passionate advocate for the humane treatment of animals. She didn’t want me to post a photo of her hard at work, so here’s her special friend, Sara Lee.


Records Document Groundbreaking of the Soo Locks

A collection discovered during the current NHPRC project includes records of the Sault St. Marie Canal Company, aka: The St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.  Ground breaking for the canal began in June of 1853, the engineer L.L. Nichols placed in entry in the ledger reporting on initial efforts for establishing housing facilities and beginning the construction.

The following information is found in the collection titled ‘The St. Mary’s Canal and Mineral Land Company Records’ Accession #115 and is part of the larger Copper Range Mining Company Records Collection

First Report on Canal Construction
First Report on Canal Construction

Nichols reported:

“That we arrived at the Sault on Monday the 11th am.  The first object of solicitude on our arrival was to provide our laborers with comfortable quarters.  Mr. Hearvey took hold of the business of providing lumber [and] materials for building with an energy seldom equaled [and] before night we had a building enclosed 55 by 22 feet [and] part of the roof on.”

“On the 8th day of June at 11 am being 48 hours from the time of our arrive we broke ground for the canal.”

Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later
Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later

A quote from the second report indicates the expectations and challenges faced by the engineers and their progress.

“It is now nine months since operations commenced here, and it may be well to take a retrospective review as well as a prospective view of the work contracted to be completed in our year and twenty days from this time, or about 22 months from the the time of breaking ground.  There was then 230,000 yards of earth and rock-excavation to be done above and below water.  There is now less than 88,000 yards remaining.”

-Excerpt from Engineer L.L. Nichols report dated 14 March 1854

The ledger also provides interesting information on the growth and development of the Upper Peninsula, a Memorium addressed to Congress and the House of Representative in 1854 calls for the state to construct roads in the Upper Peninsula.  Issues cited for the necessity of the roads included the growing Mineral District (Copper Range) and Iron District combined with the construction of the canal increasing Lake Superior traffic.


Sneak Peek at New Exhibit

The Michigan Tech provided a sneak peek at its new exhibit concerning the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara.

Nara BOC 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the official opening will occur in the library on December 16, we were asked to set it up for the university’s Board of Control meeting on Friday, December 11, in the Memorial Union Building on the Michigan Tech campus.

Nara BOC 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibit consists of 10 ‘banner up’ exhibit panels highlighting the photos and life of J.W. Nara, a photographer who lived in Calumet, Michigan, in the early Twentieth Century. There is also a small exhibit catalog with cut-out postcards of three Nara photos.

Nara BOC 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Robert Nara and his wife Ruth. Bob is a grandson of photographer J.W. Nara, and provided support for the project.


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.

 

  acc-08-083a-pt-2

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).