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.
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!)
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.
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.