J.W. Nara Exhibit Visits Painesdale

A Copper Range Railroad crew takes a break for photographer J.W. Nara in this undated photograph. Image # Nara 42-082, Michigan Tech Archives.

“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 library at Jeffers High School in Painesdale, Michigan. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and will be open to the public through February 25, 2011 during the library’s normal hours, Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The exhibit will also be available for viewing on Fridays 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. through the support of volunteers from the Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center. Additional support is provided by the Adams Township School District

The library will host a public program at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 11, 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. 

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 Jeffers High School library through Friday, February 25. For more information on the exhibit, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu

Frank Rugani, a volunteer and board member with the Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center, examines one of the interpretive panels.


The exhibit will continue at the Jeffers High School library through Friday, February 25.