Copper Harbor Hosts Exhibit about Keweenaw Photographer

J.W. Nara photograph of the Peoples' Auto Co. bus line, ca. 1910. Image Nara 42-025 Michigan Tech Archives. Click on photograph for more information.

“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 Visitor’s Center in Copper Harbor, Michigan. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and will be open to the public during the center’s normal hours: Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Fridays 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m., Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sundays 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.  The installation is sponsored by the Copper Harbor Improvement Association.

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. Interpretive panels highlight J.W. Nara’s experiences and include material 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 in Copper Harbor through October. For more information on the exhibit, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at or the Copper Harbor Improvement Association at 906-289-4274 /

Here are some photographs from the installation (click on individual images for larger version):