Day: August 17, 2018

Turning the Page to the Next Chapter

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It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and even harder to believe that my time here is up. These past seven weeks as the Michigan Tech Archives intern were full of amazing (and challenging) opportunities. I had the chance to experience many different aspects of the archival profession, gain new archival skills and continue to develop others.

The most valuable and memorable experience from this internship is working with patrons on their reference requests. Providing access to archival materials is one of the most important aspects of an archivist’s job and assisting patrons find the materials they need can be challenging. Each patron and their research is unique and thus requires good communication skills that I developed over the course of this internship.IMG_0051

Property assessments and tax rolls became a surprising favorite research request of mine. Although they can be difficult to understand at first, the documents provide really interesting information about the property owners and the region in general. It is fascinating to see the changing ownership of historic homes and buildings, as well as land.

Overall, I am very blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to intern at Michigan Tech University and to spend my summer in the Copper Country. This internship gave me the skills and knowledge needed to flourish as a new archivist and has prepared me for my future in this profession. I want to again thank the University Archivist and the rest of the Archive’s team for welcoming me into their archives and guiding me along this internship.


Flashback Friday: Something About a Pasty

Woman preparing pasties

Preparing a batch of mouth-watering pasties. Undated photograph from the Harold Putnam Collection (MS-050).

A good old Cornish song proclaims, “There’s something about a pasty that is fine, fine, fine!” We Yoopers and friends know the truth of those words. The delicious dish nourishes the body and warms the spirit with its blend of meat, potatoes, and rutabaga, all nestled inside a flaky crust.

How did a meal synonymous with Cornwall become a staple of the Upper Peninsula? Cornwall’s long history of copper and tin mining led the rest of Great Britain to remark wryly, “Wherever you find a hole in the ground, you’ll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it.” Life in the mines of England often meant low wages and back-breaking labor, but it also cultivated a skill and knowledge of the work that made the Cornish miners a gold standard. As Michigan’s copper mines were first being opened for industry, their founders looked to Cornwall for able laborers, and the people of Cornwall, whose mines were tapering off, looked to Michigan for a new hope. Twenty Cornishmen, according to one scholarly history of the pasty, were already at work in the Copper Country by 1844. With them came their favorite workday meal, which was subsequently adopted en masse by colleagues of all backgrounds.

Text of pasty recipe

One of many variations on the pasty recipe held at the Michigan Tech Archives. This one was provided by the ladies of the Calumet United Methodist Church.

We don’t know for certain who invented this tasty pocket of joy, which has seen considerable changes over the years, but we do understand why it was so appealing to the men who worked in the mines and the women who prepared their dinners each day. The pasty’s hearty fillings can be prepared in a large batch and energize a person for a day of hard work; the meal can be held in the hand and eaten without utensils; and it’s easy, relatively speaking, for a miner to reheat a pasty over his candle far underground. Nowadays, you’ll see pasties around the Copper Country lunch table, sold at community fundraisers, at picnics by the shores of Lake Superior, or on parade at Calumet’s Pasty Fest, held this Saturday, August 18.

While we can all agree that pasties are scrumptious, debate rages about other aspects of pasty culture. Do carrots belong in a pasty? Should the potatoes be cubed or sliced? Can a pasty mascot appropriately be named Toivo? Most importantly, how can a person justify gravy when everyone knows that real pasties are eaten with ketchup?

Family joyfully eating pasties

Alfred Nicholls and his family show the joy of pasties at the Central Mine Reunion, undated.