Your Best Summer Archives Trip

The library may have changed in appearance since Michigan Tech was the Michigan Mining School, but it’s still a wonderful treasure trove for patrons.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and that means that the reading room at the Michigan Tech Archives is about to get busier. As one might imagine, the average driver finds traveling to the Copper Country in July more appealing than in January. Elsewhere in the country, too, genealogists, students, faculty, authors, hobbyists, and other researchers will be walking into archives this summer to investigate one-of-a-kind materials. 

If you’re planning a summer archives trip, whether to Michigan Tech or another repository, how can you make the most of your time? Our staff are happy to share advice to help your travels and your time in the archives as productive as possible.

  1. Check on hours before you visit. Staffing levels, budgetary constraints, and other considerations all influence the hours that an archives will be open to the public. Even if you’re visiting a place you’ve been to before, it doesn’t hurt to double check the hours, as they may have changed since your last research trip.
  2. Do you need an appointment? Give the staff a call or send an email no later than the previous business day, and get confirmation. Michigan Tech’s reading room is currently operating on an appointment basis, like our peers at Finlandia and the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Many other repositories also require appointments to visit. Making sure that you have your name on the calendar before showing up at the door will help your research to go smoothly.
  3. Find out what’s where. Sometimes, patrons have arrived at the Michigan Tech Archives to find that what they’re looking for lives elsewhere (like Houghton County naturalization records–they’re with our county clerk). Consulting online finding aids or catalogs or having a conversation with archives staff can make sure you’re heading to the right place. Feel free to send an email or call for a consultation.
  4. Be prepared to leave snacks and pens at the door. Most archives, including Michigan Tech, won’t permit food or drink past a certain point. Crumbs attract rodents and bugs, who also enjoy munching on archival materials! Likewise, beverages and pen ink can leave permanent marks on documents, making them difficult for future researchers to use. At the Michigan Tech Archives, we ask you to leave all of these things (as well as bags/purses) in cubbies just inside the reading room or with staff.
  5. Not everything will be digitized. In our computerized world, it might seem like all information is available at the touch of a button or a keyword search. That isn’t true in the archives world for a variety of reasons, such as the condition of some materials and the high cost of maintaining digital repositories. Practically speaking, you may need to look through reels of microfilm or page through ledgers to find what you seek. Budget for more time than you anticipate your research will take.
  6. The staff are here to help. Few parts of the job as an archivist or other staff member are as satisfying as helping someone find exactly what they’re looking for, introducing them to a story they had never heard, or hearing the excitement when they solve a puzzle that has stumped them for years. We aren’t scary, we don’t require silence in the library, and we want to help as much as we can. Please feel free to ask us for assistance any time!

Now that you have our top tips in hand, it’s time to take the plunge and make your summer research plans! If you’re planning a trip to the Copper Country and want to make the Michigan Tech Archives part of your visit, please give us a call at (906) 487-2505, email, or use our Appointment Request Form to set up a time to visit. 

We look forward to working with you and wish you all success in your summer archives expeditions!

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