All posts by Erik Nordberg

Archives Temporary Services

A temporary Archives service will operate on a limited basis starting on Monday, Nov. 19. An area will be accessible through the library’s north stairwell and will operate from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Due to the disaster, portions of the Archives collections will not be accessible initially. But other materials, including microfilm collections, topical vertical files, city directories and portions of the Archives’ manuscript collections will be available for use in this temporary service area. Additional information about Archives services and access to its collections may be directed to or 487-2505.

The Archives and entire garden level of the Van Pelt and Opie Library remain closed. Library materials on this floor, including government documents and older print journals may be requested at the main Library Service Desk. Additional information about library services and access to collections on the Garden level may be directed to 487-2508 or .

Archives Disaster Recovery Update

Recovery work continues at the Michigan Tech Archives following a small fire and zoned sprinkler release on Friday, Oct. 26. Personnel from Facilities Management have begun to schedule necessary repairs to the Archives stacks area. Several light fixtures will be replaced, as well as all of the area’s ceiling tiles. Carpeting throughout the room will be removed and replaced with hard tile, with some repair to drywall and the replacement of floor moldings. Several sections of metal shelving damaged by the fire will also be replaced. The timetable for completion of this work is not yet finalized, but it is likely that work will not be completed until sometime into Dec.

Work is underway to assess and treat documents and photographs affected by the fire and water release. Archives’ staff have begun the process to re-house and return more than 700 boxes of material to their original order in appropriate archival storage boxes. Many of these items were temporarily removed from wet boxes on the afternoon of the disaster. Another 688 boxes of very wet materials were sent to Green Bay for cold storage. Personnel from Belfor, the professional disaster recovery firm engaged by the University to assist with the project, are arranging to transport this material to a freeze drying facility in Ft. Worth, Texas, for further treatment. It is unclear how much of this may be damaged beyond repair or when the recoverable portions may return to Houghton.

The Library again shares its appreciation to its staff and friends who assisted with the immediate recovery efforts at the time of the fire. The work of these individuals helped to avoid a much larger loss of irreplaceable local history resources.

Archives Recovering from October 26 Fire

Originally published in Tech Today, November 1, 2012
by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Tech

The Michigan Tech Archives are recovering from the Oct. 26 fire and ensuing water damage. Though the facility remains closed, recovery crews are working to restore the area and its documents, with the aim of reopening it to the public.

At about 11:30 a.m. Friday, a fire broke out in the archives stacks, located on the garden level of the J. R. Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library. A fire alarm sounded and sprinklers were activated.

Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services responded immediately, as did Houghton City Police. The Houghton City Fire Department received a call at 11:50 and was on the scene at 11:57 a.m. They left after the fire was fully extinguished, before 1 p.m.

The fire was contained within a few square yards, but water damage was extensive. The floor was flooded, and several stacks of documents were heavily sprayed by the sprinklers and fire hoses.

Some of the most heavily damaged documents were pulled by fireman onto the floor.

The response from the University community was almost instantaneous.

“We were genuinely overwhelmed by the number of people who were calling and coming to the building to see what they could do to help,” said Archivist Erik Nordberg. “Staff from the archives and library were on the scene immediately, along with Public Safety and the custodial staff. We saw people from the social sciences department, from the Pep Band . . . As soon as they heard what was going on, there was an outpouring of assistance. We were all sharing in this tragedy.”

Facilities’ custodial staff worked into the night, removing water from the area and installing dehumidifiers. Library staff followed their emergency response plan and arranged for freezer trucks to be sent from Green Bay to pick up the water-damaged documents.

Meanwhile, dozens of library staff, faculty and students from across campus, National Park Service experts, and community members came to the scene to help. They removed boxes from the stacks, re-boxing and sorting them. They identified those with water damage so they could be loaded onto the Green Bay-bound trucks for freezer storage.

Library and archives staff, as well as dozens of volunteers, worked to re-house some of the wet records.

A total of 688 boxes of water-damaged documents were loaded onto the trucks, and in less than three hours they were on their way to Green Bay. Belfor, a worldwide disaster recovery and property restoration firm, is shipping the frozen documents to Fort Worth, Texas, to be freeze-dried.

On Sunday, Belfor set up a drying room in the library to restore documents that don’t require freeze-drying. The company also conducted clean up of the archives site, including air filtration and odor control.

Less than 20 percent of the documents in the archives stacks were affected. Nordberg estimates that only a small amount of material may be damaged beyond repair.

Archives staff members are on duty, but the area is closed to visitors until further notice. The public and members of the University community are welcome to call 487-2505 or email with questions.

Detective Sargent Dale Hillier of the Michigan State Police District 8 headquarters in Marquette is leading the fire investigation. A ceiling light in the archives stacks was severely charred in the fire, but the actual cause will not be known until the report is complete.

University Librarian Ellen Marks had high praise for the archives and library staff, citing Nordberg, Archivist Beth Russell, Strategic Initiatives Librarian Julie Blair, who drafted the emergency response plan, and Senior Project Archivist Rachael Bussert.

A drying room was constructed by personnel from Belfor to help with damp materials not sent to Green Bay.

“Everything worked so well because of the quick response of the Houghton police and fire departments, Public Safety and our own Scott Ackerman [IT principal systems analyst], who’s a volunteer firefighter,” she said. “John Lehman [assistant vice president for enrollment services] did an excellent job as incident commander, and all the many student and faculty volunteers were wonderful. I’d like to give a special shout out to Pat Martin [chair of social sciences] and the social sciences students. We are so appreciative.

“I’ve only been here two years, but it’s clear to me that Michigan Tech is a place where everyone really knows how to pull together,” she said. “I’m really grateful.”


The fire and disaster recovery have been covered by several media outlets:

– Garret Neese article in the Tuesday October 30 edition of The Daily Mining Gazette.
– Television news piece from Marquette-based WBUP ABC Channel 10.
– Text and image piece from Marquette-based WLUC TV6/FoxUP.

Associate Press distributed a version of the story which was picked up by additional media sources, including the Detroit Free Press

Archives Closed

Because of a fire in the Michigan Tech Archives on Friday, the department is currently closed.  The J. R. Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library at Michigan Tech will reopen at 12 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28.

The archives are located on the garden level of the library and will remain closed until further notice. The source of the fire is unknown and is currently under investigation by the Michigan State Police fire investigator.

Most of the damage was caused by water from a zoned sprinkler release, which was activated automatically when the fire was detected. Both the Houghton Fire and Police Departments responded. The most fragile documents have been removed from the area to cold storage, and work is ongoing to assess the damage and begin restoration.

“Currently, we are working through our disaster plan to address the most immediate needs to preserve and restore these unique documents,” said Erik Nordberg, University archivist.

Researchers and professionals who need access to the area can call the archives office at 906-487-2505 or email For all other library information and services, call 906-487-2508 or email

Except for the closed garden level, the library will maintain regular hours after it opens on Sunday.

Archives Premiers New Exhibit About 1913 Strike

“Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-14 Copper Strike,” a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, will premier at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, in the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. Members of the exhibit project team will discuss the research and design process for the exhibit. The event is free, open to the public and refreshments will be served.

The exhibit was made possible through a $14,500 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Michigan Technological University, Cranking Graphics, and Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara.

“Tumult and Tragedy” explores the story of a remarkable period in Michigan’s history. The conflict, sorrow, and tragedy of this confrontation between organized labor and mining companies affected local residents from all walks of life, created headlines across the nation, and continues to resonate in Michigan’s Copper Country today.

Tensions boiled over on July 23, 1913, when members of the Western Federation of Miners took to the streets over grievances about pay and working conditions. The strike was marked by violence, including the deaths of more than 70 people, mainly children, during a Christmas Eve party at Calumet’s Italian Hall. Local mining companies refused to recognize the union, however, and the strike ended in April 1914.

The “Tumult and Tragedy” traveling exhibit consists of 12 panels exploring the context, community, conflict, and consequence of the events, and includes photographs, excerpts from newspapers, documents, and songs from the strike era. A free brochure contains links to related web content about the 1913-14 Michigan copper strike.

The exhibit will remain on display at Michigan Tech through November 30 during the library’s regular hours of operation.

In December, the exhibit will begin a tour of six libraries and museums in Houghton, Ontonagon and Baraga Counties. Special events at each host site will include presentations relating to the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike.

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at or 906-487-2505.

Tour and Special Events

November 1 –November 30
J. Robert Van Pelt and Opie Library
Michigan Technological University, Houghton
Special event: Thursday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.
Grand Opening with Comments by the Exhibit Project Team

December 1 – January 5
Ontonagon County Historical Museum, Ontonagon
Special event: Saturday, December 1, 1:00 p.m.
Bruce Johanson, “Ontonagon County and the 1913 Strike”

January 7 – February 1
Calumet Public-School Library, Calumet High School, Calumet
Special event: Tuesday, January 15, 6:30 p.m.
Kim Hoagland, “Seeberville 1913: Everyday Life in Violent Times”

February 2 – 28
Carnegie Museum, Downtown Houghton
Special event: Saturday, February 9, 1:00 p.m.
Larry Lankton, “Mine Safety Issues in the 1913 Strike Era”

March 4 – March 27
L’Anse Area School Public Library, L’Anse High School, L’Anse
Special event: Sunday, March 17, 1:00 p.m.
Jane Nordberg, “Pulp and Propaganda: Newspapers in the Strike Era”

April 8 – May 1
Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center
Jeffers High School Library, Painesdale
Special event: Wednesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.
Erik Nordberg, “Company Houses Along the Picket Line”

May 2 – June 1
Calumet Visitors Center, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Calumet
Special event: Thursday, May 23, 7:00 p.m.
Gary Kaunonen, “Interpreting the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike”

Exhibit Project Team

Erik Nordberg, Project Manager
Gary Kaunonen, Project Historian
Mike Stockwell, Project Designer

Narrative Committee

John P. Beck
Deirdre Erbisch
Larry Lankton
Jon G. LaSalle
Susan R. Martin
Michael Smith
Carla Strome
Sam Sweitz
Jo Urion

Click here to read an article about the opening by Kurt Hauglie in the November 2, 2012 edition of The Daily Mining Gazette.

Photos from the November 1 Grand Opening:

Project Manager- Erik Nordberg

Project Historian- Gary Kaunonen

Project Designer- Mike Stockwell

Narrative Committee

John P. Beck

Deirdre Erbisch

Larry Lankton

Jon G. LaSalle

Susan R. Martin

Michael Smith

Carla Strome

Sam Sweitz

Jo Urion

For further information, contact the

Project historian Gary Kaunonen

Michigan Tech Archives at or 906-487-25

Project historian Gary Kaunonen


Archival Speakers Series: U.S. Navy ELF Transmitter

An extra low frequency (ELF) transmitter to communicate with nuclear submarines is one of the topics of interest to recipients of 2012 archives travel awards. This graphic is taken from a United States Navy report in collection MS-037 U.S. Navy Seafarer Program / Project ELF Collection.

The Michigan Tech Archival Speaker Series will feature visiting scholar Dr. Louis Slesin at 6:30pm on Thursday, October 18 in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Tech campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Louis Slesin, editor and publisher of Microwave News, will discuss scientific research and local response to two United States Navy radio transmission installations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. Dr. Slesin’s research visit is supported by a travel award from the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, a program which encourages out-of-town scholars to visit Houghton to undertake research using the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives.

Developed under the project names “Sanguine” and “Seafarer,” the U.S. Navy sites operated extra low frequency (ELF) transmitters for communication with naval submarines from 1989 to 2004. Concerns about potential ecological and health effects of electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation prompted a series of scientific studies, some conducted by researchers at Michigan Technological University. Slesin, who holds a PhD in environmental policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, intends to produce a book-length study of ELF-EMF effects from the submarine transmitter as well as power lines providing electricity to the facilities.

Since 1998, the Friends of the Van Pelt Library have supported more than 25 scholars and researchers from across the United States, Canada, and Europe to access the Archives’ collections. Books, articles, presentations and web content have resulted from the work of travel grant recipients, helping to draw attention to the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives and the history of Michigan’s Copper Country and Upper Peninsula.

The event is free and open to the public. Contact the Michigan Tech Archives for more information at 906-487-2505 or

National Park Helps With Preservation

Keweenaw National Historical Park is assisting the Michigan Tech Archives in preserving records of the Copper Range Company.  During our current processing and cataloging project (funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission), some documents of the former mining company and its common carrier railroad were discovered to be a bit moldy. This isn’t an unusual discovery for records of former industrial enterprises, as documents were often stored in damp and dirty mining structures. Although the Michigan Tech Archives storage facilities have reasonable temperature and humidity control, there is always a danger of a mold outbreak.

Through a collaborative effort, some of the most valuable of these records were physically delivered to the Calumet facilities of Keweenaw National Historical Park for treatment. The materials were cycled through the Park’s Wei T’o freeze drying machine, a process that kills a variety of pests, including mold. Upon return to the Archives, additional work will be undertake to physically remove the dead mold spores from the material before they become a permanent part of our collections.

Many thanks to Brian Hoduski, Museum Curator and Chief of Museum and Archival Services Division, and Jeremiah Mason, Archivist, for their welcoming and professional assistance with this important preservation work.

Jeremiah Mason, archivist for Keweenaw National Historical Park, adjusts controls on the Park's Wei T'o freeze dry machine. The Park is assisting with mold decontamination on records from the Copper Range Company.

This preservation work is undertaken with the generous support of the National Park Service and its staff, equipment and facilities.  Processing of the Copper Range Company archival records is supported through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Exhibit Explores Michigan Tech History

A new exhibit in the reading room of the Michigan Tech Archives explores 125 years of history at Michigan Technological University. Documents and memorabilia make up the exhibit, showing how the University has grown and changed with time. The University’s unique culture can be seen in everything from a class catalogue from 1890 – when the University was still the Michigan Mining School and focused on training mining engineers – to a range of Winter Carnival promotional buttons. The exhibit was created by Archives’ student assistant Annette Perkowski.

The Michigan Tech Archives is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and is located on the ground floor of Van Pelt and Opie Library. For further information e-mail or call 906-487-2505.

A sample of the memorabilia and documents included in the exhibit.

J.W. Nara Exhibit Moves to Finlandia University Library

The "Old Main" building at Suomi College, as captured by J.W. Nara. Image Acc 11-005-025, click photograph for further details.

“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 Sulo and Aileen Maki Library at Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through October 29, 2012 during the library’s public hours

A public presentation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 2 and will feature Michigan Tech archivist Erik Nordberg. His talk, entitled “Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara,” features 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. 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 Maki Library through Monday, October 29. For more information on the installation, contact the library at 906-487-7252 or via e-mail at  Addition information about the exhibit is available from the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at

Photographs of the exhibit installation at the Maki Library:

Archives’ Photographs Featured in Film

Historical photographs from the Michigan Tech Archives depicting the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike and relating to the tragedy at Calumet’s Italian Hall on December 24, 1913, are featured in a new film to be screened on October 5 and 6 in Calumet.  The film, entitled “1913 Massacre,” explores the historical events as well as the lasting cultural impact across the Copper Country to the present day.

Details about the film’s local debut are online here.

September 15 meeting for 1913 Strike Centennial

A public meeting at the Ontonagon Theatre in Ontonagon at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 15, will discuss activities to mark the centennial of the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. The nearly year-long strike by members of the Western Federation of Miners is one of the most significant events in Copper Country history and also figures critically in national labor struggles of the era.

The meeting is intended to confirm specific events during the commemoration. Historical exhibits, speakers’ events, tie-in activities for K-12 students, tours of historic sites connected to the strike, a scholarly symposium on historical topics, a memorial ceremony at the Italian Hall site, and other activities will engage both local residents and out-of-town visitors in remembering and understanding this important era in local history.

The meeting is free and open to the general public. For more information contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505, e-mail at, or visit