Author: Lindsay Hiltunen

Flashback Friday – Frozen Blocks

Flashback Friday takes us back to a winter tradition oft forgotten; the annual ice harvest.

In frozen waters across the Great Lakes region, the new year took commercial fishermen and local folks to the shoreline to harvest “ice cakes.” Townsfolk up and down the coasts of Lake Superior and inland lakes in the Upper Peninsula set up working crews to help fill up the community ice houses. Ice was meticulously selected, cut into sheets, and the frozen slabs were hauled and stacked inside the ice houses. The precious blocks were packed in sawdust to preserve their form as long as possible throughout the year. The community ice house supplied businesses and homes in the bygone era before modern refrigerators were common!

Joseph Turk uses the long saw to completely cut the cakes. He always proceeds in the cut prepared by the circular saw. March 3, 1954 from The Daily Mining Gazette.

In areas downstate, the ice harvest typically started in January or February. In the Upper Peninsula, March was the most popular month for the harvest. Handsaws, and later gas circular saws, tore into the ice to shape each slab and prepare it for the delivery sleigh. Actual horsepower pulled the sleighs filled with ice to the storage place in the early years, and later the sleighs were replaced by trucks.

Winter road across Portage Lake, Houghton to Hancock. Annual ice harvest, 1922.

Ice was an essential part of community life, not just for local businesses and families to keep food and goods cool, but also for packing and shipping. Ice was an essential element of successful commercial fishing outfits, as smaller blocks were needed to safely pack fresh fish for delivery across the region.

The lead photograph in this post shows the ice team ready to make delivery to the ice house during this month in 1902. This image is courtesy of the Reeder Photograph Collection.


Job Announcement: UPLINK Term Digital Project Manager

The Upper Peninsula Digital Network (UPLINK) project is currently seeking an archivist or related professional to serve as the Digital Project Manager for a term-funded project. This position is made possible with support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Implementation Grant program. UPLINK is a collaborative administered by the Northern Michigan University (NMU) Archives, with representatives from the Michigan Tech Archives, Lake Superior State University, the Peter White Public Library, and the Marquette Regional History Center.

The Digital Project Manager is primarily responsible for creating and implementing workflows and procedures to enable the effective acquisition, description, access, management, and preservation of a broad range of analog and born-digital content across the UPLINK network. This position will oversee and monitor all aspects of digital project work, including digitization of original materials, description of materials according to accepted metadata and collection level description standards, and online publication of digital objects. This position will also oversee three student assistants, assist the project director, and the UPLINK Board of Directors. Some travel will be required.

The job description and application information can be found at: https://workatnmu.nmu.edu/en-us/job/493472/digital-project-manager 

An overview of the origins of UPLINK, project planning, and more information can be found at: https://www.nmu.edu/archives/uplink?fbclid=IwAR3m-mAFqcwFHKyy25pCoodBu4dGBHtULnPuoPCwKN___8-ujiGcZZjzocc 

Questions about the Digital Project Manager position may be directed to Julane Cappo, Associate Director of Human Resources, Northern Michigan University, 906-227-1493.

Additional questions about UPLINK may be directed to project manager, Marcus Robyns at mrobyns@mtu.edu or project representative, Lindsay Hiltunen at lehalkol@mtu.edu


Flashback Friday – Let It Snow, But Where Does It Go?

Flashback Friday looks back to this weekend in 1978. It seems appropriate to share, given the fact we’ve been in a snowglobe for the past few days, with 12-14 inches of accumulation in some Copper Country areas.

“You’ve seen them picking it up, but where on earth do they put it down? Houghton’s extra snow gets dropped on the shores of Portage Lake at the Copper Range Railroad property just west of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Don’t worry, there’s still lots of space left!”

Photograph courtesy of the Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection.


Flashback Friday – A Paltry 69 Inches

Shelden Avenue in downtown Houghton after a snowfall.

Flashback Friday takes us back to this weekend in 1958. From the Daily Mining Gazette: “Go Ahead, cry in your beer, but the fact of the matter is, Copper Country cars are at least visible beneath their snowy burden. Houghton boasted a paltry 69 inches this morning, hardly enough to fill your galoshes as the photo indicates. It was taken on Shelden Ave.”

There is no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes December brings us double digits of powdery white snow, and sometimes it reminds us of the end of October. We wait, with snowshoes and ski poles and pure winter hope!


Flashback Friday – Thanksgiving Week

In honor of the upcoming holiday season, Flashback Friday reminds us that not all meals are traditional. This image, of Sigma Rho students cooking lunch underground at Copper Falls Mine in the 1950s, shows us that we can still smile and be safe as we share a meal. While safely gathering may have a new meaning today, in this context safety measures are indicated by the mining helmets and lanterns! The staff of the Michigan Tech Archives wishes you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving holiday, whether you are zooming in for turkey dinner, gathering outside for a holiday picnic, or having a small, safe gathering with loved ones or a solo chef date.

Also, please note that we will be unavailable for remote research services next week to give our staff a much-needed break. We’ll be back to answering your remote inquiries on November 30. Thanks for understanding and happy turkey day!


Flashback Friday – Ghoulish Gourds

Entries into a campus pumpkin carving contest.

Perhaps there is no surer sign of Halloween than pumpkins carved with ghostly and grinning faces, lit up with candles and perched on porches and in darkened windows. People have been making jack-o’-lanterns during the late fall season for centuries. Seasonal vegetables like large turnips and potatoes were used in the early lanterns where the practice originated in Ireland and later taken up in Scotland and England (where beets were used.) Celtic rituals, tricks and warding off evil, and deals with the devil all played a part in the origins of the iconic Halloween symbol. For instance, the name jack-o’-lantern comes from an old Irish folktale about someone named Stingy Jack and European immigrants brought the tradition to America, where pumpkins were plentiful. The tradition has been a part of Halloween in the United States since the 1800s, but the use and meaning of the carved gourds has changed over time. 

Today’s Flashback Friday takes a peek at some of the prize-winning carvings created by Michigan Tech students. Looking back to the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for students to have carving contests as part of their Halloween festivities in dorms and at off-campus housing. Some student organizations hosted similar events. These ghoulish examples are courtesy of the Michigan Technological University Photograph Collection. Perhaps you know the creator of one of these monstrous masterpieces! Happy Halloween!


Flashback Friday – Campioni’s

Campioni’s Market on the corner of Michigan Street and Minnesota Street in Hancock, Michigan

The date of this photograph is unknown, but it was donated to the archives on this date in 1985. Flashback Friday takes us back to the days of the neighborhood market. This building is a reminder of the era before Big Box Stores and warehouse size supermarkets.

This building was the original Campioni’s Market in West Hancock. Established by Guido and Mabel Campioni in the late 1920’s, it was a go-to for Hancock residents for all sorts of dry goods, meats, and sundries. The market stayed in the family for several decades, later run by Joseph and Margaret Campioni. After Joseph and Margaret passed away, their son Bill, and later his sister, Mary Anne Crooks took over operations.

This particular image shows the end of the Campioni era, as Crooks sold the building to the Keweenaw Co-op when she was preparing to leave to grocery business. The image shows the hallmark G. Campioni sign on top of the building, but there is also a side-shingle indicating the Keweenaw Co-op.

Some clues in dating the photograph can be found on the Keweenaw Co-op website. Their history section states, after starting in 1973 as a pre-order bulk-buying club, the co-op first operated out of the back room of Funkey’s Karma Cafe in downtown Houghton. After quick growth, the co-op soon moved to a small retail space in Hancock, and, after two more moves, settled in its current location in 1986. It seems a circa 1980 date, give or take a few years, is a fair guess in dating this great community photo.

The official opening of Funkey’s Karma Cafe, August 1973.


#AskAnArchivist Day 2020

On October 7, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Staff of the Michigan Tech Archives encourage everyone to take this opportunity to engage with us via Twitter or Facebook to ask questions about the archival profession, collections at Michigan Tech and local history generally. 

Questions will vary widely, from the silly (What is the strangest thing in your collection?) to the practical (How can I preserve my family photographs?) 

Please tweet us @mtuarchives or follow the Michigan Tech Archives on Facebook and be sure to use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. We hope you will join the conversation!

#AskAnArchivist Day is celebrated every October during American Archives Month.

American Archives Month Banner from the Society of American Archivists

Flashback Friday – Our Boy With The Deer

Archive Image

This Flashback Friday has me, on a deeply personal level, feeling a little wistful and missing the daily routine of welcoming the morning, my colleagues, and the collections at the Michigan Tech Archives. I’m a creature of habit and one of my morning rituals was to say a quiet good morning to David.

For those familiar with our public reading room and the reference desk, they will recognize the picture featured today as it hangs proudly, and has for many years, on the wall adjacent to the main archives doors. Each morning I turn the key in the lock, cross the threshold, and as the heavy wooden door closes itself, I glance up at David to wish him good-morrow before heading to my office.

David, the precocious subject of this beloved photograph from May 1958, is a favorite of many archives staff members past and present. David Roche Murphy, a Keweenaw native and brother of Terence Roche Murphy (longtime friend of the archives), passed away in March 2017 after a life rich with travel and a love of nature.

Born of two families prominent in Calumet, Laurium, and Eagle Harbor, as a very young boy David found a swift and sincere love of nature, as evidenced by the photograph of him and a young deer ankles-deep in Lake Superior at Eagle Harbor. Having spent many youthful hours at the shores of the Big Lake it is perhaps of little surprise that David, after earning multiple degrees from Michigan State University and stints as a reporter and intelligence officer in New York and Southeast Asia respectively, found his true calling at sea. He spent most of his active career as a Senior Logistics Officer (Chief Purser with Commander rank) in the Merchant Marine. He served on U.S. Naval Service vessels and elsewhere in close collaboration with U.S. intelligence services from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, North Pacific waters during surveillance of North Korean nuclear weapons activity, and was an officer decorated by the U.S. Navy for at-sea support of the battle fleet in 1990-91 Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Upon coming ashore at last for his retirement years, David returned to the Copper Country where he found comfort in community, creative pursuits, and the great outdoors. He was a longtime volunteer with Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, read voraciously, and was proud to be a lifetime “Eagle Harborite.” His initial home in retirement was in Eagle Harbor where Lake Superior remained within sight and sound.

One of the things they don’t teach professional archivists and librarians in graduate school are the lively friendships you’ll forge with patrons and partners, nor the myriad of losses you will experience over the course of your career. I was grateful to be a guest of the Roche Murphy family at David’s Celebration of Life in Summer 2017 at Saint Peter’s-by-the-Sea in Eagle Harbor. I also take comfort in knowing that the Michigan Nature Association has dedicated “Mariner’s Preserve at Silver River Falls” in Commander Murphy’s permanent honor.

The current situation and the stay at home order has kept me from some of the things I love most about being an archivist, but I find peace in being able to take this time to reflect on why I find such satisfaction in the act of remembering, preserving, and sharing about the past. The stories we find in the stacks enrich us and make us who we are. The lives and memories of others remind us what it is to be human. As a native of the Copper Country and an alum of Michigan Tech, I take great pride and care to serve as one of several stewards and keepers of memory of this most magical place. I will never forget what it means to be a part of this, nor what it means to be home. And I will forever say good morning to our “boy with the deer.”


Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant Program 2020 – Call for Applicants

Archive Image

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, a department within the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, is currently accepting applications for its annual Travel Grant Program, which brings scholars and researchers to Michigan Technological University to work with the archives’ collections. Financial support for the Travel Grant Program is provided by the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library, a support organization for the Van Pelt and Opie Library. Grants are awarded for up to $1000 to defray the costs of travel to visit and conduct research in Houghton, Michigan. In addition, graduate students applying to the program may request up to an additional $200 to help defray any duplication costs incurred during a qualified research trip.

The Michigan Tech Archives houses a wide variety of historical print, graphic and manuscript resources related to the Copper Country and Michigan Technological University. Subject coverage is vast, some of which includes university and campus life, regional towns and cities, local industries and businesses, social organizations, events and personalities of the Copper Country and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Primary topical research areas include the western Upper Peninsula, industrial history, particularly copper mining and its ancillary industries, social history, community development along the Keweenaw Peninsula, transportation and the environment. Finding aids for some of the collections can be found here: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/collections/.

To apply for funding through the Travel Grant Program please visit the program website: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/programs-and-services/travel-grants/

Applications are due on March 27, 2020. Award recipients will be notified by late April. The successful candidate must complete their travel by December 4, 2020. Electronic submission of applications is required.

For further information, please contact:

Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Tech Archives
J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI  49931
Phone: (906) 487-3209
E-mail: copper@mtu.edu