Category: About the Archives

This category is used for posts that talk more about the people, services, and operation of the archives as a department.

Archives Premieres New Exhibit: “A Sense of Place”

The Michigan Tech Archives announces the opening of a new exhibit highlighting images from archival collections. “A Sense of Place,” is a photographic essay of the Michigan Tech campus, community life, and of the Copper Country. Historic images selected from the Archives’ collections create a story of the Keweenaw and its people from the earliest days of European settlement to the present. The photos are grouped into four themes: early life on the Keweenaw Peninsula; copper miners and the mines in which they labored; the changing face of the Michigan Tech campus; and the communities that are home to long-time residents and thousands of students through the years. The story told is one that gives the viewer a sense of the special character of the Copper Country, a place that so many people are proud to claim a connection to, no matter where they may live.

Funded in part by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, the new exhibit was conceived as a tribute to Jonathon DeCleene, a student assistant in the Archives for many years. Although Jonathan’s life ended at a young age, it was his zest for life and adopted love of the Copper Country which shaped the themes of this exhibit. Additional financial support for the exhibit came from Jonathan’s family, Gloria Kennedy and Valerie DeCleene, and members of the Archives staff.

The exhibit is a permanent installation in the halls of the Library’s Garden Level, outside the Michigan Tech Archives’ reading room and can be viewed at any time during the Library’s open hours. Images were selected by the staff of the Michigan Tech Archives, caption text was written by Julia Blair, and graphic design for the exhibit was completed by Mike Stockwell of Cranking Graphics.

The content of this photograph exhibit is also available as the “Sense of Place” web exhibit on the archives’ website.

Update: Here are some photographs from the exhibit opening event on Thursday, February 4, 2010:

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 Members of the public view the exhibited photographs near the entrance to the Michigan Tech Archives on the ground floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library. 

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From left to right: Mike Stockwell, exhibit graphic designer with Cranking Graphics, Ellen Seidel, interim library director, Julia Blair, assistant archivist and exhibit writer, Terry Reynolds and Dana Richter, Friends of the Van Pelt Library.

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Erik Nordberg, university archivist, shares appreciation to the family of Jonathan DeCleene, members of the archives’ staff, and the Friends of the Van Pelt Library for their financial support of the exhibit.

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Winter Carnival Underground

WINTER CARNIVAL UNDERGROUND

Ever wonder what is going on in the mines during the winter months?  My curiosity was answered when I ran across photos of some beautiful ice sculptures only Mother Nature could make.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Take a look and see if you agree.

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All of these photos came from the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection MS003 Box 12 Negative 119-21.  Prints are available by request and the collection can be viewed here in the Archives reading room.

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Meet the Staff

I recently gave an instruction session to a class of undergraduate student researchers on using archival resources in their writing assignments. As I led the class through the Archives work room, it occurred to me how much goes on behind the scenes in the Archives that most people never realize, and how vital each person is to our operation.

The Archives is committed to making historic records accessible to users. We’ve earned a reputation for bringing history to the campus and community through events and speakers whose research delves deeply into our collections. But the Archives would be a much different place without the hard work of our great staff. Over the next few months, I’d like to introduce you to the members of our staff, from energetic student workers to erudite archivists.

The Keweenaw Digital Archives is just one of the great things that make the Michigan Tech Archives special. Without the diligent and discerning work of Christine Holland, it wouldn’t be what it is today, a database of over 7000 cataloged digital images from the photographic collections at the Archives.

Christine has been on the staff of the Archives for ten years. Along with her regular job responsibilities of keeping the rest of us in check, she does a lioness’s share of digitizing and cataloging the thousands of historic photos you’ll find at the Digital Archives (http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/).

She has an eye for the unusual, and that particular talent has brought to light some of the more obscure and interesting elements of historic photographs that the casual observer might easily overlook. It’s not unusual to see her at the digital workstation zooming into a newly digitized image, working out the letters in a storefront sign or marquis in the background of a street scene from 1930s Houghton or some such. She’s managed to date images by noting small details like a movie advertised on a broadside in a shop window, or has called our attention to a careworn face and rough hands of a person whose name has been lost to posterity, imbuing unknown people from the past with dignity and authenticity.

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Image #:ACC03-1990-6-28-04-01-01

One of the more interesting things she’s found captured in film was a man wearing a long woman’s dress sweeping a broom on the porch of a log cabin. Her pithy comments are a treat, and anyone familiar with our reading room knows that she’s never one to mince words. (Check out the cataloger’s comments for this image by clicking on the link below for the full record!)

http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=681418#

I’ve learned a lot about the Archives’ collection from Christine, and I’ve come to value and appreciate her particular perspective on historic images.

The inscrutable Sara Lee
The inscrutable Sara Lee

Christine is also a passionate advocate for the humane treatment of animals. She didn’t want me to post a photo of her hard at work, so here’s her special friend, Sara Lee.

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Scott Turner’s Doctoral Hood

It’s been a busy fall semester for the Archives. Nine individual classes have incorporated archival sources into their coursework this semester, which means at least 200 students were regulars in the reading room over the past 15 weeks, studying different aspects of the University’s history, such as broomball, the Pep Band, and the Ford Forestry Center, as well as poring through civic and mining company records in search of documentation on the Quincy Smelter, the lives of copper miners, the history of the St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.

Although the semester is winding down, we’re still seeing last minute student researchers making a final effort to uncover more content or verify source citation information. (Find help citing archival sources at our web pages http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/citation.aspx.)

In addition to the normal bustle of our well-used reading room, the Archives recently played host to a photo shoot.

UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.
UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.

Photographer Calvin Goh (UMC) used the Archives Reading Room as a fitting backdrop for his images of recent graduate, Cameron Hartnell, PhD, Industrial Archaeology. Here, the photographer is captured at his craft:

Cameron’s doctoral research focused on the archaeological remains of the Arctic Coal Company on the island of Spitsbergen, or Svalbard. An earlier Tech grad, Scott Turner, spent six years in the early 20th century working for the ACC at Spitsbergen.

Through his doctoral research, Hartnell became quite familiar with the Scott Turner Collection, housed here at the Michigan Tech Archives. To honor the man whose papers were invaluable to his own research, Hartnell approached the Archives with a unique request: to wear Turner’s doctoral hood in the University’s midwinter commencement ceremonies.

Turner wore this hood when he received an honorary PhD from Michigan Tech in 1932 and it was donated to the Michigan Tech Archives along with corporate records, personal correspondence and other artifacts by Turner’s family following his death. According to Hartnell, the intricate folds and pockets of the graduation hood served a very practical purpose in the past. Students at one time kept a bit of bread or fruit in the pouches so they could continue their studies while they ate.

Doctoral hoods are part of a long academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.
Doctoral hoods are part of an academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.

 

The following overview on Turner’s life and accomplishments is excerpted from an article by Erik Nordberg, first published in the Michigan Tech Alumnus, 2002.

Scott Turner began his mining career in a somewhat ordinary manner, completing his BS and Engineer of Mines degrees at the Michigan College of Mines in 1904 at the age of 24.  A native of Lansing, he had completed an associate’s degree at Ann Arbor before taking up the mining trade as his life’s passion.  Yet from these humble Michigan roots, numerous mining jobs and work as an assistant editor for the Mining & Scientific Press took him to the four corners of the globe within the first few years of his career.

In 1926, he received a call from the United States government requesting his service as Director of the Bureau of Mines.  Although an important federal appointment, many noted its added significance under then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, one of the nation’s most prominent mining engineers.  Turner spent eight years at the helm of the BOM, overseeing difficult changes associated with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing onset of the Great Depression.  During this period, Turner returned to Houghton to receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1932.  He received similar honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Colorado School of Mines, and Kenyon College.

A chance meeting with John Longyear in London in 1911 directed a major change in Turner’s career.  The Marquette, Michigan, lumber and mining man was interested in potentially profitable iron and coal deposits in Spitsbergen, an unclaimed arctic island north of Scandinavia.  Turner accepted the position of manager for Longyear’s European interests, an assignment that would keep his attention focused on Spitsbergen for nearly six years.  In addition to a “small fixed annual salary,” he received a bonus of 5% of the company’s net profits.

His work in Spitsbergen was marked by many unusual feats.  The mines proved particularly difficult to develop; only 750 miles below the North Pole, the Arctic Coal Company was the first company to successfully implement modern mining methods at so high a latitude.  In addition, the land was “terra nullius,” meaning that no single nation had ownership of the place.  Through permission of the U.S. government, Turner represented American interests in the region – perhaps the only time that a civilian engineer has been enlisted to maintain American sovereignty overseas.

It was on one of Turner’s many trips across to Spitsbergen that he became a participant in another of history’s infamous incidents.  On May 7, 1915, as it neared the coast of Ireland, a German torpedo struck Turner’s ship, the S.S. Lusitania, just a few decks below the engineer’s cabin.

The mining engineer’s work continued in earnest.  Following his discharge from the hospital, he continued his journey to Scandinavia and arranged for the sale of Longyear’s Spitsbergen properties to Norwegian interests (on his trip from England to Norway, his ship narrowly missed destruction by bombs dropped from raiding German Zeppelins).  Looking to escape the growing European turmoil, Turner headed south, pursuing work in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.  He completed a two-year stint in the Naval Reserves at the tail end of World War I and then spent the next seven years of his life as “Technical Head” for the Mining Corporation of Canada.  This work took him to various parts of that country – as well as China, Mexico, Russia and South America — on exploratory and mine development work.  He often traveled with his new wife, the former Amy Pudden, whom he had married in Lansing in 1919.

Following his departure from the Bureau, he pursued a variety of consulting work.  At one point he was an officer or director of nine mining companies.  He even returned to Spitsbergen to review the progress of mines he developed decades earlier. His life work was capped in 1957 when he received the Hoover Medal, a special honor commemorating civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers.  Recipients are selected by a special board with representatives from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME).

Scott Turner died in July 1972, just one day shy of his 92 birthday.  In his later years, when not hunting or fishing, Turner would talk regularly of his life’s adventures.  But it was his spot on the Lusitania that always singled him out for the most attention.  He responded to endless requests for interviews and completed dozens of questionnaires about the incident.  In the mid-1950s Turner donated the Boddy life belt that had saved his life to the museum at Michigan State University.  It is not clear what became of a cast iron medal he owned, minted in 1915 by the German government to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.  The medal had been uncovered during some road construction in Washington, D.C. and had been presented to Turner as a survivor of this historic event.

Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.
Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.

The staff of the Michigan Tech Archives congratulate Cameron Hartnell on his achievement and are pleased that our collections – both paper and fabric – were such integral parts of his study and graduation.

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Archives Increases Hours

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The Michigan Tech Archives is increasing its hours for public research. Effective Monday, October 5, 2009, the Archives will be open weekdays, Monday-Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm. This increases the total number of hours from 32 to 35 per week, makes the schedule more consistent from day to day, continues lunchtime hours for off-campus users, and will more effectively utilize existing staffing. Responding to input from user focus groups for additional hours, and benchmarking data of other institutions, these extended hours are in line with other archives with similar staffing levels.

Questions or comments may be shared to Erik Nordberg at the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at enordber@mtu.edu

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Michigan Tech Archives Receives $116,000 Grant to Reveal Hidden Collections

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The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has received a federal grant to support a two-year project to improve the description of its historical collections and share more of this information across the web. The grant has been awarded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission (NHPRC), the grantmaking arm of the National Archives. The outright grant of $116,500 is for 47 percent of the budgeted project cost of $250,342.

 

“This is a huge step forward for our department,” said Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Tech. “Monies from this federal grant program are intended to “reveal hidden collections” at mid-sized institutions, particularly those which are geographically remote like ours here in Houghton. Because we’re a bit farther off the beaten path, we need to find ways to reach potential researchers.”

 

As part of the project, the Archives will hire two additional staff and implement Proficio, a specialized collection management software program created for archives and museums. Descriptions of each of the Archives’ 900 manuscript collections will be created in the new system, with information shared to Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library catalog and to WorldCat, a national bibliographic utility which comingles information from libraries and archives around the world.

 

“Not only will this push information out about our collections to researchers around the world,” Nordberg said, “but it will also build the foundation to gather and organize even more detail about our collections after the grant project is completed.”

 

A regional history manuscript collection, the Michigan Tech Archives collects information on the history of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, including its historic copper mining industry. The collections to be described include a wide variety of format and content, including personal papers and diaries, business and industrial records, photographs, maps, and wide format items.

 

A full listing of projects funded by NHPRC this spring is linked from here: http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2009/nr09-92.html 

 

For further information contact the MTU Archives at (906) 487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu The Archives reading room is located on the ground floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library, in the heart of the Michigan Tech Campus.

  

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Summer Archival Speaker Series

An international border, an industrious bishop, and the Isle Royale Mining Company are the featured topics of the Summer Archival Speaker Series from the Michigan Tech Archives. The series gets underway Thursday, June 18th at 7 p.m., in the Archives Reading Room at the Van Pelt and Opie Library with a talk by visiting scholar Peter Krats.

Differently Similar: Comparing the Keweenaw and Nickel Belts is an examination of the resource-rich industrial frontiers of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan and the Sudbury Basin, Ontario. Krats, an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario will talk about the impact of the Canadian-American border on these two northern mining regions. In Michigan, rich copper reserves were exploited by large companies intent on making the most of natural resources far from the center. Just a few hundred miles away but across an international border, the world’s greatest nickel reserves saw even larger firms emerge and invest in a metal-rich hinterland.

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[The industrial landscape of the Copper Country shares many similarities with Sudbury’s Nickel Belt. This image of Calumet can be found at the Keweenaw Digital Archives at http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=594938#]

But the Keweenaw and the Sudbury Basin arose, stabilized and matured in substantially different ways. Krats will talk about variations in company town formation, ethnicity, and immigration, and illustrate how contrasts between the American belief in “liberty” and Canadian confidence in “good government” affected both regions. The consequences of these parallels and variations are apparent even in the present-day settings. The related concepts of similarity and difference are part of a spectrum of the historical experience of North America, and Krats questions and reveal the linkages between two nations sharing a border and more.

Krats is a visiting scholar at the Michigan Tech Archives this summer. His research is funded in part by a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant, which enables scholars to travel to the Archives to study its collections in greater depth. The Travel Grant is generously supported by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library.

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[Frederic Baraga is considered the first Slovene to call the Keweenaw home. Click on the link http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=598948# to access this image.]

Another travel grant recipient, James Seelye, comes to the Archives in June to continue his research into the impact of Slovenes in the Copper Country. He will give a public talk about one of the area’s most notable Slovenes, Bishop Baraga. As a missionary to the Lake Superior Chippewa, Frederic Baraga spent nearly forty years of his life trying to convert Native Americans Indians to Catholicism. In the process, he left behind a rich written record that includes theology, missionary activities, travels, and Native Americans. James Seelye, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toledo, and recipient of a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant, takes a deeper look at the man behind the myth. He explores who Baraga truly was, and in the process, discover why Baraga means so many different things to so many different people, even a candidate for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Seelye’s presentation, The Snowshoe Priest Revisited: A Reappraisal of Frederic Baraga, is scheduled for Tuesday June 30th, at 7 p.m., in Room 139 of Fisher Hall.

In July, popular local historian Bill Haller will give an illustrated talk on the History of the Isle Royale Mine. Following unsuccessful attempts at mining in Copper Harbor and on the island of Isle Royale, the Isle Royale Mining Company relocated south of Houghton in 1852. Following unsuccessful attempts at mining in Copper Harbor and on the island of Isle Royale, the Isle Royale Mining Company relocated south of Houghton in 1852. It was one of many small mines working the “South Portage Range,” including the Portage, Dodge, and Huron mines. Some of these companies also developed communities around their mines, including the present towns of Dodgeville and Hurontown. From 1909 until 1946, the properties operated as a subsidiary of the famed Calumet & Hecla Company.

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[The Isle Royale Mining Company operated between present day Dodgeville and Hurontown. http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=610462#]

The presentation will provide an overview of the evolution of this important mining area, including photographs and maps showing the different mine locations, industrial buildings, and underground workings.  Although few significant structures remain from the Isle Royale Mine, many of the operation’s key sites lay adjacent to major highways and are passed unknowingly by local residents every day. Haller will talk about his research on July 21st, a Tuesday, at 7 p.m., in Room 641 of the Dow Building on the Michigan Tech campus.

Michigan Tech’s “Archival Speakers Series” highlights current research utilizing the Archives’ collections. The Michigan Tech Archives & Copper Country Historical Collections, a department of the J. Robert Van Pelt and Opie Library, hosts a wide variety of researchers and research topics from genealogical investigations to book and magazine publications that engage students, staff, and faculty, local citizens, out of town visitors, and off-campus researchers. The presentations are free and open to the public.

For further information contact the MTU Archives at (906) 487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu, or visit the website at www.lib.mtu.edu/archives. The Archives reading room is located on the ground floor of the J. Robert Van Pelt Library, in the heart of the Michigan Tech campus.

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Michigan Tech Archives Awards Research Travel Grants

The Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections announce winners of the 2009 Travel Grant. Two visiting scholars take a fresh look at mining communities on both sides of the Canadian border, and at the impact of Slovenian missionaries on Native American communities. The grant is funded by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library.

The grant has enabled researchers from the United States, Canada, and Europe, to examine the Archives’ outstanding resources. Past recipients have studied the use of models by mining engineers to manage complex work sites above and below ground, the role of fraternal orders in Lake Superior mining communities, and the cultural and linguistic identity of Yoopers. This year’s awards continue a tradition of supported research using the manuscript collections in the Michigan Tech Archives.

The Friends of the Van Pelt Library provide financial support for researchers from outside the area to explore the Archives’ collections. For further information about the Archives, visit http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/.

Research Travel Grants Program

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