Category Archives: Staff

Archives Moves Toward New Technologies

Working on mark-up of an EAD file during Michael Fox's recent archival description workshop.

The Archives was closed Thursday-Friday, September 8-9, 2011, so that staff could be  trained in several new software tools.

Michael Fox, recently retired from the Minnesota Historical Society, spent three days with staff of the Michigan Tech Archives (as well as some other friends). Fox reviewed some basic elements of how manuscript collections differ from museum and library collections. It is important to realize that unlike other item-level collections, archives have complex inter-relations within their manuscript collections. Very few archives catalog material to the item level. Instead, they gather descriptive data at the collection level, as well as information about groupings of documents in folders or within collections as records series. The hierarchical relationship between individual documents, the folders they reside in, the series of which they were created, as well as the overall collections which hold them require complex systems of description.

Encoded archival description (EAD) is a standard which has emerged in recent years to help archivists create and hold this type of hierarchical descriptive information. It uses extensible mark-up language (xml)  to take previous types of written inventories and finding aids and turn them into a standardized data format (it also relies on a descriptive standard called “describing archives: a content standard,” or DACS, to ensure that the contents of individual fields is consistent across the board). With information about our collections held in EAD format, the Michigan Tech Archives will be able to export information to web sites and other places where potential researchers might discover our collections.

This work is not for the faint of heart, however, and will involve many changes in the way that we do our work at the Michigan Tech Archives. One of these changes will be the migration of collections information to a new open source archival collections management software tool called Archivists’ Toolkit. AT will allow us to gather a variety of information about our collections, including both descriptive information and internal administrative notes about preservation and processing. From AT, we’ll be able to output descriptive information compliant to the EAD standard. We’ll also be able to export catalog records compliant to the library world’s MARC standard.  In these formats, we’ll be able to update and share information through sites like OCLC’s Worldcat and ArchiveGrid.

Although this may sound like technical mumbo-jumbo to some of our non-archivist researchers, it will mean a dramatic improvement to the variety and level of information that researchers may discover about our holdings.

We were pleased to have Fox’s training workshop supported through grant monies from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission. Over the course of the last two years, NHPRC’s funding of our current ‘basic archives’ grant has provided the first steps in this move toward better and more standardized description. During this period, we have already created collection-level records for each of the manuscript collections held at the Michigan Tech Archives (you can read some of these on our blog over here). With NHPRC funding for Michael Fox’s visit, we made the first steps toward implementation of Archivists’ Toolkit, EAD, and the next steps in our program.

Look for additional updates here.

In honor of our summer intern

Annelise Doll, a recent graduate of the School of Information at the University of Michigan, has been interning at the Michigan Tech Archives this summer. A native of Hancock, she will be moving north to work with the Keweenaw National Historical Park. We will miss her greatly, and in her honor, here’s a selection from a 1966 edition of the “Wadsworth Washline,” a student newsletter. It highlights some of the differences between Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan:

Wadsworth Washline: U of M vs. Michigan Tech

Staff Profiles

Sawyer Newman is a student assistant in the Archive and is in her 3rd year at MTU.  She is majoring in Anthropology and is a member of both WMTU and the Photo Club.  Sawyer also enjoys broomball and tennis, and has a Samoyed (a fluffy white dog breed) named Monty.

Jamie Jarvi

Jamie Jarvi is also a student assistant in the MTU Archives and is majoring in Computer Network and System Administration.  He is in his 2nd year and enjoys taking part in any type of computer-related activities.  Jamie is also a Star Wars and Star Trek fan.

Annelise Doll

Annelise Doll is a summer intern for the Michigan Tech Archives.  As a Hancock, Michigan native, she is excited to be working for MTU after completing her education at the University of Michigan.  Annelise loves to snowshoe during the long UP winters and enjoys picking berries for homemade jam in the summer.

The Mariner – Beth is a former captain of this lovely craft.

Beth Russell is with the MTU Archives as part of a two year NHPRC grant to catalog the archive’s hidden collections.  She is originally from Wickford, Rhode Island and though she misses the ocean, Beth is happy to be living near the picturesque shores of Lake Superior.  In her free time Beth enjoys knitting and sailing.

Erik Nordberg, University Archivist

Erik Nordberg is the University Archivist for the Michigan Tech Archives and has been with the archives since 1994.  He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and went on to complete master’s degrees at both Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.  Erik enjoys woodworking, brewing his own beer, and camping.  He is also a doctoral student in the Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program at MTU.

Workshop: Introduction to Archival Research

Ever wonder how to start a historical research project? Not sure where to find the right documents to answer your question? Unclear how a research archives operates?  Join Michigan Tech archivists Julie Blair and Erik Nordberg at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1, for an introduction to archival research. The workshop will take place in Room 244 of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

This session will provide a general overview of research using historical records. The workshop will include an introduction to historical research methods and attendees will learn how to locate, integrate, and cite archival material in their research. Presenters will discuss what is meant by phrases like “manuscript collection” and “primary source,” how to describe different types of archival sources, and learn about the similarities and important differences between archives, libraries, and museums.

Attendees will also learn how to use the Keweenaw Digital Archives to easily find historic images online, how to create an account, make a digital album, and add their own comments and observations to the photos. The session will draw upon numerous examples from the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives, which collects historical material about Michigan Tech and the people, communities, and industries of the surrounding Copper Country.

This workshop will also be repeated at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, and is part of a weekly series of programs offered by the Van Pelt and Opie Library. For more information on the Library’s workshop series, visit their blog.

Keweenaw Digital Archives Reaches 10,000 Images

This photograph, showing a group of copper miners at an unknown location, was the 10,000 image added to the Keweenaw Digital Archives. Image #ACC03-153D-01-02 from the Van Den Belt Photograph Collection.


The Keweenaw Digital Archives, a web-based collection of historical photographic images of Michigan’s Copper Country, added its 10,000th image on Friday, November 19.  The collection is drawn primarily from the photographic holdings of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collations and document the social and industrial life of the Keweenaw Peninsula. 

“It’s been an incredible experience,” remarks Christine Holland, library assistant with primary responsibility for adding content to the system. “I’ve lived here all my life, but it really wasn’t until I started scanning photos for the digital site that I really began to appreciate the buildings, places, and history around me.” 

“People know the Keweenaw was a historic mining district, but you can’t see any mining here today. Looking at these historical photos, seeing miners working underground, seeing thousands of copper ingots on the docks, or the crowds dressed in their finery on city streets — that’s when you really begin to understand what happened here.” 

Initial funding for the digital archives initiative was part of the Michigan Tech Archives “Interior Ellis Island” ethnic history project. A donation from Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack, Michigan, supported the purchase of computer and scanning equipment necessary for the work. A grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, supported the more significant aspects of the project.   

“This is an incredible milestone for our digital collection,” noted Erik Nordberg, University Archivist. “We began this project in March 2006 and have grown from success to success over the last four years. It’s a testament to Christine’s efforts that we have been able to create such a rich and varied public resource in such a short time.” 

The Keweenaw Digital Archives includes photographs from a variety of sources and covering a variety of periods. Some of the earliest images include the work of local photographers J.W. Nara, J.T. Reeder and Adolph Isler and date well before 1900. More recent images include photos from Michigan Tech campus photographers and alumni, as well as a large number from Houghton’s local newspaper, The Daily Mining Gazette. Topics include copper mining, local cities and towns, social life, maritime and lighthouses, campus life and athletic teams, and almost every aspect of life in Michigan’s Copper Country. 

When asked for some of her favorite images, Holland stops to think. “That’s a tough question. One that immediately springs to mind is a 1909 photograph of the first dirigible to fly over Houghton. I was able to track down a newspaper article about the event and the reporter commented on how the balloon, named The Comet, did a figure eight around St. Ignatius Church.” 

“Personally, I’ve always loved to see the interior decor of Victorian homes. And I really like photographs of social activities like picnics. It’s interesting to see the clothing people wore and the way they did their hair. It makes you think about how things have changed, but also how things have stayed the same.” 

The public can visit the Keweenaw Digital Archives online at  In addition to searching for images by keyword, visitors can browse by subject, or search for just the most recent images added to the system. Interactive features allow the general public to submit comments about individual images, develop their own online photo album, or generate a duplication order for photographic prints or digital scans. 

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

Detail of image #ACC03-153D-01-02, showing young boy amongst copper miners. From the Van Den Belt Photograph Collection, Michigan Tech Archives.


The Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton’s local newspaper, ran a nice story about our milestone in the December 2, 2010 edition.  The story is in online as part of their web edition and an image capture of the the front page of the paper is attached below (the story is on the lower right). 



Not all the Archives’ treasures are collections

Even when you enjoy your work, as I do, it is refreshing to experience your profession anew through the eyes of an enthusiastic student in the discipline. Crystal Laudeman is such a person. A graduate of Northern Michigan’s history program, Crystal is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and is completing a graduate student internship at the Michigan Tech Archives.

Crystal’s internship is supported through a grant from NHPRC, part of a two-year project to develop catalog-level descriptions of all our collections. You can access these records as they are created through our library’s Voyager catalog, WorldCat, this blog, and the public web. Crystal has had the enviable job of actually getting to look into every box in the Archives and reporting on the physical condition of the archival material within.

She’s gotten a crash course in on-the-fly preservation assessment, a skill that will stand her well in her future profession. In addition to surveying the collections, Crystal has brought to our attention many of the hidden gems in the collection. You can read about some of her adventures in the Archives in past blog entries.

One of the things I will miss most when Crystal leaves us to continue her education are our philosophical debates on the theory and practice of the archival profession. The nexus of these elements is, on a day-to-day basis, a pragmatic approach that balances the twin goals of access and preservation. These two ideals, perfect preservation and total access, are really what drives an archives forward. It has been a real pleasure to have Crystal so actively contribute to our professional discourse.

We’ve been very fortunate to have Crystal’s enthusiasm and energy throughout the past six or so months. Although she is leaving us, she has become a part of the Michigan Tech Archives. The results of her work will benefit our patrons and staff for many years to come.

Crystal has somehow managed to survive these past months without her cats, Boomer and Cleo, but they forgive her and will let her make it up to them when she returns home.

Boomer and Cleo
Boomer and Cleo missed Crystal while she was gone, when they could fit it into a busy napping schedule.

Archives Sponsors District History Day Competition

img_10355History came alive for more than 80 students in grades 4 through 12 as they participated in the District 1 regional competition for National History Day, held Saturday, March 20, 2010 at the Memorial Union Building on the Michigan Tech campus.  The competition is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Archives with financial support from the Michigan Tech Social Sciences Department.

Judges for the event were drawn from students, faculty, and staff in several campus departments, as well as representatives from museum and heritage organizations across the Copper Country. The event included a public showcase, with more than 300 parents, families, and members of the general public given a chance to learn from these young historians’ work.

The event operates similarly to other K12 competitions with some students qualifying to move on to the state and national levels of competition. Students participated in five categories (exhibit, website, documentary, performance and research paper)  focusing on this year’s theme of “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” 

An article by Kurt Hauglie of The Daily Mining Gazette is online here.

Of the 42 competing entries, 27 were selected to progress to the state finals, to be held April 24 at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, and could continue to the National History Day competition June 13-17 at the University of Maryland. 

Here are the student projects which qualified to proceed to the state competition (with a few images to illustrate the breadth and quality of the students’ work): 

§ Megan Wells, “Walt Disney, the Innovator of Theme Parks” (Father Marquette Elementary, Marquette – Youth Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Rachel Wells, “Kemmons Wilson: The Holiday Inn Story” (Father Marquette Middle School, Marquette – Junior Division/Website)

§ Katie Hiltunen, Alysha Narhi, Shirley Krogel, “Pasties: The Perfect Miner Food” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Website)

§ Elisha Houle, “The Cotton Gin: Expanding Cotton Production” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Jessica Marcotte, “Portage Lake Lift Bridge” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

img_1041§ Ricky Greub, “American Automobiles: Past and Present (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Ciarra Shelp, Carli Daavettila, “Basketball: From YMCA to Worldwide” (T.R. Davis Elementary, Dollar Bay – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Cecilia Burton, Mandy Maatta, “The Beatles” (Jeffers High School, Painesdale – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Mikayla Kyllonen, Kenny Maki, “Laser Surgery” (Jeffers High School, Painesdale – Junior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Joshua Hendrickson, “The Refrigerator – “The Cool Way to Cool our Food” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Research Paper)

§ Jodi Michael, “Barcodes: Scanning History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/ Research Paper)

§ Lori Petrelius, “The Wonder Drug: The Downfall and Revival of Thalidomide” (Jeffers High School – Senior Division/Research Paper)

§ Jake Stratton, “Gyroscope: Changed History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Performance)

img_1051§ Shelby Hill, Jessica Smith, Katrina Mills, Thea Balicki, “Fire Throughout History: Sparking Changes” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Performance)

§ Dinah Bekkala, “Elias Howe and the Sewing Machine” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Documentary)

§ Jamie Dompier, Kaitlyn Hietala, “The Mackinac Bridge: Transporting Ideas, Culture and the People of Michigan,” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Brett Hauswirth, Devin Kero, Zach Hill, “The World of Fast Food” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Alissa Berg, Erin Raasakka, “Photographs: Snapping Through History” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Documentary)

§ Ashley Laux, “Pony Express – Relay Across the West” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Brianna Korpela, “United States Railroads: Reliance on the Rails” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Ross Michaels, Daryl Usitalo, “BC Tools: Work Smarter, Not Harder” (Chassell High School – Senior Division/Website)

§ Erica LeClaire “A Woman’s Decision: The Innovation of Choice” (Dollar Bay High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

img_1059§ Kayla Marie Nuttall, “The Traffic Light: Making the Roads Safer” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Kalle Markkanen, “The One-Man Drill: Rocking the History of Mining” (Houghton High School – Senior Division/Individual Exhibit)

§ Stephanie Dunstan, Angela Stites, “Penicillin: The Gateway Drug” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

§ Kyle Kearly, Jordan Bierman, Dylan Meyer, “The Gatling Gun” (Hancock High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

img_1062§ Brittany Puska, Hannah Rundman, “Fred Dakota: Gambling His Way Through History” (Jeffers High School – Senior Division/Group Exhibit)

District 1 is comprised of 12 counties in the Central and Western Upper Peninsula. The district competition is sponsored annually by the the Michigan Tech Social Sciences Department, the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, the Quincy Mine Hoist Association and the Historical Society of Michigan.

For more information on National History Day, email District 1 coordinator Jane Nordberg at or contact the Michigan Tech Archives at








Archives Exhibit Travels to Calumet

nara-42-142People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara, a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, is currently hosted at the Calumet Public School Library, located within Calumet High School. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through March 22, 2010 during the library’s regular hours.  

On Tuesday, March 9, the Friends of the Calumet Public School Library hosted a special event in conjunction with the exhibit installation. Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Technological University, gave an illustrated presentation, “Michigan¹s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara” featuring 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 travelling 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 J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the Calumet Public School Library March 19, 2010.  Future stops for the exhibit include the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University, the Houghton County Historical Society in Lake Linden, and the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle Harbor.  More informaton about the exhibit is available here, including details on hosting the exhibit at your location.

Read about the Calumet installation on The Daily Mining Gazette website
Visit a web version of the J.W. Nara exhibit on the Michigan Tech Archives web page.
Here are some photographs from the exhibit installation in Calumet:














More than 75 people attended the public reception held Tuesday, March 9, 2010, which was sponsored by the Friends of the CLK Library.