Category: Manuscript Collections

Archives Seeking 2012 Summer Intern

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections seeks a graduate student intern for Summer 2012. As a regional history manuscript collection, the Michigan Tech Archives collects material broadly documenting the Keweenaw Peninsula and environs associated with Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula.

The intern selected will receive substantive experience in both public service and collections handling activities. The intern will assist in day-to-day public service activities, including greeting and assisting researchers, retrieving and shelving historical records, and assisting university and community patrons with use and duplication of materials.

The intern will also gain experience in organizing, describing, and processing archival collections. S/he will apply theories of appraisal, organization, and description to working manuscript collections. This includes researching people or events covered by a collection, sorting, cleaning, arranging, boxing, and creating a full finding aid complete with appropriate index terms. The intern will likely work with several recent accessions relating to Isle Royale, its contracted ferry service, and the ongoing wolf-moose predator-prey scientific survey which began in 1958.

Preference will be given to applicants currently enrolled in a graduate archival studies program, but consideration may be given for equivalent forms of education and experience.  Applicants must possess the following skills: 

  • Knowledge of contemporary archival practices, policies, and procedures, including arrangement and description, and familiarity with DACS, LCSH, and AAT.
  • Demonstrated analytical and research skills.
  • Ability to work independently and exercise initiative, discretion, and judgment.
  • Ability to work collegially and effectively with others.
  • Knowledge of basic computing and software in the Microsoft Office Suite.

This is a part-time summer position from June 25 to August 31, although the start and end dates are flexible. The intern will be expected to work 30 hours per week and will be paid at the rate of $10.00 per hour. There are no benefits included with this position and the successful candidate will be expected to cover his or her own travel expenses to Houghton, Michigan. Although housing is not provided, Michigan Tech may have dormitory housing available at an affordable rate. Enjoy exquisite scenery, moderate temperatures, and many different outdoor activities!

To submit an application for this position please mail, fax, or e-mail cover letter and resume to:
Michigan Technological University Archives
    Attn: Graduate Student Summer Intern Position
Van Pelt and Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
tel: 906-487-2505
fax: 906-487-2357

Review of applications will begin on April 12.
Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Historical Collections Now Searchable

A group of new online search tools has enhanced the search and discovery of historical records in the collections of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in Houghton, Michigan. The improved access is the result of a two-year project to improve description of the Archives’ extensive holdings of regional manuscript material. The initiative was funded through a $167,600 grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

During the project, Archives’ staff conducted a box-by-box survey of its entire collection, totaling more than 7,000 cubic feet and including personal papers, diaries, organizational records, business materials, mining company records, maps, newspapers, and other historical documents. The project identified more than 700 discrete collections and created standardized descriptions providing information about the size, content, and dates of coverage for each collection.

These descriptions have been revealed to potential researchers throughout the world via a number of online tools.  A full listing of the collections, including collection number, title, and brief description, is now available on the Michigan Tech Archives blog:

Catalog records for each collection are also available on the Voyager catalog at Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library: Visitors may limit their searches by the location “Archives Manuscript Collection.” These records allow searches of collection names, keywords in their brief descriptions and histories, and also using standardized subject headings.

Versions of these catalog records are also searchable through WorldCat, an international bibliographic database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a global cooperative of libraries, archives, and museums. The general public can search the main WorldCat catalog: Participating OCLC member institutions may also search these records through the FirstSearch version of WorldCat which allows researchers to limit type to “Archival Materials” and limit availability to library code “EZT” for Michigan Tech archival collection records.

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

November 7 Open House Celebrates Completed Cataloging Project

Army cadets in the military-mining course at the Michigan College of Mines visited the Quincy mine in 1918. Image #MTU-166-03-0001, Michigan Tech Archives.

The public is invited to an open house at the Michigan Tech Archives at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, November 7, 2011. The event will mark the completion of a two-year project to improve description of the Archives’ extensive holdings of regional manuscript material. The initiative was funded through a $167,600 grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration

During the project, Archives’ staff conducted a box-by-box survey of its entire collection, totaling more than 7,000 cubic feet and including personal papers, diaries, organizational records, business materials, mining company records, maps, newspapers, and other historical documents. Conservation and preservation assessments were made and some donations merged together into larger, single collections. 

The project identified more than 700 discrete collections and created standardized descriptions providing information about the size, content, and dates of coverage for each collection. These descriptions are now accessible to researchers through the Archives’ web site, the online catalog of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, and OCLC WorldCat, an international online resource for printed materials. Through this work, the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives have been revealed to potential researchers throughout the world. 

The November 7 event is open to the general public and refreshments will be served. A small display will highlight interesting materials discovered and described during the project. These include the June 1853 journal of civil engineer L.L. Nichols describing construction of the ship canal and locks at Sault Ste. Marie, a 1915 beer delivery log book from the Bosch Brewing Company, coded telegrams from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company,  illustrated weekly reports showing military-mining courses at the Michigan College of Mines during World War I, printing samples from the Keweenaw Printing Company, and original fieldnote books from the ongoing wolf-moose ecological study on Isle Royale. 

The event will also introduce Elizabeth Russell, recently hired as a full-time archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives.  Russell was the primary cataloger on the two-year grant project and has accepted a regular position with the Archives. 

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

Archives Welcomes New Archivist (well, sort of)

Elizabeth Russell begins the position of full-time Archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives Tuesday, November 1, 2011. She was selected from a pool of candidates following a national search. Although new to this professional archivist position, Russell has been employed with Michigan Tech as project cataloging archivist on a two-year grant-funded initiative to complete collection-level descriptions of the department’s manuscript collections. The project, funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, was completed on October 31.

“Beth has contributed significantly to the success of the NHPRC grant as well as being a highly regarded member of the service team in the Archives,” noted Ellen Marks, University Librarian and Library Director. “She has an interesting background in different types of archives, sailing and cooking that has led her to her new, permanent home in the Copper Country.”

Russell’s hire into this position continues efforts to improve description of the Archives’ manuscript collections. “Beth’s experience is perfect for the types of cataloging and collections work at hand,” indicates Erik Nordberg, University Archivist. “She has extensive direct experience with cataloging archival material and is closely familiar with software and standards such as MARC, OCLC, and LCHS.”  Her two years’ cataloging work in Houghton has also provided her with a detailed knowledge of local history and local cataloging rules which will be essential to the Archives’ future success.

Before moving to Michigan, Russell was collections cataloger for Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History from Providence College and a Master of Library and Information Studies with a concentration in special collections, manuscripts, and archives from the University of Rhode Island. She has completed training from the Society of American Archivists in Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS).

Russell fills the position of Archivist which became vacant when Julia Blair accepted the position of Strategic Initiatives Librarian for the J.Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library.

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

Recent Graduate Projects Utilizing the Michigan Tech Archives

The railroad engine roundhouse at the Quincy Mine has been the topic of two recent graduate projects at Michigan Tech. Image No Neg 2010-01-01-01 (click image for full descriptive information)

One of the strengths of the program at the Michigan Tech Archives is the close collaboration with the University’s Social Sciences Department. In addition to support for coursework and the use of historical collections by the department’s faculty, significant research is completed by students in the Social Sciences graduate programs

The Social Sciences Department now offers four graduate degrees: master’s degrees in both Industrial Archaeology and Environmental Policy, and doctoral programs in Environmental and Energy Policy as well as Industrial Heritage in Archaeology. Across these 4 programs, the department supports more than 20 graduate students.

Many of these students undertake thesis or dissertation projects on local topics – and use the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives in their research.  Print copies of their graduate products are kept permanently in the Archives and most of these are also available as downloadable .pdf files through the online catalogof the J.R. Van Pelt and John and Ruann Opie Library (access to some of these document may be limited to on-campus researchers).

Here are a selection of some recent projects that have drawn from our collections. Links are given to the catalog records.

Preserving and interpreting the mining company office: landscape, space and technological change in the management of the copper industry / by Renee M. Blackburn. Thesis, 2011 . Click here for catalog record.

Quincy and Torch Lake Railroad engine house facility management and interpretive plan / by Dennis H. Leopold.  Thesis, 2011. Click here for catalog record.

Fish contaminants through the tribal perspective: an ethnography of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s tribal fish market / by Valoree Sherick Gagnon.  Thesis, 2011 . Click here for catalog record.

Lighthouses as an overlapping boundary between maritime and terrestrial landscapes: how lighthouses served to connect the growing industries of the Keweenaw Peninsula with the world market / by Lisa M. Gillis.  Thesis, 2011. Click here for catalog record.

From ruin to museum: preserving and interpreting the Quincy and Torch Lake railroad engine house / by Craig P. Wilson.  Thesis, 2010. Click here for catalog record.

More favorable combination of circumstances could hardly have been desired: a bottom to top examination of the Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company’s Cliff Mine / by Sean M. Gohman. Thesis, 2010. Click here for catalog record.

Reflection, refraction, and rejection: copper smelting heritage and the execution of environmental policy / by Bode J. Morin.  Dissertation, 2009. Click here for catalog record.

Arctic network builders : the Arctic Coal Company’s operations on Spitsbergen and its relationship with the environment / by Cameron C. Hartnell  (used photographs from Michigan Tech mining engineering alumni who worked for Arctic Coal). Dissertation, 2009. Click here for catalog record.

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.

Online access to Calumet & Hecla Collection Finding Aid

Archives’ staff continue work on a project funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission to create collection descriptions for each of our manuscript collections.  Although this will provide researchers with a better understanding of the breadth and coverage of our holdings, it won’t initially provide much detail about the contents of individual collections. It is our plan, over time, to continue to create detailed inventories and “finding aids” for each collection which will provide detailed information about the contents of the boxes and folders within each collection.  With a collection of more than 7,000 cubic feet of material, however, this will take a little time.

That said, we do have finding aids available for some of our collections. Researchers may visit our finding aids web page for links to a grouping of some of the more established inventories. During our cataloging project, we’ll also be posting announcements about newly cataloged collections to this blog site.

We’ve recently added a version of the finding aid to Collection MS-002, Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection.  Many thanks to researcher and scholar Eric Nystrom for taking an awkward set of word processing files made years ago in WordPerfect and converting them into a usable web-readable document.

What’s cookin’ today in the reading room.

I worked with a researcher in the Archives today who was interested in any records or documentation of foodways. What are “foodways,” you may ask. Well, that’s academe-speak for what people eat, the social implications of what, how, and with whom they eat; basically, how people interact with food. Food is love, right?

The researcher, Casey Rudkin, an RTC doctoral student, was looking for things like cookbooks and any records that might contain recipes. She was particularly interested in the Brockway Diaries Collection (MS-010), thinking that perhaps Lucena Brockway had noted “receipts,” as recipes were sometimes referred to in the early 19th century and prior. Lucena kept a pretty terse journal, but there are plenty of details to be gleaned of early life on the Keweenaw by the dedicated researcher.

Casey did the hard work, but occasionally we puzzled together over the meaning of some of the text in the diaries; Lucena was not the most legible scribe. We struggled over an entry that recorded the canning of a bushel of cherries, and eventually learned that on one autumn afternoon she and two other women put up 13 cans of cherries by 7 o’clock! No mean feat even on a modern gas range. I can only imagine what that was like on a wood stove in a kitchen without electricity or running water.

Kitchen, circa 1913
This is the kitchen of the Putrich residence in Seeberville (Painesdale), Michigan. It dates to about 40 years later than Lucena Brockway's day of canning. The merchant family Brockway's kitchen may have been a bit larger than the working class Putriches, but the appliances and equipment were quite likely similar.

Lucena seemed to have been ill frequently. Many of her recipes deal with home remedies. One entry notes a “cure for small pox.”

Casey shared her notes with me from the final page of Lucena Brockway’s 1869 diary, written opposite the back cover page (Coll. #MS-010, The Brockway Diary Collection, Box 1, Folder 5). I’m posting it here with a disclaimer that the excerpt is intended for informational purposes only.

Cure for Small Pox

Sulphate of zinc one grain;
Foxglove (digitalis) one grain;
half a teaspoonful of sugar;
mix with two tablespoonfuls of water.

When thoroughly mixed add—
four ounces of water.
Take a spoonful every
hour. Either disease
will disappear in twelve
hours. For a child smaller
doses according to age.
If counties would com
pel Physicians to use
this there would be no
need of Pest houses.

Lucena notes that the remedy worked for Scarlet fever too.

As work continues on our NHPRC-funded project to create collection level descriptions for all of our manuscript collections, we are truly “revealing hidden collections.” Cataloging archivist Beth Russell was able to suggest another source that contained recipes or descriptions of food. In the collection of Perkins Burnham Correspondence (Acc. # 01-103A), a healthy young clerk in the Eagle Harbor general store describes meals at his boarding house with great gusto.

Mmmm, I’m getting hungry….