Category: Collections

This category will include posts about the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives: manuscript materials, photographs, maps, books, and other physical items held by the department.

Help from Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company

Telephone directories from Calumet and Hecla

The telephone has become so ubiquitous in our lives that we often forget it’s a relatively new technology.  In 1952, Calumet and Hecla  provided some help using the telephone in their telephone directory.  In case you need some help yourselves:

“Before attempting to dial a call, lift the receiver and listen for the ‘dial tone’, a steady humming sound … Secure from this directory the number of the person or department wanted.  Dial each digit carefully, making sure the dial is pulled until the ‘stop’ is reached.  Allow the dial to return to its normal position after each pull; any attempt to force the dial may result in a wrong number.  If, during the process of dialing, you discover you have made an error, hang up for a few seconds and then dial over.  If the telephone you have dialed is busy, you will hear a short rapid ‘buzz-buzz’ sound.  If you hear this sound, hang up and wait a moment before attempting to dial again.  A ‘burr-burr-burring’ sound indicates that the telephone you have called is ringing.”

Okay, a little different from today – who remembers rotary phones?

Archives Reading Room Reopens

The Archives Reading Room reopened for research on Tuesday, April 2. Current hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  This has allowed the Garden (lowest) Level of the library to be reopened as well.

Delays associated with the freeze-drying and delivery processes — our materials are being managed by the same facilities handling Hurricane Sandy damaged materials — have made the return to Houghton slow going. Fortunately, the one-third that has been received so far has shown no significant damage.

Read a related story published in The Daily Mining Gazette by clicking here.

Travel Awards Provided to Three Scholars

The "almost ghost town" of Winona includes company houses built by the Winona and King Philip mining companies in 1909. The story of Winona will be the topic of a new documentary film by Michael Luokinen, with research support from a Michigan Tech Archives travel grant. Image MS807-MS04-33-15-002.

The Michigan Tech Archives is pleased to announce three recipients of awards in its 2013 travel grant program. Funding for the program is provided by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, and encourages out-of-town scholars to visit Houghton to undertake research using the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives.

Robert Goodrich, associate professor of history at Northern Michigan University, will research the significant role of ethnic Slovenes in Michigan’s Copper Country. Part of a larger research initiative examining emigration from the former Habsburg Empire to Michigan, Goodrich will explore the important Slovene presence in the Keweenaw, including missionaries such as Frederic Baraga and the development of a large Slovene immigrant community in the mining town of Red Jacket. Goodrich, who holds a PhD in European history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently under contract with Michigan State University Press for book tentatively entitled Austro-Hungarians in Michigan scheduled for publication in 2014.

Michael Loukinen, professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University, will undertake historical research in support of a documentary film project about the “almost ghost town” of Winona. Located 30 miles southwest of Houghton, Winona was a prospering copper mining community in the early Twentieth Century. Although mining and timber industries faded from this remote landscape in the 1920s, the town site continues to support a small community including a school and a church. Archival research will provide the necessary historical background for recorded interviews with current and past residents of Winona. Luokinen holds a PhD in Sociology from Michigan State University and is the writer and producer of more than a dozen documentary films including the critically acclaimed Good Man in the Woods, Medicine Fiddle and a series of films documenting traditional Ojibwe culture and teachings.

Patrick Pospisek, a recent graduate of the doctoral program in history at Purdue University, will explore early federal mining policy in Michigan’s copper mining district.  While silver and gold mining in the American West had significant impact on the federal government’s approach to mineral legislation, earlier experiences in mining regions before the Civil War were equally important to defining federal authority in developing mining districts. Pospisek’s research will examine the collapse of an early federal leasing policy in Michigan’s copper district which encouraged the development of a private, corporate mining industry. The Michigan study will form one component of a larger book-length study of United States mining history in the Mississippi Valley and Midwest.

As part of their research visits, travel award recipients will present a public presentation – either on their research in progress or on a topic from their previous work. Information about these events will be distributed as they are scheduled.

Since 1998, the Friends of the Van Pelt Library have supported more than 30 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.

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

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.


What are footprints doing on this Copper Range Company document?

A note from Florence E. Gregorich documents that certain records from the Copper Range Company’s old Boston headquarters were sent to Houghton for the use of Dr. J. Robert Van Pelt (former president of Michigan Tech and the library’s namesake) in writing a history of the Copper Range Company.

In September 1976, vandals broke into the warehouse and scattered many of the records.  Due to a lack of time and manpower, there was no attempt to reassemble the records before they were moved into storage at White Pine Mine, from where the material was later donated to the Michigan Tech Archives.

Most likely the vandals were frustrated to have gone to the trouble of breaking into a warehouse only to discover boxes of records, rather than electronics.  However, I like to think that they did this specifically to make trouble for future archivists.  I imagine them shouting “archive this!” as they fling the papers across the room.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.