A Brief History of the Archives
Based upon an article originally published by Robert D. Patterson and David H. Thomas in the Historical Society of Michigan's Chronicle, 1973
Revised and updated by Erik C. Nordberg, 1995
The Upper Peninsula copper boom was more than forty years old when the Michigan Mining School (now Michigan Technological University) opened its doors in 1886. The collapse of many early mining ventures underlined a need for skilled mining engineers and the demand for a mining school in the Upper Peninsula intensified from the 1850's onward. Through the efforts of State Senator Jay A. Hubbell, the legislature eventually approved the establishment of such an institution at Houghton.
In the early years of the school A. E. Seaman, professor of geology and mineralogy, was given the responsibility for purchasing sets of mining, geology and engineering journals. As a result the Michigan Tech Library now has an excellent run of the important Annales Des Mines and a fine collection of nineteenth century mining and engineering magazines. Efforts were made during the 1930's to separate important historical titles from the library stacks, but severe space limitations prohibited active solicitation of other local historical materials. In spite of this some material such as the first Italian translation of Agricola's De Re Metallica and John M. Longyear's Spitzbergen Collection were added during this period.
A step forward for the Michigan Tech Library and its fledgling Archives occurred with the opening of the new library building in July, 1966. A Reading Room and storage area was specially designed to house a permanent archives collection. The first real stimulus to actively solicit material came in April of 1969 with the acquisition of local history material. It was determined that an archival collecting program should embrace all areas of the economic, cultural and social life of the people and institutions of the Copper Country. As a result, the department added personal and business records, maps and photographs, broadsides, family histories, newspapers and oral history materials as well as slides and movies. Among these were Michigan Technological University and faculty publications as well as alumni files.
The University signified its commitment to an active archival program in 1978 with the hiring of its first professionally trained archivist. During this period, the department developed the procedures and policies necessary to solicit, accession and make available for research a growing amount of material on the history of the University and Michigan's western Upper Peninsula. The department formally adopted its current title, Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, in 1980 and moved to larger facilities on the third floor of the J.R. Van Pelt Library in August, 1982. The current Reading Room was refurbished through a gift from the Michigan Tech Class of 1940 and provides space for over twenty researchers. One highlight of the Reading Room is the series of three stained glass windows, one celebrating the Michigan Tech Class of 1940, the second recognizing the University's 1985 Centennial and the third, the "Window to the Copper Country", honoring the Archive's depth and breadth of local resource material -- an important component in the establishment of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The University's ongoing commitment to the archival program can be evidenced through increased resourcing and staffing (now including three full-time staff members and significant student support). The department's recent NHPRC grant award was only possible with significant institutional support.
The Archives is committed to making historical materials available to all researchers who may profit from the use of its holdings. Efforts to develop a regional history collection, accessible to layman and scholar alike, have been rewarded by an increasing amount of use. Development of curricula in the social sciences, particularly the University's graduate program in industrial archaeology, along with the recent establishment of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, underlie a new awareness of potential areas of research for students, faculty and other historical researchers.
The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Registration forms and information are available at the Archives reference desk on the garden level of the J.R. Van Pelt Library in the heart of the Michigan Tech campus in Houghton, Michigan.
Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections