Media Meet: UPLINK and Preserving U.P. History

A brand new episode of Media Meet, featuring NMU Archivist Marcus Robyns and archives volunteer Karen Kasper, aired this weekend on WNMU. Along with Michigan Tech Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen, they discussed the upcoming UPLINK project and the ways it will help in sharing the Upper Peninsula’s rich history. View the half-hour program on the WNMU-TV website here.

Upper Peninsula Digital Network (UPLINK) Project

With data from 26 of the Upper Peninsula’s 33 heritage organizations, representatives from NMU and MTU as well as Lake Superior State University and the Peter White Public Library came together to form this digital preservation and access network. The project has received two grants from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission of the National Archives, with the more recent implementation grant totaling $99,918. The project is now moving forward with hiring a digital project archivist and creating a Board of Directors.

UPLINK’s mission is to collaboratively manage and sustain a low-cost, secure, and
geographically distributed digital preservation and access service for locally created digital primary source material documenting the history of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

UPLINK Mission Statement

The project was created in response to a variety of needs that currently exist in the U.P. Local heritage organizations, like museums and historical societies, have extraordinarily useful records in their collections. However, most of them are not being fully utilized due to lack of researcher accessibility. The collections are also in various stages of preservation and decomposition, creating an impetus to move quickly and create a more permanent solution. Digitizing the records solves both of those problems, both by allowing greater access online and by creating a back-up digital version of the records.

Until the creation of UPLINK, this is where the problem stood. Although it would have been ideal to digitize the collections, many smaller heritage organizations simply did not have the manpower or technology to undergo the time-consuming digitization process. Enter UPLINK, which created the infrastructure to temporarily transfer, digitize, and return the physical collections while providing the online platform to host and preserve the new digital versions.

A variety of special equipment is needed to digitize collections of various mediums. These are just a few pieces from the digitization workstation at the NMU Archives.

As collections are identified throughout the region, they will be transferred to service hubs at NMU, MTU, and LSSU to be converted. From there, access to each collection will be provided on Preservica, which already hosts NMU’s Italian American Oral History and Cloverland magazine collections. The digital records will also be arranged and described via finding aids on ArchivesSpace, and have metadata published on the Digital Public Library of America.

We are so excited to begin work on providing access to these records for the community! You can see our website for more information on UPLINK, and stay tuned for future updates on this blog. Happy researching!

This post was written and formatted by Emily Tinder.

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Critical Information Literacy: Consciousness Raising and Social Justice in the Archives

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our event yesterday! If you didn’t get a chance to listen in, the entire presentation was recorded and can be viewed at this link.

We’re getting used to online pandemic-friendly events! Technology is so cool.

Critical Information Literacy is a theory of learning that endeavors to impact social change. Instructors can use the experiences and voices found in the papers and records (primary sources) collected by archives and special collections for classroom consciousness-raising activities that also teach information literacy skills.


A response from our most recent Ask an Archivist Q&A social media event.

This presentation discusses Critical Information Literacy as part of primary source literacy instruction in archives. If you remember from Ask An Archivist day in October, this is one of the best methods of teaching our young community members about the importance of archives.

The event also included an exercise using primary sources that document the history of Black student protests at NMU in the late 1960s. All of the documents come from the archives and can be viewed here, along with relevant worksheets and other teaching resources. You can also contact the archives directly for access to the documents or to ask any questions!

The presenters were Julie M. Porterfield, Assistant Librarian at Penn State University (email: jmp48@psu.edu) and Marcus Robyns, University Archivist at Northern Michigan University (email: mrobyns@nmu.edu).


This program was a part of NMU’s 2021 Diversity Common Reader Program. More information about the program as well as future events in the series can be found on their website here. The next event, Between the World and Me: In Conversation, will be February 26th. The program will consist of a panel discussion at 2:00pm followed by Virtual Voices: A Collection of Readings at 7:30pm. Register today!

Celebrating Marquette’s Iconic Ore Dock

The Lower Harbor ore dock that sits on the downtown shore of Lake Superior is one of Marquette’s most iconic structures. With the recent ice freeze, it’s been a fun spot for the whole community to explore in droves! This week we decided to share some of the archives’ collections related to the ore dock.

Photo of the ore dock from February, 2021. Courtesy of Brigitte Landreville.

The history of this dock dates back to 1931, when it was constructed for $1.35 million by the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad company. It was decommissioned in 1971, but has stood since then as a monument to the mining industry and history of the Upper Peninsula. For more information and fun facts about it’s history, see this brief history from the BotEco Center and this Northern Tradition blog post from a few years back.

Collection Highlight: Marquette Lower Harbor Iron Ore Dock blueprints (MSS-016)

This collection contains photocopies of blueprints of the Marquette Lower Harbor Iron Ore Dock and approach construction. The drawings were produced by the Minneapolis, Minnesota firms South Shore Dock Company and Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic Railway Company; and the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania company, McClintic-Marshall Construction Company. The blueprints were created in 1931 and 1932, and the collection itself comprises 4 cubic feet.

These records are great fun to look at, whether you understand architectural drawings or not. They detail specific portions of the construction project as well as general overviews to the projects. Even reading the notes between drawings can give interesting clues as to how construction happened! See the finding aid here.

Collection Highlight: Russell M. Magnaghi papers (MSS-317)

Boxes 10-12 of these papers detail research compiled about the Lower Harbor ore dock by Dr. Russ Magnaghi of the History Department. Within the collection also are the ore dock’s Chief Engineer Files, which contain correspondence, reports, photographs, and other miscellaneous records related to the dock. Portions of these files date back to 1943 and they are organized by topical subcategories, which can be seen on the finding aid here.

In addition to the Chief Engineers File, various other primary sources related to Marquette’s ore docks are included in the research. National Historic Engineering Records, blueprints, news clippings, and photocopied pictures all provide additional information and context for researchers to examine.

Collection Highlight: Historic Photograph collection (MAS-004)

The finding list for this record group of print photographs can be found here — clearly, we have a TON of photos! Most general topics have their own set of photos in this collection, but the Lower Harbor ore dock photos are especially interesting. Below are some snapshots taken during the construction phase, dated on the bottom corners as 1931. Since they were created by the South Shore Dock Company, a description on the back of each photo is a nice addition that makes them particularly accessible.

Although the archives’ reading room is not currently open to the public, appointments can be scheduled for anyone in the Upper Peninsula who is interested in doing research. Call, email, or contact us today to view any of these records, and more! (Please note the archives’ updated semester hours, which are Monday-Friday from 10:00-5:00.)

Happy exploring and remember to stay safe!

This post was written and formatted by Emily Tinder.