A Short Lesson from the Archives: Digitizing Negative Slides with a Scanner

Approximately three weeks ago, a discovery was made in the back stacks of the NMU Archives. Records Analyst Sara Kiszka was conducting a shelf read when she came across a collection emitting the slight aroma of apple cider vinegar. This collection contained a plethora of campus photographs taken in the late 50s and early 60s, and the photos were beginning to deteriorate, producing the friendly odor and subsequent temporary nickname: The Apple Cider Vinegar Collection.

The negative slides contained in the Apple Cider Vinegar Collection needed saving quickly, and the steadfast solution was to digitize these photographs. Though negative slide scanners exist for this purpose, it didn’t seem at all reasonable to purchase new equipment for this collection, especially when the Archives already owned a scanner and efficient photo-editing software. Thus, an incredibly simple but equally efficient technique was born:
scan 1
Here’s a negative slide to be scanned.

scan 2
If we scan our photo now, we won’t be able to see our negative slide because the background of our scanner is black.

scan 3
The solution: A white piece of paper placed behind the photo. Now we see all the detail!

scan 4

After scanning, the photo needs to be inverted. With a little bit of photo editing, we have successfully created a digitized photograph!

Digitizing these negatives is the best thing that could have happened to them. Not only will these photographs be preserved forever, their quality was improved, and they can be made available to patrons quickly from around the globe. Most importantly, perhaps, is that this collection can finally be stripped of its Apple Cider Vinegar nickname and given the more appropriate title: Historical University Negatives. Soon, these images will be available for viewing here.


Written by Kelley Kanon

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Collection Spotlight: The Tsu Ming Han Papers

1948. A young Chinese man braves the ridged and stormy December waves on a long 22-day voyage to America. He embarks with no knowledge of the language or culture, armed only with the belief that America is a beautiful country. As he watches the “Gio-Gee-Shan” (Old Gold Mountain) pass him by he looks forward to the future, not knowing what it will bring.

Recently, the Archives arrangement and description specialist, Glenda Ward finished processing the Tsu-Ming Han papers. Tsu-Ming was a geologist who worked for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company starting in 1953. The collection includes an autobiography, awards and certificates, pictures, a photo album of his work in the United States from 1948 to 1951 and other materials about his research and life in Ishpeming.

Tsu-Ming Han was born on September 11, 1924, in a small village called Sha-Chu Zin in the Henan Province. His birth name was Shu-Pen and he lived with his large extended family on farms. Growing up in China during this time was difficult due to the increasing problem of bandits stealing food and ransoming family members. When he was a young boy, Shu-Pen was kidnapped by bandits for 55 days until his family was able to pay his ransom. Fearing for their lives, the family fled their ancestral home in an effort to escape the bandits.

Most of Shu-Pen’s family was uneducated; however, his father believed in the importance of education and eventually their family settled down and his father began a middle school. Bandits were still a problem but his father managed to keep them at bay by selling them drugs like heroin and opium.

When Shu-Pen was old enough he left his family to attend junior middle school where he changed his name to Tsu-Ming, a common practice at the time. He applied to a college hoping to study chemistry but was not accepted into the program. However, he was accepted to the Geology program. He didn’t even know what the word “geology” meant. In his autobiography, Tsu-Ming describes the difficulties of college life due to political turmoil and war.

Amid this strife, Tsu-Ming continued his education and eventually applied to schools in the United States. After a year of effort, he finally received his visa card and enrolled in the University of Cincinnati in 1948. There he met his life-long friend and colleague, Dr. John L. Rich, who helped him complete his master’s degree in science. On Dr. Rich’s advice, he spent the next three years at the University of Minnesota and finished his doctoral degree in 1952.

The following year, the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company hired Tsu-Ming as a Microscopist and he stayed there for the next 40 years. For the majority of his career, he researched pellet quality improvement with respect to compressive strength reducibility and low temperature breakdowns. Despite important contributions, Tsu-Ming concluded at his retirement party “My job during the last 40 years was a secure one. It was also a failed one. Secure because nobody knew what my job was, failure because I failed to communicate my findings to most of the people who were involved.” Ironically, Tsu-Ming’s accomplishments won great praise and admiration from his colleagues. He went on to write, publish, and present many of his findings at conferences around the country. Tsu-Ming’s most notable discovery was the world’s oldest megascopic fossil, which he estimated to be around 2 billion years old. By 1992, he published his findings worldwide in newspapers, magazine, and a CD-ROM for distribution to schools.

After retirement, Tsu-Ming continued attending and presenting at conferences. In 1999, he was awarded the Goldrich Medal for outstanding contributions to The Geology of the Lake Superior Region. Tsu-Ming died at the age of 80 on February 3rd, 2004. His wife still lives in Ishpeming. Dennis Han, Tsu-Ming’s son, donated the collection to the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives.Untitled-4

Blog written by Anne Krohn 

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Feeling Inspired at the Midwest Archives Conference

A month ago I was lucky enough to attend the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) in Lexington, Kentucky. It was my first opportunity to attend a professional conference, and I learned so much while I was there. In addition to enjoying the sights and sounds of Lexington in my free time, I was also able to reconnect with old friends and classmates who are all doing great work at their respective institutions. I was proud to discuss the amazing things that the NMU Archives is doing, and I promoted our great student staff at every available opportunity. I was equally encouraged by all of the stories and projects that are happening at institutions all over the Midwest, and I hope to bring that same enthusiasm back to NMU.

During the conference, I attended sessions which discussed various topics including audio-visual preservation, ArchivesSpace (our archives management tool), outreach for records management programs, and improving social media in archives. However, the session that stood out to me the most was a presentation on electronic records and open source processing tools entitled “Not Everything Digital Is a Disk Image: Using Lightweight Tools to Assess and Profile Digital Collections of Files.”

The presentation showed how easy it was to view and edit large quantities of records just by using shell scripting and an Excel database. A second group member discussed an open-source software project out of North Carolina State University that makes the process of accessioning electronic records streamlined. As archives begin collecting more electronic records in greater quantities, institutions will need to address how those records are accessioned and processed. I am amazed by the work both groups are doing, and I hope to employ similar strategies here at NMU. To see a copy of the presentation led by Bertram Lyons and Jason Evans Groth, please click here.

In addition, Morgan Paavola (recent graduate and former Records Center Coordinator) and I were able to present on the Comprehensive Records Survey (CRS) project. (For more on the project, please see this previous post.) We presented on a panel entitled “Project Snapshots” which allowed us to share our work with a wide variety of different groups. We were pleased with the response from our peers, and received a lot of good questions and comments at the conclusion of the panel. We were approached after the panel by two different people who were interested in what we were doing, and who were excited to see the functional analysis approach to appraisal in action. After several months of hard work, and a few more to come, it was rewarding to see that type of response.

Morgan (left) and Sara

Morgan (left) and Sara

All in all, the conference was a really great experience and I hope that our presentation was able to inspire others. Next week, Morgan and I are lucky enough to present at the Michigan Archival Association’s Annual Conference in Holland, Michigan. Although we will be presenting on the CRS project again, we will be modifying our presentation to appeal to archivists or records managers who are completely on their own.

Click here to see Sara and Morgan’s PowerPoint from MAC.

Blog post written by Sara Kiszka

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Druids, Railroads, and Real Estate: New Collections at the Archives

The limited amount of patrons in the summertime makes it a good time for processing new collections. Here are just a few of the collections that we have finished processing recently:

United Ancient Order of Druids, Negaunee Grove No. 3 Records

The Druids were a national fraternal organization with a branch in Negaunee that existed from 1913 to 1997. It supported members and their families in the case of sickness, injury, or death. As with many fraternal organizations, the members were all male (although women could join auxiliary circles) and had to be between 18 and 50 and of “good moral character” in order to join. If a member’s injury, sickness, or death was their own fault due to drunkenness or starting a fight, they did not receive benefits from the society.

Though the Ancient Order of Druids began in Britain, in the United States they were typically a German and Scandinavian fraternal society. In Negaunee, however, almost all members were Italian. In fact, until the 1950s, the local chapter kept all of its records in Italian.

The collection has membership and cash books, a constitution and by-laws, a book of minutes, and a book detailing the secret ceremonies of the society.

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company Records

This collection has tax assessment records from the 1960s through the 1980s, brochures from the 1960s, and newspaper and magazine articles about the company. Chicago and Northwestern ran from 1859 to 1995, and its lines extended from the Midwest to the West Coast. Locally, it ran though Ishpeming, Negaunee, Escanaba, Crystal Falls, Calumet, Ironwood, and more.

Below is a map of their lines:

North Western Railway Map

Earl H. Closser Papers

Earl Closser was a real estate appraiser and broker. His papers contain appraisals of land in the Upper Peninsula as well as in the Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin. He created many of the appraisals during the expansion of highways in the UP in the 1950s and 1960s. The appraisals have photographs of the land as well as general descriptions of what various communities in the UP were like at the time. 

The Archives also recently acquired the papers of Closser Associates, Earl Closser’s real estate company. However, these papers are currently still unprocessed.

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Summer Skeletons

This summer the archives is cleaning out all the old skeletons in our vast closet and dusting them off. During the summer months our staff is able to work longer hours on projects left untouched during the school year. Many of these projects involve cleaning or organizing archival material so that it’s more accessible to patrons. Here is what our staff will be working on:

Annika Peterson aka Boss Lady

Over the past few weeks Annika has been working on various projects while also handling patron requests. Some of the larger projects she has done are the organization of the supply aisle and the disassembly of ledger books from the Bay de Noquet collection so they can be properly stored.

During the next six weeks Annika will be splitting her time between work and research. In April she was awarded the “Rich and Anna Lundin Honors Summer Research Fellowship” granting her the opportunity to research a topic of her choosing and then write a paper about it. Annika will be researching the relationship between the Marquette community and NMU during 1940 – 1970.

Kelley Kanon aka BFF

Kelley is continuing to work on our newest web exhibit about the student protests in the 1960s. This project was started last summer when Annika and Anne started gathering resources and doing research. Now, one year later, the project has come full circle as Kelley finishes the last touches on the website. If you are interested in finding out more check out the website here.

It hasn’t been decided what Kelley’s next big project will be but she is looking forward to working on something new and different.

Glenda Ward aka The Great and Powerful

Each day for the past two weeks Glenda has been processing at least one small collection a day including scrapbooks like John Lowe’s. He was a professor who came to Northern in 1919 and died in 1938 on a field trip after hiking Hogsback. Glenda is also working on processing the Tsu-Ming Han collection, a famous geologist who discovered fossils in the Empire mine dating back a billion years ago. She wants to continue processing as much as she can of the back log that has been built up over the past few years.

 Prince Parker aka Handy Man

This past semester our previous accessioner, Jessica Ulrich, graduated, so Prince has taken over as our new accessioner for the summer.  However, he is still working at the Records Center reorganizing and reboxing materials while also finishing the last of the comprehensive record survey with our Records Analyst Sara Kiszka. Prince has also been working on various projects including relabeling the photographic file, and organizing our slide collection.

Anne Krohn aka Original BFF

The Academic Information and Services department recently approved the archives to update all of our very outdated digital equipment. Anne is very excited to revamp the digitization station and procedures including making our digital archival material more easily accessible in our database with the help of our metadata and cataloging services librarian Catherine Oliver.

Along with updating and revising the digital station, Anne plans on gathering all the reel to reels, tapes, and 16mm film to inventory and prepare for digitization.

Sara Kiszka aka No-AH!

On May 9th Sara and our recently graduated Record Center Coordinator Morgan Paavola gave a presentation about our Comprehensive Records Survey (CRS) project at the Midwest Archives Conference held in Lexington, Kentucky. Sara will be talking more about CRS and the conference in the next blog post so be on the look out for that next week.

For the summer, Sara plans on moving university records from the Archives, which primarily houses permanent manuscript collections, to our Records Center. She will continue giving presentations including a presentation on digital archives tomorrow at the Northland Consortium in Ishpeming and a presentation on CRS in June at the Michigan Archival Association conference in Holland, Michigan.

Marcus Robyns aka Pops

For the summer Marcus is working hard to obtain records from different local places, including records from the Marquette Women’s Center and the city of Ishpeming. He is also developing an online study guide for the archivist certification exam while still maintaining his regular duties as the University Archivist.

Additionally, he is preparing for the archives to be renovated starting in July. We will be building a new office for Sara and a small hallway that will lead to the back of the archives. The room next door will be converted into a conference and break room with an adjacent door.


Written by Anne Krohn

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What’s Happening at the Archives

Our last summer update post did not cover everything that’s been going on at the Archives, so this week we’re adding to the updates.

Recently, the Archives acquired a collection of records from the American Playground Company in Nahma, MI. The Bay de Noquet Lumber Company established the town of Nahma in 1881. When it quit logging in the area in 1951, it sold the entire town to the American Playground Device Company. The American Playground Company planned to make Nahma into a resort town but never had the funds to do so. We have not yet accessioned the records and therefore do not know what they contain. However, we presume that they will contain much interesting information about the purchase of Nahma and the company’s plans to make the town into a resort.

Coincidentally, the Beaumier Heritage Center here at NMU is currently running an exhibit about Nahma if you would like to learn more about the town. As these records are accessioned and processed, we will give you updates.

Screenshot (8)

(Photo from LIFE magazine, October 22, 1951)

Marcus Robyns, the University Archivist, also has several projects that he will be working on for the next few weeks. Our processor Glenda Ward has finally managed to force several times onto his schedule to deal with some problematic collections that he has been avoiding. These projects mostly include weeding some of our files that have become excessive and deciding whether some of our collections are manuscript or university series.

Another reminder about our hours: We have now switched over to our summer hours, which are Monday-Friday 8 AM – 5 PM.

Our fall hours, which begin with the start of the fall semester, will be Monday-Friday 10 AM – 8 PM and Saturday 11 AM – 3 PM.

Written by Annika Peterson

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End of the Semester Updates and Summer Projects at the Archives!

As the semester winds down, we at the Archives are starting to do our “spring cleaning” and plan out our summer projects.

In the past few weeks, as our Comprehensive Records Survey has been winding down, Prince Parker and Stefan Nelson, two of the Archives staff involved in the survey, have been shelf reading. While not a particularly exciting part of archival work, regular shelf reads are necessary for keeping our records organized and making sure that everything is where it is supposed to be and has not been accidentally misfiled. Our “spring cleaning” has also extended to our internal office files, which we are currently in the process of re-organizing.

In other news, we recently received an exciting collection from the Peter White Public Library—many boxes of recordings from meetings of the City of Marquette’s Board of Commissioners! These recordings span several decades. While we already had paper minutes from these meetings (which have been digitized and are available here), the recordings will be a valuable addition for those interested in researching local governmental history.

In other news, our processor, Glenda Ward, is about to finish a collection of two hundred CCI old age pension records. They range in date from 1908-1917. The names on the pension records will be available in our database, so if you have a relative who worked at CCI during that time period, be sure to check it out!

Speaking of the CCI collection, one of our major summer projects is to create a better inventory of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Mining Company Records. At the moment, our decades-old index contains such helpful headings as “correspondence—multiple companies; unknown date range.” With thousands of volumes in the collection and no locations in our database, researching in the CCI collection can be quite difficult. A better summary of the collection and exactly where each volume is located will allow us to provide better access to the collection so that researchers can use these valuable records more easily.

The summer will also provide us with time to catch up of a backlog of preservation, accessioning, and processing, and other such activities. This includes flattening and encapsulating maps, getting a slide collection into proper slide envelopes, checking and fixing broken links on our website, and more. And as always, we will also be working on the continuing digitization of our audio and film collections as well.

Finally, the end of this semester marks the graduation of two of our staff: Morgan Paavola and Jessica Ulrich. Morgan, the Records Center Coordinator, is going on to the Archives and Records Administration program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jessica, the Accessioning Specialist, received a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and will be attending Ball State University for science education.

We will all miss Morgan and Jessica, but we know that they will do well in all of their future endeavors.

Changes in our Schedule

Our hours will be changing for the summer: Starting Monday, April 27 (the first day of finals week), our hours will change to Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.

We are also going to be experimenting with a new schedule during the fall semester. In an attempt to better suit the needs of patrons who cannot come in during the work day, our fall hours will be Monday through Friday 10 AM – 8 PM and Saturday 11 AM to 3 PM. Have an opinion on the schedule changes? Feel free to e-mail feedback, comments, or questions, to us at archives@nmu.edu.

Written by Annika Peterson

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