Happy Archives Month!

October 1st was Ask an Archivist day on Twitter (#AskAnArchivist). We had multiple people and groups that tweeted questions and comments to us. People asked about alumni at NMU, current projects the Archives is working on, and our favorite photographs of previous strikes in Marquette County. Here are a few of the pictures that we posted on Ask an Archivist day:

blog pic 1In December of 1968, the Black Student Union sat in at an NMU basketball game to protest unfair treatment of African American students by NMU security police among other concerns.

blog pic 2USWA strike April 25, 1946 at the Mather Mine in Ishpeming. Singer Paul Robeson happened to be in Marquette for a performance and came to support the strikers.

blog pic 31949 Gossard Factory strike picket line. The Gossard was a factory in Ishpeming, MI which made bras and underwear. Other than the mines, it was the main employer in Ishpeming in the first half of the twentieth century.


We have multiple events coming up later in October to celebrate Archives month.

October 15th at 6:30/7 PM: Archives Open House and Evening at the Archives: The Embezzling Bishop: The renovations at the Archives are finally complete! To celebrate, we will be holding an open house before our Evening at the Archives event. Come get a tour of the Archives, including our processing area and stacks which are normally closed to the public.

The presentation will begin at 7 PM. Elizabeth Oliver, one of our Magnaghi visiting scholars over the summer, will present on Hayward Ablewhite, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan in the 1930s who went to jail for embezzlement. In a bizarre twist of events, he worked at the Ford Foundation after his release from jail. Refreshments will be provided.

Embezzling Bishop PosterPoster for the upcoming Evening at the Archives event.

October 29th at 7 PM: Dr. Chet Defonso will speak on the role of Archives in documenting LGBT history. He will also discuss materials related to LGBT history here at the NMU Archives. Refreshments will be provided. We’ll keep you posted with more details about the event as we have them.

November 1st at 6 PM: Screening of Anatomy of a Murder with Campus Cinema. Anatomy of a Murder is based on the book of same name by local author John Voelker. He based his story on an actual 1952 murder in Big Bay, Marquette County, MI for which he served as the defense attorney. We will be at a table with some interesting documents from the Voelker collection, so be sure to come and check it out!

Voelker (front center) and the Anatomy of a Murder cast.

Happy Archives Month everyone!

An Interesting Visit

On Monday, September 21st I was able to sit in on an oral history interview with NMU Alum David Williams. He was invited back to Northern Michigan University as a speaker for the United Conference on Monday night. Williams was involved in the basketball game sit-in as well as the Dean of Students Office sit-in during the late 1960’s. Our University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, asked Williams if he would give an oral history interview about his time here at Northern and it was a real pleasure to be able to sit and listen to his story.
Williams was born in Detroit Michigan and came to NMU in 1965. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1969 then decided to stay and get his masters in 1970. Currently, Williams works at Vanderbilt Law School as the Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics and as the Athletics Director. While at Northern Williams was the President of a Fraternity and a leader of the Black Student Union. Upon graduating Northern his thesis paper was titled Anatomy of a Racist University (which is available for patrons to research at the Archives).

David Williams

For almost a year my co-workers and I worked on the Student Protest Exhibit so I knew about Dr. Williams and his time here at Northern. I read some of his thesis paper, I saw newspaper articles talking about the Marquette Six, and I listened to Robert McClellan recounting his stories about Williams and the other black students. For me, Williams became a legend, a person who stood up for his beliefs and fought for equal rights. Due to Williams and the other black students NMU grew and changed. Without their influence Northern Michigan would not be the same University it is today. To be able to meet Dr. Williams in person and listen to his stories about Northern was a great experience.

Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletes - David Williams for Commodore Nation March issue.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletes – David Williams for Commodore Nation March issue.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Interested in listening to David Williams oral history interview? Come visit the Archives! You can also learn more about Williams and the student protests on our Student Protest Web Exhibit at http://archives.nmu.edu/studentprotests/index.html

Homecoming Week Spotlight

As I’m sure you all know, this is homecoming week. Many events have occurred this week, including the Dead River Games, the King and Queen competition, the Scavenger Hunt, the Stepping Competition, Capture the Flag, the parade, and the Tailgating Party. However, these events are only forerunners to the main event- the football game. This year, we thought we would share some photographs from past football teams, games, and homecomings which haven’t been seen before. All pictures below can be found in the Photographic File, ARCHIV-014.

There has been a football team at Northern since at least 1909, with varying successful years and other less fortunate years. Pictured below are members of the team of 1975, which went on to be the NCAA Division II Champion, making a group tackle. Hopefully this year’s team will have as good a record as the 13-1 championship team.

photo 1

Below are fans at a football game in 1957. There will surely be many more fans this year. On the top right appears to be a student section. If you look carefully you may spot fans holding the white cone-shaped “megaphones” to cheer with.

photo 2

Pictured below is a game from an unknown year where Northern played Hillsdale. Hillsdale is the opponent for NMU this Saturday, with the game scheduled for 4pm at the Superior Dome.

photo 3

In these next few photos, the evolution of the uniform can be easily seen. The first picture shows members of the 1919 team in practice, with minimal pads and no helmets. Next are four men with long-sleeved jerseys from the 1939 team, which likely helped keep out the cold in later season outdoor games. Third, members of a team from 1960 or ’61 run out onto the field dressed in white and with newer jerseys and more modern helmets.

photo 4photo 5

photo 6

Below, some players of the Northern Michigan College team wrap themselves in blankets on the bench during a cool evening circa 1960. Games were usually held outside, as the great Superior Dome wasn’t completed until 1991.

photo 7

These last two pictures show a stark difference in team size between the 1929 team and a more recent (ca. 1980’s-1990’s) team. Happy Homecoming, and go Wildcats!

photo 8photo 9Written by Stefan Nelson

Upper Peninsula Newspapers and Upcoming Events!

If you have ancestors in the Escanaba vicinity, are interested in the history of the Upper Peninsula, or just really love browsing old newspapers, you’ll be excited to learn that the Escanaba Public Library recently released many old Escanaba newspapers online! The newspapers range from 1869-1926 and are searchable by keyword using a technology called OCR.

Screenshot (1)

OCR, or optical character recognition, is a technology that can read the characters in a printed, handwritten, or typed document and make them searchable.  The accuracy of OCR varies from system to system, but is typically around 80%–so if you don’t find what you’re looking for, try using other keywords! It has become increasingly common at archives and libraries (though we still do not have OCR at the Northern Michigan University Archives).

However, while we do not have access to OCR, we do have a whole host of regional newspapers on microfilm that can be quite useful for scholarly and genealogical research. Our newspaper collection includes not just Marquette County newspapers but also newspapers from Alger County, the Keweenaw Peninsula, Delta County, Dickinson County, Gogebic County, Schoolcraft County, and even some limited newspapers from Saint Ignace, Dearborn, and Detroit! A complete list of our newspapers with dates can be found here.


On October 15 at 7 PM, we will be holding another Evening at the Archives. Elizabeth Oliver, one of our Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Fellowship Grant recipients will be presenting the fruits of her research here this summer. She researched a local Episcopalian bishop, Hayward Ablewhite, who embezzled a great deal of money from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan during the 1930s. He ended up in jail but later became a director of Henry Ford’s Edison Institute Museum. To learn more about this interesting character, come to the presentation!

Written by Annika Peterson

Labor Day Weekend Spotlight: Iron Workers Local 783

The fall semester is well underway, but there is still one last holiday weekend before the real grind begins: Labor Day. In addition to enjoying the outdoors and grilling hamburgers, one longstanding Michigan tradition is the annual walk across the Mackinac Bridge. For almost sixty years, curious and adventurous residents from above and below the bridge partake in the event.

Especially on the eve of such a holiday, we should not forget the iron workers who risked their life to create one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.
During the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, iron workers banded together to form Iron Workers Local 783 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers. After much planning, Marquette’s local chapter was officially installed on November 23, 1957 just three weeks after the Mackinac Bridge opened to motorists. The NMU Archives is lucky enough to have a collection, MSS-24, which documents the creation and administration of Local 783.

sarapiconeA copy of the original 1957 union agreement.

The original charter says roughly 70 men signed the original charter as founding members of the chapter. In addition, this folder also contains a letter from the General Treasurer which outlines the initial funds supplied to the chapter, Due and Benefit Stamps (100 each) for paying members, and confirmation that Local 783’s seal was officially on order. (Box One, Folder 10).

In a copy of the 1964 approved union bylaws, monthly dues were $6.00 a month for journeymen and $5.00 a month for apprenticeship members. The bylaws also carefully outline election procedures for officers, how the revenue from union dues would be used, and how worksite stewards must be placed on each job immediately (Box One, Folder 7).

sarapictwoThe first of two books which document meeting minutes.

In addition to the original charter list and the bylaws, the collection also contains meeting minutes, financial and benefit records, and election information. The records span from the chapters founding in 1957 to 1994 when the Local 783 merged with Local 8. In addition to these union records, you may also be interested in Sheet Metal Workers Local 94 (MSS-044), UAW Local 2178 (MSS-104), and UPIU Local 209, 110, and 21 (MSS-094) manuscript collections.

As we celebrate Labor Day this weekend, let us remember those who fought for early labor rights in America. For more on our collections, including more records pertaining to the labor movement in the UP, please visit our collections website here.

Blog written by Sara Kiszka

Fall 2015: Here We Go Again!

A new semester has started. As some of you have been hearing about all summer, the Archives is undergoing renovation and we have new office hours. Even with all of the new things happening, we are happy to have the same group of dedicated staff working here at the Archives. We are also constantly acquiring and processing new collections to bring more of the history of the Central Upper Peninsula to the masses. Keep up on the goings-on at the Archives by following our Social Media sites.


Construction started on August 17th and has been progressing steadily. When all is done we will have added a conference room by expanding into the office next door, converted a small office space into a microfilm viewing area, added a larger office space for the Records Manager, and created a hallway leading from the Reading Room area into the Archival Processing Area.

Office Hours:

Monday through Friday: 10 AM-8 PM

Saturdays: 11AM-3PM

Sundays: Closed

The Archives reading room will be open by appointment for the duration of the renovations (4-? weeks). Staff will continue to respond to email requests, phone requests, and document retrievals. Access to microfilm and collections will be limited; however, none of our virtual reference services will be affected. You may schedule time to view documents, meet with our genealogy researcher, Karen Kasper, discuss institutional records with our Records Manager, Sara Kiska, or to consult with the University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, by emailing archives@nmu.edu or by calling us at 906-227-1225. When noise and construction activities prevent research in the Reading Room, Archives staff will work with you to make alternate space available. Please call ahead to check on availability and access.


We are located on the 1st floor of the LRC in room 126, near Fiera’s, the elevator, and the tunnel leading to West Science.

Archives Staff:

The Archives boasts fourteen of the most dedicated team members you will find. Leading the pack is Marcus Robyns, University Archivist since 1997. Sara Kiska graced us with her upbeat personality, talent, and skill as the Records Manager/Analyst in July 2014. The Lydia M. Olson Library provides support for the Archives by sharing the knowledge and expertise of Catherine Oliver, Metadata and Cataloging Services Librarian; Cataloging Assistant, Keith Greising; and Library Systems Specialist, John S. Hambleton.

The rest of our team is made up of student employees and volunteers, all here to help. The multi-talented student staff is represented by Annika Peterson, Senior Student Assistant; Peter Dewan, Marketing and Public Outreach Specialist; Anne Krohn, Digitization Specialist; Kelley Kanon, Web Design Specialist; Stefan Nelson, Records Center Coordinator; Prince Parker, Accessioning Specialist; and Glenda K. Ward, Arrangement and Description Specialist. Our two dedicated volunteers are Karen Kasper, Genealogy Specialist and Research Consultant, and Dr. Steven Peters, Volunteer Project Archivist.

For more information about our staff and to watch short videos explaining what they actually do, visit the About Us section of our website http://www.nmu.edu/archives.

Archival Collections:

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives houses the historical records of Northern Michigan University and historical materials documenting the history of the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This includes the counties of Alger, Delta, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee and Schoolcraft.

The archives houses extensive collections, including labor, government and political files; items from Cleveland Cliffs Iron Mining Co.; the John D. Voelker papers; the Moses Coit Tyler collection of rare books (American history, theology and literature); genealogical resources; and many other collections from community organizations, the university and prominent historical figures. Materials include manuscripts, maps, photographs, film and video, oral histories, newspapers and periodicals.

The Archives is transitioning to a new catalog for its finding aids, ArchivesSpace. ArchivesSpace allows you to browse our collections by title, name of person or institution, or subject, and to search our descriptions of them by keyword.

Social Media:

The Archives leaves its social media footprint on Facebook (Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University), Twitter (@nmu_archives), YouTube (Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives); FlickR (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nmu_archives), and our weekly blog (https://northerntradition.wordpress.com). Keep current on the goings-on at the Archives by following us, subscribing to us, and reading our blog.

Written by Glenda Ward

Construction Has Started

Construction has started.

The workers are here.



Strange voices we hear.

Hard hats.

Sheet plastic .

Blue tape abounds.



Marks on the ground.

Lights fixtures.


Suspended in air.



Don’t go in there.

Construction has started.

The workers are here.


Written by Glenda Ward