Monthly Archives: November 2013

New Digitization Volunteer at the Archives!

We have a new volunteer at the Archives. Her name is Anne Krohn and she is going to be digitizing all of the film that we have at the archive. She is a sophomore Art and Design major with a concentration in Digital Cinema. She is from Merill, Wisconsin. An interesting fact about her is that she plays saxophone. She volunteered because she wanted to work with actual film and she is interested in history.

Here at the Archives, we have a large collection of film that we have divided into two series: one contains video pertinent to Northern Michigan University and the other contains film documenting the history of the central Upper Peninsula. The NMU film dates from the 1950s through the 1980s. It includes videos of sporting events such as football and basketball, commencement ceremonies, guest speakers, Homecoming events, campus buildings, and videos of the everyday life of NMU students. The regional film has yet to be fully inventoried so we are all excited about what we may find! This collection of film contains valuable documentation of regional history but, until now, has been too large a task for one student assistant to complete. We are extremely lucky and grateful to have Anne working with our digitization specialist, Kacey Lewis, to complete this project.

Kacey has been working for several months to inventory and digitize this collection. The work that they will be doing serves a twofold purpose: preservation and access. As the film ages, it becomes more brittle and more easily breakable and the images fade every time the film is subjected to any kind of light. The film will also begin to off-gas as it ages and breaks down (some of the film has already begun to do this), and the chemicals that are released during this process are harmful to both the film, and the materials stored next to the film. This project will help to preserve these videos so that the information and view of the past that they provide will not be lost.

The second purpose of this project is to make the videos more accessible. In order to view the sixteen millimeter film, a special projector is required. Not only is it difficult to provide access to this project for patrons, but it is also difficult to keep a projector in working condition because the technology is already considered antiquated so the projectors and their parts are no longer manufactured. In a digital format, access becomes much easier but, contrary to popular belief, digitization is not a tool for preservation. When one considers the software and hardware required to access digital information and how quickly they become obsolete, it is clear that digital material is an unstable format for archival purposes. For example, how many people still have the means to access information on a floppy disk? CDs and DVDs as a technology have lasted longer but even they only last for about 10-15 years, depending on how often they are used.

Hopefully, at the completion of this project, we will have all of the film captured on a lasting format and be able to provide access to to the public for manyfilm reel years to come!

Prepared by Annika Peterson and Jaime Ganzel


Fun Winter Photos at the Archives

This week we have been updating the display board outside the archives. It now features many wintry photos of campus taken over the years. Some of these photos are really rather amusing, so we thought that we would share them with you.

Untitled-1Amidst a collection of photos of normal snowshoeing activities, this picture inexplicably appeared. One wonders how far they could travel using such methods. The efficiency of such locomotion is also questionable.

Untitled-8Lunch tray sledding was once a popular Northern pastime. People would attempt to sled down the hills face first on relatively small metal cafeteria trays. Here is someone at the top of the hill.

Untitled-6The aftermath of lunch tray sledding –most didn’t make it to the bottom of the hill without falling off their tray, leading to tangled piles of students. People would gather to watch the spectacle.

Untitled-11Again, someone falls off of their lunch tray in front of the crowd.

Untitled-9A person lands after their ride in a spray of snow. The best part of this picture, is, of course, the facial expressions of those waiting to catch the person.

Untitled-7Some were pulled downhill on actual sleds by teams of people.

Untitled-10Others attempted to be pulled on the actual lunch trays. Note just how many people are watching this event!

Untitled-2This series of pictures was found in a folder humorously labelled “Student Life—Winter—Falling Down”. Here, we see a person slipping in the snow.

Untitled-3He finally manages to stand back up…

Untitled-5Only to fall right back down again… One wonders if the person taking the photos ever thought to put down the camera and help this poor guy.

Perhaps the best-known winter tradition at NMU is the Brule Run. The night after the first snowfall, the men of Brule House streak through the courtyard. In the 1970s, streaking had occurred periodically during winter months in the Payne/Halverson courtyard. When this practice died down in the early 1980s, Brule decided to revive the tradition but make it a specific, once-a-year event for just their house. It has continued until the present day, but its continuation is now being questioned after arrests occurred during the event earlier this week.

Prepared by Annika Peterson and Jaime Ganzel

NEW: In-House Genealogist at the Archives!

Meet Our New Genealogy Researcher!

We have a new genealogy research volunteer here at the Archives! Her name is Karen Kasper and she is a member of the Marquette County Genealogical Society. Besides researching her own family tree, Karen enjoys helping others with their family histories. She is knowledgeable in genealogy and is experienced in research and finding information. She grew up in Marquette County and is familiar with the area. Karen volunteers at the Archives on Thursday mornings, and is available to help researchers learn about and utilize our genealogy resources. She can be contacted by e-mail for advice, simple queries, and other information at

Although our new specialist is only available on Thursdays, genealogical researchers are welcome at the archives at any time. We have many helpful resources for those looking for information on their ancestors, including Marquette County Court Records for both civil and criminal cases, marriage records, tax rolls, and coroner’s inquests. We also have the naturalization records for Marquette County, including declarations of intent, petitions for citizenship, and citizenship certificates. Our records from the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company include payroll, correspondence, and many other records from the mines which are potentially useful for genealogy research. The archives also has many records from Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, including the church register, newsletters, correspondence, reports, memoranda, histories, confirmation and appointment records, and much more!

If you are specifically interested in finding information about someone who was associated with Northern, we can also help you. We have a card file index containing many of the former students, faculty, and organizations at Northern, along with enrollment records, graduation lists, and phone directories. We also have the Penninsulan yearbooks from 1910 to 1980 along with the yearly bulletins dating back to 1900 which contain lists of classes offered and lists of students and faculty.

Finally, the archives also has extensive oral history collections. Some deal specifically with the history of Northern or of the surrounding region. Topics covered in the oral history collection include Italian American immigration, underground mining, labor history, the Great Depression, and World War II. Find some of our oral history recordings at

Happy Researching!


Blackboard Sketching and Elementary Swedish Exercises: Bizarre Classes That Northern Used to Offer

In anticipation of the rapidly approaching registration for the winter semester, here are a few strange courses offered by Northern in the past that have been gleaned from old university bulletins:

Northern Michigan University was founded as a ‘Normal School’, a school specifically for training teachers. Because of this, most early classes at Northern focused on education, and some of these education classes were rather bizarre. Blackboard Sketching was a class offered by Northern from 1900 into the 1940s. It was designed to train teachers of many subjects and levels how to “draw rapidly upon the board in light and shade”. At times, Advanced Blackboard Sketching was also offered. In addition to regular courses, all students were expected to attend a daily assembly which included choral practice. Gradually, both the curriculum and the expectations on the students loosened.

Most of the Physical Education classes centered around Educational Gymnastics classes which included such topics as “Elementary Swedish Exercises”, “Marching and Apparatus Work” (which was described as “training to inspire courage” among pupils), and “Fancy Steps”. It is not clear exactly what Elementary Swedish Exercises or Fancy Steps might have entailed as further description was not given. Classes in School Games and Playground Work were also offered for many years. A class entitled Stories, Games, and Songs was offered in which those “especially suitable for children will be taken up”. Courses were also offered in how to read things aloud, in which “attention [was] given to physical and vocal culture, correct breathing, pronunciation, emphasis, gesture, etc”. Penmanship was a required course from 1914 to 1960, and included proper writing on both blackboards and paper.

By the 1940s, a variety of unusual courses were being offered, including Interpretive Dancing for Women Physical Education Majors and Bookbinding, which was offered as an art class. On a more disturbing note, Northern began offering a class in “Heredity and Eugenics” in the 1920s. The class description stated that “the latter portion of the course treats of the possible application of genetic principles in the improvement of the human race, and aims to give the student a critical understanding of the modern movement for eugenics reform”. This course was discontinued in 1952.

Just as the kinds of classes offered by Northern have been altered over the years, the process of registering for classes has also changed. Registration used to take place in the 1960s and 1970s in the “Bullpen”, located in what then was the Hedgcock Fieldhouse. Students waited in lines to register for each of their classes. It was said to be a scene of much frustration and chaos as many classes would close while students were still waiting in line. In 1983, the era of the Bullpen came to a close as computerized registration was implemented. Many faculty, staff and alumni still fondly reminisce about the chaos found every year in The Bullpen.

bullpen registrationPrepared by Annika Peterson and Jaime Ganzel