Research grant brings scholar from Western Michigan University to the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives


The Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Fellowship supports in-residence research and scholarship on the history of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Scholars spend several days or weeks conducting research at the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives and the Lydia M. Olson Library.

Past recipients have conducted research on a range of topics including Julia Tibbitts’ Battle for Presque Isle, Bishop Baraga and the nature of his relationship with Native Americans, and the history of iron mining. The grant requires that each recipient return to NMU and give a public presentation on the outcome of his or her research.

Aaron Howe is this year’s recipient of the Grace H. Magnaghi Research Fellowship Grant. Howe is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is working on his master’s degree thesis at Western Michigan University. Howe is attempting to understand the intricacies and dynamics of life at one of Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company’s (CCI) lumber camps in the early twentieth century. The Cordwood lumber camp was active in Alger County near Munsing. As one of the largest land owners in the Upper Peninsula, CCI required large quantities of timber to shore-up its underground iron mines and provide fuel for its furnaces. The company contracted with a number of local logging companies to cut and provide the timber. Howe learned of this opportunity through his archaeological field research at the former Cordwood camp site.


Howe’s research methodology uses dialectical theory or the theory of internal relations to develop a larger and more meaningful picture of work life in modern industrial capitalism. Howe believes that people generally “see work and home as separate entities, using a dialectical theory I see them as interrelated. I am interested in learning how wage labor affects the material culture of home life.” His overall goal is to recreate home and work life to demonstrate the essential connection between the two. To do so, Howe examines artifacts (what archaeologists refer to as “material signatures”) and the archival records that describe daily activity and inter-relationships.

Thus far Howe has discovered a journal documenting the construction of a nursery on the camp grounds. The journal described the landscape and soil and gave insight into the workers horticulture. The journal also identified different work routines and places of work in and around the camp. For his research, Howe is making careful use of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron mining company records. Interested researchers can find the collection’s finding aid at In 2011, the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives completed the digital conversion of 70,000 documents, 220 photographs, and 550 maps and plans from the CCI collection. Researchers can access these digital documents online from the project’s web site at

For more information about the Grace H. Magnaghi Fellowship Grant please see

Blog written by Morgan Paavola


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