The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Digital Collections

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives contains widespread and historically rich paper collections, but we also have an extensive digital collection. Audio and visual materials present the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula, the growth of Northern Michigan University, and visits by influential and famous people. Digital materials include several hundred U-matic video tapes, VHS tapes, 8mm and 16mm film, oral history interviews, and other audio tape recordings.

Archives are dedicated to preserving and making available historical documents for public research, and the digitization of original documents and their presentation on a global scale via the Internet offer the most efficient way to present historical information.

However, digitization also presents the archivist with a unique set of challenges, such as computer hardware and software obsolescence, the large volume of historical materials, and the high cost of digitization technology. Combined, these challenges make digitization of historical documents very expensive and out of the reach of smallest, most poorly funded archival institutions. As a result, many archivists are forced to seek external funding sources, mainly through grants, in order to afford digitization projects. Unfortunately, grant writing is very time consuming and difficult without any guarantee of success.

Digitized Collections 

In 2009, the National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC) awarded the NMU Archives nearly $90,000 to digitize three record series from the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company  (CCI) records. NMU hired Rachael Bussert (now Assistant Professor and Congressional Papers Archivist at the University of Hawaii) as the project archivist. Ms. Bussert and four student assistants digitized 70,000 documents, 500 maps, and over 200 photographs. The collection documents nearly seventy years of the Company’s history on the Marquette Iron Range beginning in 1893.

The Anatomy of a Murder  online exhibit commemorates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the publication of Anatomy of a Murder, written by John Voelker. The 1952 murder trial of Army Lt. Coleman Peterson inspired Voelker to write the novel which later became an Academy award nominated movie of the same name (1959). Voelker was Peterson’s defense attorney and saved the erstwhile officer with an insanity plea. The exhibit highlights the original court transcripts, the hypothetical question, Voelker’s handwritten manuscripts, Lieutenant Peterson’s testimony, Paquette’s testimony, and photographs.

Two former Archives student assistants, Jennifer Hanfelt and Olivia Ernst, designed and created the NMU digital audio collection. The project identified and digitized historically significant oral history interviews of faculty and staff and important events on campus. Hanfelt and Ernst cataloged the digital copies and created links to the Lydia Olson Library catalog, making them more available to researchers. The collection includes the visits by former president Gerald Ford and Alexander Ginzburg, a renowned Russian human rights activist. Also included are Commencement Speeches (1977-1988), a series of recordings related to Italian Histories in the central Upper Peninsula, and links to the Finnish Folklore Oral History Project at Finlandia University.

Up Coming Projects

On April 2, the NMU Archives unveiled a new online exhibition. The exhibition examines the history of student protests on Northern Michigan University’s campus during the 1960s. NMU was not immune to the political and social strife that gripped the nation at that time. Although some protest actions mirrored larger state and national events, many reflected the unique culture and circumstances of the Upper Peninsula. Student assistants Annika Peterson, Anne Krohn, and Kelley Kanon researched, wrote, and designed the exhibition. To view the exhibition, please visit the Archives web site at

University Archivist Marcus Robyns and Records Analyst Sara Kiszka recently submitted a grant to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NMU Archives proposes to use NHPRC funds to digitize the Dr. Michael Loukinen Folklore Film Collection.  The Collection includes over 2,000 minutes of analog audio and 16 mm film outtakes that Loukinen used to produce four one-hour folklore documentaries about the Upper Peninsula.  The project will make the digital collection freely available online.

Written by Morgan Paavola


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