Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Very Sad Farewell to our Records Analyst

Today is Records Analyst Sara Kiszka’s last day at the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives. She accepted a records management job at the University of Florida, and so is leaving us for sunnier climes (and, as we keep reminding her, hurricanes and alligators).


Sara has done a tremendous amount of work at the archives in the two years that she has been here. During her first year, she completed a Comprehensive Records Survey of all of the records kept by each department on campus. Together with three student assistants (Morgan Paavola, Prince Parker, and Stefan Nelson), she interviewed hundreds of individuals across campus and found out what sorts of records they had. She then undertook the gargantuan task of re-doing all of our record retention schedules (which determine how long we keep university records).

She also re-organized the Records Center, the off-site location where we keep most of our university records and some of our larger manuscript collections. Prior to her arrival, the Records Center had several old labeling systems, a bunch of un-accessioned material, and many accessions that weren’t up to par with our current standards. Now, much of that has been fixed (and the rest is in the process of being fixed), all thanks to the hard work of Sara and several student assistants.

Here are some stories and comments that current and former student assistants wanted to leave for Sara:

I will always remember meeting Sara for the first time 2 years ago. She started working at the archives over the summer and for her arrival we had balloons, donuts, and I decorated a welcome sign out front. Marcus even had music playing and was dancing with excitement. The clock was ticking by and we were all wondering where she could be when she rushed through the door looking slightly flustered but with a huge smile on her face! Marcus was so happy he danced Gangnam Style (There’s video to prove it) and gave her a big hug. She apologized for being late but had gotten lost on her way there. (Don’t worry Sara, Florida is a small college I’m sure you won’t have any problems navigating it, but still, good luck.) I loved working with Sara for the last two years and she has been nothing but a joy the whole while. Like with meeting anyone for the first time it takes a few days to get to know them but Sara and I got to bond over a certain officer who we later named a fish after. That was a good time. I also forced her to confront her fear of driving the van even though she’s still terrified of it. And I simply have to thank you Sara, for introducing me to Hamilton, my only regret is I hadn’t started listening to it sooner like you told me to. Sara has worked so hard over these last two years from doing presentations, CRS, organizing the record center, learning how to digitize (at least you tried), even to bringing us candy and baked treats that were vegan so all the staff could enjoy. Sara is one of the kindest people I know who can always bring a smile to people’s faces. She is going to do a fantastic job down at the University of Florida and I couldn’t be more excited for her! We will never forget you, good luck Sara!

-Former Digitization Specialist Anne Krohn

Sara Kiszka. Wow.  What can I say?  Oh the stuff I could say about our Sara but most of it would embarrass her and we can’t have that.  The day she arrived at the Archives was the day that it got a heart and a sense of humor.  Sara laughs the loudest and cries the hardest.  She cries when she is happy, she cries when she is sad, she cries when she is excited, and she cries when she is mega-frustrated (I bet she is crying right now).  So it is only fitting that the nickname assigned to her by Marcus is “NoAH.”  Although he picked for a completely different reason, I think it fits because she has made her office our shelter from the storm, which is good with all of her crying.  At Trivia she always knew the answer to all of the questions about nighttime soap opera television shows, songs that were sang by females with high pitched voices, and literature (no matter how many beers she had downed).  Her only weakness is Gordon Ramsay and she really needs to get over him, he is a jerk and she can do better!

The Records Center will NEVER see another of her caliber, her dedication and hard work is a reality.  She will be missed greatly but she has outgrown us and definitely needed to advance her career.  I hope Florida knows what a treasure they have found.  So I want to say safe travels, get new tires, watch out for alligators and squirrels and rabbits, and remember to get an apartment big enough for all of the student assistants to stay at when we are on Spring Break!

-Arrangement and Description Specialist Glenda Ward

Sara truly revolutionized the archives and made us more professional and organized. Her passion for her job and her unceasing determination to fix anything broken are inspiring. She was always willing to stay late, come in and work evenings when students needed a night off, and help out with events at the archives. She was incredibly supportive of all of the student assistants and cared about our accomplishments and our goals. Last semester, when student schedules worked out such that there were large gaps in our front desk schedule, she cheerfully helped out with patrons and reference requests, saving me a lot of stress and worry. Sara, thank you for introducing me to Hamilton, for lunchtime political discussions, for seemingly endless cupcakes and other food, for rides to and from work on rainy days, and for being a patient teacher when it came to records management projects. 

-Senior Student Assistant Annika Peterson

Sara Kiszka (No-AH!) came to the NMU Archives nearly 2 years ago (July 1, 2014) and changed my professional life. She brought energy, ideas, joy, and an incomparable passion to her work and to everyone around her. No-AH! also brought love to the Archives that she poured effortlessly and widely upon anyone and everyone she met, especially the Archives’ student assistants, whom she mentored, befriended, and nurtured through all their ups and downs. No-AH! never hesitated to cry for pure joy (sometimes scaring the shit outta me) at every student assistant’s triumph, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant to the more cynical or jaded among us.

I have often remarked with astonishment that my career as a professional archivist began the year of No-AH!’s birth. I am grateful to No-AH! for so many things, but the most profound is the rebirth of my career and my own passion for what I do. No words or simple expressions of thanks (even copious amounts of beer) can ever repay such a debt.

I will miss No-AH! terribly, but I will celebrate and honor her time with us (and her astounding future) by never giving up and always doing my best. Thank you, No-AH!

-University Archivist Marcus Robyns


Sara, we hope we succeeded in making you cry even after you’ve left us. Good luck at the University of Florida! You’ll do great.

Written by Annika Peterson


Collection Spotlight: Aurora Newsletters

aurora logo

In honor of LGBT Pride month, we thought that our collection spotlight this week would be on a collection documenting LGBT history in the Upper Peninsula: the Aurora newsletters. The newsletters date from 1990 to 1996 and document both local and national events of interest to the UP LGBT community.

The newsletters included re-prints of state and national articles. As these newsletters were published at the height of the AIDS epidemic, many talk about UP support groups for those with HIV/AIDS or about new drugs or treatments. The newsletters also discuss other LGBT rights issues, including non-discrimination laws, marriage equality, partner benefits at companies and universities, and homophobia or lack thereof in various religious organizations.

Other collections that might be of interest to those researching LGBT history in the UP are the records from the Northern Michigan University organizations Allies and Outlook. This collection contains correspondence, minutes, membership lists, and scholarship information. A major topic of the collection was an effort in the 1990s to extend university health care coverage to the domestic partners of faculty and staff. The North Wind and other local newspapers would also be a good resource for researchers, although there is no index and they are not searchable by key word.

For more information, contact us at or stop by the Archives Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 5 PM!

Written by Annika Peterson

Collection Spotlight: Marquette County Coroner’s Reports

We recently finished indexing our Marquette County Coroner’s Reports, making them far more accessible and easier to search. They run from 1872 and through 1986. The reports were produced for murders or suspicious deaths, as well as for suicides, mining and other industrial accidents, and sudden illnesses.

Here are a selection of some of the coroner’s reports:


The most typical type of coroner’s report: a mining accident. Joseph Maletto died due to a fall of ground in the Lake Superior Mine in Ishpeming on August 12, 1898.


Another typical coroner’s report: Michael Fitzgerald fell from the ore dock and drowned.


This report from 1900 is the first mention of someone dying by electrocution in Marquette County, in this case due to a telephone wire.


Here we have one of the rarest forms of coroner’s reports: a murder. The middle line was obscured by a fold in the paper, but the full cause of death reads that Harrison Howard came to his death “by blows struck by a rock in the hands of Jacob Brown and delivered by him which caused the death of Harrison Howard.”

The coroner’s reports often also contains transcripts of testimonies and autopsies. Here is the first page of the testimony for the Harrison Howard case:


The testimonies go on to reveal that Harrison was a crippled salesman traveling with Jacob and John Brown, a father and son from Ohio looking for work in the UP. Harrison mentioned how much money he had in the bank to Jacob Brown ($350) and showed him his certificate that would allow him to withdraw the money. Jacob then killed him on the side of the road in the middle of  a stormy night. Jacob threatened to kill his sixteen year old son John as well, but did not. John eventually made his way to the police and told them what had occurred.

The coroner’s reports are obviously of use to genealogists. However, they are also a rich mine of information about life in Marquette County throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The index gives a brief description of the cause of death for each person, so you can search it by exact name or by type of death. They are also just fascinating to look at, and they are all open to the public! You can stop in and look at them at any time. (Note: we keep them at our off-site storage location, so we will need up to 24 hour’s notice to pull a report).

The Coroner’s Index can be accessed on the Genealogical Resources page on our website. To learn more about the coroner’s reports, or other collections that we possess, e-mail us at or come in Monday through Friday from 8 AM-5 PM.

Written by Annika Peterson