Monthly Archives: October 2017

Day in the Life Spotlight: First Six Days at Work

When I applied to the Archives Student Assistant position at the beginning of the Fall Semester, I was unaware of the type of work I might have been doing if I was hired. A friend of mine who works at the library claimed that they would most likely have me at a desk, welcoming patrons, and taking calls. Today, I will be coming into a close of my sixth day working at the archives, and although I have been trained on how to take calls and welcome patrons, everything I have done has been far more interesting than anyone (myself included) would have assumed.

It was expressed to me that I would be taking on the title of Digitization Specialist I. For those who do not know, digitization is the conversion of documents, photos, or sound recordings into a digital form. What I find fascinating about this type of work is that digitization gives people access to these historical documents or photos without having to physically walk into the archives. Of course, I think every student should come in to see the beauty of the archives, but as a true millennial, I take pleasure in knowing that the world can be accessed from my fingertips. Now, I can gladly inform other students that they can time travel back in time just by visiting our website, Archives Space, the online exhibits links, and our blog, etc.
Although my job is to take these old photos, cassettes, and documents and make them
accessible online, I found that while I was being trained I had mixed feelings. One of those feelings was nostalgia; looking at the VHS trying to recall how to even place it into the player, as I had not used a VHS player since I was five or six years old. The other was a mix between curiosity and humility. As I stated before, I truly do enjoy being born into a generation in which much of the world can be accessed by my smartphone, a time in our world that I can call my mother, while emailing a coworker, while texting a friend. In the age of multitasking, today I found myself truly entranced by the amount of work I had to put into learning how to use the Film Reel Projector.

To use this projector, my coworker and I had to find a 16mm film reel. This started with us being given a location for a film called Trout Madness by John Voelker on our database Archives Space, and then using the location number to find it. When we had found the box, we took the film out and had to figure out how to loop the film onto the actual projector. Once this had been deciphered, we found ourselves with yet another obstacle. While we could hear the film, there was no projection to be seen. After messing with different buttons, and the moving the lens in and out of focus, finally we had achieved a clear moving picture of Trout Madness. This whole process took about 45 minutes, and although frustrating and puzzling, it was immensely satisfying to finally see what we had worked so hard for.

IMG_4548 (1)

(The film projector in use.)
Had I not applied to the Archives, it is likely I would have not ever used a VHS player again, I would have never learned how to use a film reel projector (or even seen a 16mm film), or learned that John Voelker had an obsession with trout fishing. I guess what I am trying to say is that although I love this fast paced time that is 2017, I am so appreciative of the different things I can gain from learning about the past.

(This post was written by Kyleigh Sapp)


Person Feature: New Student Assistants!

For this week’s blog post, all of us here at the Archives would like to welcome our new staff members! As is customary, we’ll highlight our new hires for you all.

Emily Wros will be one of two AAUP Specialists. The AAUP (American Association of University Professors) records collection is being merged with the Academic Senate records, in a large time-consuming project sponsored by a grant that our resident University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, received. Emily is a junior with a History Major at NMU. She hopes to work as a librarian or an archivist in the future.


Our other AAUP Specialist is Eliza Compton. Eliza is a freshman with a Secondary Education- Social Studies major and double minoring in Secondary Education- Spanish, and Secondary Education- English.


Lucas will be our Records Center Specialist, a title formerly held by Stefan (now Number One #11). He will be assisting Marcus with accessioning and other various projects out at the University Records Center- our other records storage facility. Lucas is a junior, majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Environmental Studies.


Kyleigh Sapp will be joining Lydia and Libby as another digitization specialist. Kyleigh is a sophomore with an International Studies Major, from Hudsonville, Michigan. Her interests include learning Spanish, watching random documentaries on YouTube and Netflix, and making food with friends. She is excited to see what she can learn from working at the Archives.


Check out the Meet the Staff page on NMU Archives website to learn more about our new employees! Welcome Kyleigh, Emily, Eliza, and Lucas!

(This post was written by Libby Serra and Stefan Nelson).

Collection Feature: The Granite Island Lighthouse Keeper’s Log Books

Shimmering on the horizon about 12 miles north of Marquette, Granite Island is a windswept, desolate outcrop of rock raising about 60 feet above the surface of Lake Superior. Looking something like an overturned boat or the conning tower of a modern day submarine, the Ojibwe Indians aptly named the island Na-Be-Quon (canoe with a hump). By the end of the Civil War, the Island had become a serious threat to the numerous sail and steam ships serving the expanding iron ore mines and bustling town of Marquette. Recognizing the peril, in 1865 Congress approved funds for a lighthouse on the Island, and the following year the state of Michigan condemned the property and seized it by right of eminent domain. Construction began in 1868, and the lighthouse became operational in 1869 with the arrival of its first two keepers.
Granite Island Lighthouse_1904In 1999, NMU alum and chair of the NMU Board of Trustees, Scott Holman, purchased
Granite Island from the U.S. Coast Guard and began a long and expensive process of renovation. This past summer, he loaned the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives photocopies of the Granite Island Lighthouse Keeper’s Log Books maintained by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The original log books are part of the historical records of the U.S. Coast Guard and document lighthouse operations from 1901 to 1937. The keeper or assistant keeper made daily entries concerning maritime events, work around the lighthouse, and special visits. They would also note weather conditions and report on the visibility of the signal light during periods of poor inclement weather.

Photograph of Granite Island_10.7.1913

The Keeper’s Log Books offer a partial glimpse into the rugged, isolated, and largely
mundane life of the Granite Island Lighthouse keeper and his assistant. Entries are mainly colorless iterations of the same general work activities, such as scrubbing floors or chopping wood, punctuated from time-to- time with accounts of sudden activity, drama, or horror. John Wheatley was the longest serving Granite Island Lighthouse keeper, retiring at the age of 83 after 30 years (1885-1915) in the company of his assistant keeper, annoying seagulls, and wild rhubarb. In 1898, the long suffering Wheatley lost his son to a sudden gale that overturned the young man’s small sail boat in transit to the Island from Marquette. Five years later, the assistant Keeper, John McMartin, launched the station’s boat on a routine supply run to Marquette. As McMartin rounded the southern tip of the island, Wheatley watched helplessly as rough seas smashed the boat into the jagged rocks, drowning McMartin. His body was never found. Despitethe horror of the incident, Wheatley’s laconic prose for October 2, 1903, departs little insubstance or emotion from all his previous prosaic entries about daily life on the rock.


Regardless of Wheatley’s stoic powers of observation, the Keeper’s Log Books actually
document the most active and expansive period in the history of the Granite Island Lighthouse. Over the next thirty years, the Coast Guard constructed, among many other improvements, a new seawall; rebuilt the boathouse and relocated it to a more sheltered spot; and built steel boat ways on the north side of the island. In October 1901, a work crew arrived to build a new boat house and lay walkways around the island. Rough weather and seas made boat landings and work often hazardous, as Wheatley’s log entry about the crew’s arrival notes rough weather that included “changeable wind” and “rain squalls.”

Below are some examples of the Keeper’s log book entries.


Transcription: At 8 AM Mr. J. McMartin went to boat houses got boat and started to sail it round to south side of island by [circling] [preparatory] to going to Marquette. Fierce wind from NE. Sea caught boat and dashed it against front of rocks; boat smashed to [pieces] and Mr. J. McMartin was drowned. Nothing was seen of body.


Entry for October 3, 1903, documenting the arrival of a work crew to begin construction of a boathouse and walkway around the island. Note the arrival of the steamer USS Amaranth. This steamer continued to service the island well into the 1930s.


Entry for July 25, 1926, noting an unusual social visit by a family from Marquette.

The Archives has created digital copies of the Granite Island Lighthouse Keeper’s Log Books and plans to make them available online as soon as possible. In the meantime, NMU alumni and the general public are welcome to visit the Archives anytime during our open hours, or contact the University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, for more information about the collection.

(This post was written by the Archivist, Marcus Robyns).