HOUGHTON - Six years after beginning the long and tedious process of scanning images, the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has reached 10,000 images.
The Keweenaw Digital Archives, a web-based collection of historical photographic images of Michigan's Copper Country, added its 10,000th image Nov. 19.
The collection consists of local photographs, ranging from 1857 to the 1990s, taken by various photographers and is drawn primarily from the photographic holdings of the Tech?Archives and document the social and industrial life of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University Archives Assistant Christine Holland prepares Wednesday to insert a scanned image into the Keweenaw Digital Archives. More than 10,000 images have been put online since the KDA’s inception six years ago.
Christine Holland, archives assistant, said she completed about 98 percent of the scanning, which began six years ago.
"It's been an incredible experience," Holland said. "I've lived here all my life, but it really wasn't until I started scanning photos for the digital site that I really began to appreciate the buildings, places and history around me."
Chief Archivist Erik Nordberg said it was important to be able to offer a chunk of the collection online for those who cannot locally access the archives.
"For most of our collection, people have to physically walk in the door, while we're open," Nordberg said. "We've been looking for ways, for a long time, to get images on the web."
Holland, with the help of a few others, selected photographs they considered the most interesting. Using the utmost care, each image was scanned and catalogued, being paired with keywords and descriptions.
"The challenge is to describe it and store it so that you can find it again," Nordberg said.
Since only the best of the best photos are picked for the digital archives for now, chances are, the archives have more on file on campus.
Each photograph is measured in centimeters, and they document important dates and photographers. A small amount of cleaning up the images is done, but the idea is to showcase the authentic reproduction of the original photo in its entirety.
"Sometimes we have glass plate negatives that are cracked," he said. "Sometimes the color is a little off."
Each photo also has a comment section attached, which has been an important tool for the archives as the public is welcome to add input to give more background information about the photographs.
"This is an incredible milestone for our digital collection," Nordberg said. "We began this project in March 2006 and have grown from success to success over the last four years. It's a testament to Christine's efforts that we have been able to create such a rich and varied public resource in such a short time."
The Keweenaw Digital Archives includes photographs from a variety of sources and covering a variety of periods and topics include copper mining, local cities and towns, social life, maritime and lighthouses, campus life and athletic teams, and almost every aspect of life in Michigan's Copper Country. Photographs come from early photographers as well as sources like old Daily Mining Gazette newspapers.
"We collect stuff about the history of the university," Nordberg said. "We like to think we're the best first place to start a research project."
Although the archives contains a lot of information about the university, a majority of material is regional-based. In fact, the archives has thousands of pieces of material concerning the history of the Copper Country, and has served as a tool for those researching genealogy and the history of their homes as well.
"We serve about 1,500 people a year who come through the doors from everywhere," Holland said.
Initial funding for the digital archives initiative was part of the Michigan Tech Archives "Interior Ellis Island" ethnic history project. A donation from Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack supported the purchase of computer and scanning equipment necessary for the work. A grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, supported the more significant aspects of the project.
The Keweenaw Digital Archives can be accessed online at digarch.lib.mtu.edu. Searching is as simple as entering a keyword. In addition to searching for images by keyword, visitors can browse by subject, or search for the most recent images added to the system. Interactive features allow the general public to develop photo albums, generate a duplication order for photographic prints or digital scans and leave comments.
For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 487-2505 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at email@example.com.