HOUGHTON - The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection is still recovering from an Oct. 26 fire, but it's now open for business to Tech students, faculty and the general public.
Public hours for the archives, which are located in the garden level of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, are 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, though they will be closed between Christmas and New Year's Day.
"People are very welcome to come in during those hours," University Archivist Erik Nordberg said. "Pretty much anybody coming in, we're doing everything we can to get them what they need."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection Processing Archivist Daniel Michelson, front, and University Archivist Erik Nordberg, look through records temporarily stored in the garden level corridor while recovery efforts continue following an Oct. 26 fire in the “stacks” room.
Five employees continue to work on disaster recovery, and hundreds of boxes of displaced records currently line the main basement corridor.
Up to 1,200 cubic feet of records of the approximately 8,000 feet in the collection, were affected in some way by the fire.
"The cause of the fire is officially undetermined after the investigation," Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services Deputy Chief of Police Brian Cadwell said, but he also added that it was "very likely caused by malfunction of the light fixture."
The fire took place in the 8,000-square-foot "stacks" room, but only about 200 square feet of that space with about 1,400 boxes was affected, with much of the damage being done by the sprinkler system.
"We have movable compact shelving, so there's a lot of material in 200 square feet," Nordberg said. "From what we've seen so far, we still only know of about 10 boxes that were not recoverable, and we have an idea of what those things were, and it wasn't anything that was really highly critical."
Parts of the Phil Ruppe (a notable Upper Peninsula Congressman) and Copper Range Mining Company collections were heavily damaged, but none of the Archives' extension files of maps and blueprints was damaged, and neither were Quincy and Calumet and Hecla mining records.
About 720 boxes were shipped to Belfor, a disaster recovery company in Philadelphia, where contents will go through a freeze-drying treatment process to limit water damage. Belfor will work through three batches,with each batch taking two to four weeks, and the process has been slow since they are also working on Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.
"The stuff that went to Philadelphia we just don't know yet," Nordberg said. "We're pretty confident that most of that will not be affected and will come back to us looking pretty much the same as it did, but until we actually see it it's pretty hard to assess that."
The Archives opened to the public in a limited capacity Nov. 19, and a temporary reading room has been set up in the hallway. In addition to organizing and re-boxing files, much of the work so far has included structural repairs in the stacks room. All shelves still in the room were covered with plastic to prevent dust damage while new light fixtures and ceiling tiles were installed, and the old carpeting was ripped out and replaced with tile floor. Some shelving had to be removed to replace floor moldings, and staff expects to be able to start moving it back in by Jan. 1.
"We're trying to get things back to what they looked like before the disaster occurred," Nordberg said. " Right now our target is to have everything done by the end of March, but we're still continuing to run our public service."