Sunday, October 28, 2012

Premier of 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike Traveling Exhibit

Original artwork by graphic designer Mike Stockwell for "Tumult and Tragedy" a traveling exhibit on the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike.

On November 1. at 6.30 pm, Michigan Tech's Copper Country Historical Archive is premiering a traveling exhibit titled "Tumult and Tragedy" on the first floor of the JR Van Pelt Library.

I (Gary) had the great and very fortunate opportunity to be the Project Historian for this traveling exhibit. I can truly say it was a pleasure working with Project Manager Erik Nordberg and Project Designer Mike Stockwell of Cranking Graphics. I really think we have put together a comprehensive look at the strike that includes not only information and interpretation about the actual strike, but also events that preceded the strike and consequences of the strike.

In this traveling exhibit, we included primary quotations from historical actors, text, historic photos, drawings, and maps to give the most well-rounded portrayal of the great complexity of the strike and the people who lived through it.

The traveling exhibit will move throughout the Copper Country and at each new exhibit installation there will be a featured speaker presenting on an aspect of the strike's history associated with the exhibit's content.

For more information on the exhibit, the exhibit opening on November 1, and the presentations take a look at the Archive's blog:

Terrible News at Michigan Tech's Copper Country Archive

Bad news to report on the heritage preservation front. The Copper Country Historical Collections are closed until further notice due to a fire and the resulting water damage of the zoned fire suppression system.

Full information is detailed on the Archive's blog:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian Hall Archaeology Part II

This Saturday and Sunday students from Michigan Tech's Industrial Archaeology program began doing physical archaeology at the Italian Hall Memorial site. The purpose of the archaeological work was to do sampling, in the form of shovel test pits, of what is under the site of the Italian Hall. With this information, the National Park Service's Keweenaw National Historical Park will create a landscape design for future interpretation and education efforts at the site.

Dr. Tim Scarlett, who was leading the dig, was surprised and confident that the archaeological work at the site yielded enough information to give Keweenaw National Historical Park some solid information on which to plan for the landscaping work at the site.

I (Gary) was able to participate in the dig on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a beautiful fall day in the Keweenaw and the group that I was working in found what is likely the foundation of the Italian Hall. I'll post photographs of this foundation, which we found at about 40 cm underground, and other interesting finds from this weekend. I have to write that excavating and finding what is likely a part of the Italian Hall's 1908 building foundation was a unique and moving experience. What we uncovered was buried for over 100 years and the simple smooth faced stones buried in the ground are physical connections to the tragic building that reminded us all of the significance of the work we were doing.

I got chills when I first saw the rough face of the stone foundation as I saw it emerging from the dirt and rubble that had buried it for over 100 years. It was truly a great experience and I feel honored to have been a part of the students, volunteers, and project staff who were working at the site. My thanks to Dr. Tim Scarlett and Keweenaw National Historical Park for including me in this work.

Now, the photos from Saturday:

Saturday's digging was under warm, sunny skies. This group of Tech Industrial Archaeology Program students digs into the lot adjacent to Italian Hall as the Memorial Arch watches over the work.

In the upper right hand corner of this test pit is what is believed to be a small section of stone foundation from the Italian Hall. Our team of workers unearthed this through rubble seen sticking out into the shovel test pit. It was amazing to be able to dig this up; it was an experience I will always remember.

Sunday's work at the site brought much less favorable weather, but interesting finds none-the-less. Conditions got so cold and rainy that at times we had to tent the shovel test pit holes to keep water out and workers dry. Images from the soggy Sunday:
Michigan Tech Industrial Archaeology program student Roger Gerke beginning a shovel test pit in the rear quarter of the Italian Hall Memorial site. There were three shovel test pits dug in the Italian Hall Memorial site, of these only two were inside the historical building. The shovel test pits, once bottomed out, are then filled in and sod is replaced to leave as little impact at the site as possible. 

Difficult to believe, but there is a person under this makeshift tent and down about 80 cms below the ground. This shovel test pit, located in a lot adjacent to the Italian Hall Memorial site yielded very interesting finds and bottomed out at about 100 centimeters. The person excavating the shovel test pit only stopped because a wooden floor was hit at 100 centimeters.

As dirt is screened from digging in the shovel test pits, small pieces of physical history emerge. This tiny artifact is a piece of porcelain from the lot adjacent to the Italian Hall Memorial site. Through historic photographs and maps, it was determined that this lot housed a saloon and residences and this piece of porcelain probably came from one of those historic residences. 
Iron artifact from a shovel test pit inside the Italian Hall--or rather from inside where the Italian Hall once stood. It is thought that this artifact is perhaps a piece of hardware, perhaps a coat hook. The Italian Hall's interior had many coat hooks and the depth of this coat hook in the ground, indicated that it was a historic artifact, likely from Italian Hall. The next step for this artifact is a good cleaning in the Tech's Industrial Archaeology lab to remove the rust and dirt from around the artifact.

Difficult to tell from this image, but this shovel test pit goes down about 100 centimeters. The various layers or levels of soil can be seen in the walls of the shovel test pit. The bottom of this shovel test pit proved very interesting as a number of glass bottles and glass bottle fragments sat on top of a wood floor.

More Italian Hall Archaeology News Stories

From the Houghton Bureau of NBC's Marquette affiliate:

From ABC 5 & 10:

Italian Hall Archaeology Article Daily Mining Gazette

The Daily Mining Gazette featured this October 22, 2012, article about the archaeological work on the Italian Hall site. My daughter and I volunteered to help work at the site and our group was lucky enough to have dug an archaeological test pit that uncovered what is likely the foundation of the 1908 Italian Hall building. It was an amazing moment knowing that our crew of diggers had uncovered large foundation stones from Italian Hall that had not seen the light of day in over 100 years (it was also amazing working with my daughter on this project). Thus, it was a great day all around and especially gratifying were the number of people that stopped by and asked questions about the dig and the site. It was great talking with them and answering questions about the site.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Italian Hall Archaeology

GPR scanning below the surface at the Italian Hall memorial site, Calumet, Michigan

GPR readout monitor, showing what lies underneath the surface of Italian Hall

Michigan Technological's University's Industrial Archaeology program is undertaking an archaeological study of the Italian Hall site in Calumet, Michigan, for the National Park Service's future landscape improvements to the incredibly significant historical site.

I (Gary) gave a presentation to the class undertaking the archaeological investigation on October 11, 2012, and stressed the significance of Italian Hall and the memorial as an important site in American labor history and that the memorial and events of Italian Hall were a part of public history that was simultaneously "contested history."
The crux of my presentation was that the Italian Hall, the events of the fateful Christmas Eve, and the memorial site were all parts of public history--not the purview of any one person, institution, or agency. There are many stakeholders associated with a site like Italian Hall, and this makes the memorial site and the tragic history associated with it "contested history." Contested history because of its very nature is complex, but the best definition that I have run across comes from Charles Darwin University in Australia. It reads:

History is often portrayed as the description of what happened in the is understood that 'history' is more correctly described as 'histories'. If what we see and do is dependent upon our observations, then each person will have a different view of a particular event, they will construct their own history. Add to this the complexities of interpretation and language and there is likely to be no chance of there being one 'true' history. History is contingent and dependent upon the circumstances in which you find yourself, the image you want to portray and the rights you have to present your turn of the events. History is often described as the story of the winners!

...the issues at stake then are not just the accuracy of the textbooks, but the actual power and influence that goes with being the person or group that gets your story heard. It is the history of the dominant group that gets to be told and it is their story that is often the one that becomes normalised whilst the stories of others gets 'othered' or ignored. Minority groups and outcasts in society don't get to tell their story or their side of a story.

As a note: our research and writing on Italian Hall aims to present the working class history associated with the site. We are presenting the "other side" of the story and from the perspective of strikers, workers, and those that did not have an "official" voice during the events of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike.

This archaeological project is a great example of public history at a contested space in that a number of agencies and stakeholders are involved in the project: local government, a state university, and a federal government agency--the National Park Service. Partnerships like these give a wide breadth of knowledge and resources to under-served, but crucial, complex historical sites like Italian Hall.

Then on October 14, 2012, a morning and afternoon crew of undergraduate and graduate students in Michigan Tech's Social Sciences department laid outs lines and a historic preservation professional from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community scanned the site with ground penetrating radar (GPR) to gain an idea of what lies beneath the surface of the ground at the tragic historical site.

Doing a GPR scan of the site is the first step in an archaeological survey of the site. Step 2 happens this upcoming weekend when students will be doing shovel test pits (STPs) to check for significant historical remains on the site. This archaeological work is mandated by Section 106 heritage preservation law.

This process will help Keweenaw National Park, the organization that administers the site for the Village of Calumet, determine what types of changes to incorporate for the site's landscape improvements during the centennial year of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike. 

Pictures of this weekend's dig will be posted on the site early next week. I'm extremely excited to see what artifacts come from the STPs. This type of analysis at Italian Hall has never been done before, and promises to be an interesting and informative experience.