2010 Michigan Tech Industrial Archaeology Field School: Copper Mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan.

A view from the Cliff. (photo by S. Gohman)

Join the Industrial Archaeologists from Michigan Technological University during May and June of 2010, helping document an historic mid-nineteenth century native copper mine in the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw is famous as one of the few places on earth where humans found significant quantities of metallic copper, ranging in size from tiny flakes to massive boulders of pure metal. We anticipate studying the ruins of the Cliff Mine (1845-1870), one of the region’s earliest, and for a time most profitable, mass copper mines. The site sits atop and below the 200-foot greenstone bluff that runs along the spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 30 miles northeast of Houghton, Michigan. We will reconstruct the evolution of the industrial process using clues left by workers as they built, worked, and reworked the site’s shafts, mill, engine house, kilns, stacks, shops, houses and offices.

The field school participants will learn multiple documentation techniques, such as digital and optical mapping, use of ground-based, aerial, and satellite-based remote sensing in survey- including LiDAR and ROV aerial photogrammetry, measured drawings, architectural and archaeological photography, and some excavation and artifact analyses specifically designed for industrial archaeology.

The No. 4 Stack. (photo by S. Gohman)

Timothy Scarlett and Samuel Sweitz teach the field course. Both Drs. Scarlett and Sweitz are anthropologists and archaeologists with experience in hardrock mining history and archaeology in the United States.

Along with fieldwork, there will be field trips, lectures, and discussions devoted to the history and technology of early copper mining in the Keweenaw, copper mining communities, and industrial landscapes. We anticipate a number of guest lectures by noted scholars, including:

Dr. Larry Lankton, historian of technology and author of several books and articles about the Copper Country, including Hollowed Ground: Copper Mining and Community Building on Lake Superior, 1840s — 1990s (Wayne State University Press, 2010); Cradle to Grave: Live, Work, and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines (Oxford University Press, 1991); and Beyond the Boundaries: Life and Landscape at the Lake Superior Copper Mines, 1840-1875 (Oxford University Press, 1997).

Dr. Susan Martin, anthropologist and author of Wonderful Power: The Story of Ancient Copper Working in the Lake Superior Basin. (1999, Wayne State University Press)

Dr. Patrick Martin, industrial archaeologist and current president of The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), the international body that advises ICOMOS regarding Industrial Heritage issues.

Dr. Michael Falkowski, Remote sensing and Resource Management specialist with expertise in high spatial resolution remote sensing, including LiDAR.

Course Details:

Students will live in Houghton. MTU will help guest students to find accommodations in town for during the field school. Project participants are encouraged to explore the Keweenaw during their time off, and many will choose to bring outdoor recreation gear for mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, and road biking. Students are also encouraged to attend the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society for Industrial Archaeology in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This is an equal opportunity course, and students with disabilities or special needs should contact Dr. Scarlett to discuss accommodations during the registration process.

MTU students can register using Banweb as they would for a regular Track A summer course. Register for SS 3210 (undergraduate) or SS 5700 (graduate), and the class may be taken for 2-8 credits. These credits are repeatable, so students that have done previous field schools at MTU or elsewhere can also enroll for credit. The field school will generally require a full day commitment for Track A, both in the field and in the lab. Contact Dr. Scarlett with questions: scarlett@mtu.edu.

Additional information, including registration information for guest students, can be found below:



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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

2 responses to “2010 Michigan Tech Industrial Archaeology Field School: Copper Mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan.”

  1. edward chaput says :

    My brother Don, author of THE CLIFF, AMERICA’S FIRST GREAT COPPER MINE now resides in Altadena, Ca. and is retired from Los Angeles Natural History Museum. Would your course be interested in corresponding with him?

    • Sean Gohman says :

      Yes of course. I have his book (as do many of the followers of this blog) and have used it quite a bit to help guide where to look for additional source material. Any input from him would be greatly appreciated.

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