The Cliff Mine Research Team, Part I: Sean Gohman

Me standing beneath the No. 4 stack.

I’m currently a second year student in the Masters of Science program in Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Tech University. My job on the Cliff Mine project is to be the lead graduate student, as this work will go towards the completion of my Master’s thesis. I am also tasked with writing a bulk of this blog, as I’ve been deemed, “an expert.”

A proud native of Minnesota (go Twins!), my journey to the Cliff Mine began in 1993, as an undergrad at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. A move to St. Cloud State University brought me into the world of archaeology, and for four years I made a go of it, part-time. However a hiatus to “live life and see rock shows” meant a long wait for my completion of an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. I finally received his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from St. Cloud State University in 2004. My work experiences range from archaeological fieldwork in Belize, to managing record stores (remember those?) on the frozen plains of North Dakota, to selling TV’s in Marquette, MI. While living in Marquette, my interest in the Iron Mining industry of the region brought the Industrial Archaeology program at Michigan Tech to my attention.

My current interests academically include copper and iron mining, whaling, and the early history of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My¬†thesis work is focusing on the technical systems of Cliff and the mine’s importance to the Keweenaw peninsula, where Tech happens to be located. I’ve also been recently accepted into the PhD program in Industrial Archaeology and Heritage Management at Tech, and hope to continue working on CLiff for my dissertation. I am also interested in historic preservation, and as a former board member of the Quincy Smelter Association, helped to raise awareness (and funds!) for this valuable resource. Finally, I am currently the acting Secretary for Michigan Tech’s Graduate Student Government (taking over as V.P. this summer), and I see my graduate experience at Tech as having a profound impact on his professional future.

Excavating at the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York. 2008.

What interested me first about the Cliff Mine was its location. For anyone who has had the opportunity to visit the site, you know what I’m talking about. The views from the top of the cliff are amazing, and the evidence of man-made changes on the land keep me coming back for more. Anyone who has visited me while living in the Keweenaw knows that your visit isn’t complete until I’ve given you a tour of the Cliff. But it’s also the story of the changes that occurred here that pulls me in. When the mine first began, horse power was literally power-driven by horses, not steam. These guys pulled giant masses of pure copper (as many as 10 tons!) from the earth here, and that floors me. Anyway, this mine lead the way in determining how to mine copper in the Keweenaw, and the history of the region was set in motion by the discovery of the Cliff Vein in 1845. For these reasons, I think having a chance to document and research the Cliff is pretty awesome.

So please, continue following the blog and please comment/ask questions. I could talk about this stuff all day.

Be seeing you.


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About Sean Gohman

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

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