Archives Digitizes City and County Commission Minutes

The NMU Archives has digitally converted Marquette city and county historical records using the same equipment and procedures from an earlier project involving Cleveland Cliffs Inc. documents. The website features commission meeting minutes of the city (1868-1993) and county (1852-2004), links to recently archived minutes and a detailed historical timeline of Marquette with related photographs. Pictured in the center is Howard Taft, who became the first U.S. president to visit the city in 1911.

“Citizens and scholars can go online and access the handwritten minutes of the first county board of supervisors meeting held on Sept. 13, 1852, in the home of Philo Everett, Esquire. He was appointed chair of the board and Peter White was the deputy county clerk,” said Marcus Robyns (Archivist). “You can also see the Village of Marquette’s first ordinance prohibiting construction of wooden buildings downtown after Baraga Avenue, which was supposed to be the main downtown thoroughfare, was laid waste by an 1868 fire that destroyed all official records up to that point. The second ordinance set a $25 penalty for each load of debris dumped on the lakeshore by those cleaning up from the fire.

“People come to the Archives all the time to look at county court records, such as cases of family stills violating the 1920s liquor laws. Now they can explore local history here with the original documents or online where they can save, print or download files. Together they serve as a tremendous resource.”

The website includes a finding aid with information about the collection, how it was obtained, an inventory of contents and conditions for use. The city and county each contributed $10,000 to the digitization effort. Combined with an NMU Wildcat Innovation Fund award of $25,000, it was enough to support a project archivist and student assistants for a year.

“This project fit well with the university’s Road Map,” said Robyns. “NMU is using its expertise, facilities and infrastructure to reach out and provide a service to the local community. Both the city and county understand the importance of electronic records and are starting to invest in their preservation and management to promote openness and accountability. They are being good stewards of the public record.”

As a next step, Robyns said a pending federal grant application would enable the Archives, city and county to implement an electronic records database for material that has never existed in paper format and ensure its accessibility over time, regardless of changes in hardware or software.



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Updated: July 12, 2012

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