The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives: Introduction and History

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Introduction and History

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives started seventeen years ago as an idea among faculty members of the university's department of history. Noting Michigan Technological University's successful archives program, a group of NMU history professors contacted the State Archives of Michigan. They asked about the state's local government records depository program and inquired whether the state archives offered any training or assistance in creating a university archive. Although the idea of establishing a local government records depository program faded, the desire to start a university archive remained strong. In 1985 the university sent two history professors to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for an intensive training program in archival management. One of those professors, Cliff Maier, later received a half-time appointment as the university's first archivist.

Determined that the program would thrive and grow as an integral part of the university's educational mission, Dr. Maier worked to build support for the appointment of a professional archivist with training and experience in records management and historical manuscript collection development. With the support of the library and the university's administration, Dr. Maier won a National Historical Publications Records Commission (NHPRC) grant that provided for the appointment of the university's first professionally trained archivist and records manager.

The university hired Gayle Martinson in 1992. Ms. Martinson immediately began to build the foundation for a professional records-management program that resulted in the completion of 250 specific records disposition and retention schedules. She also wrote and implemented a set of records-management procedures that formed a policy manual guiding university offices, departments, and programs in the effective and regular disposition of their records. At the same time Ms. Martinson laid the groundwork for the construction of a new facility in the Harden Learning Resources Center, complete with a separate storage area, processing area, and reading room. The archives moved into its new home in 1996.

In 1997 the university hired Marcus C. Robyns, a certified archivist, as Ms. Martinson's replacement. Because the position had been vacant for nearly two years, Mr. Robyns found a program in "suspended animation," with many of Ms. Martinson's directives about records management largely forgotten by the campus community. He immediately worked to revive the university's records-management program with a series of outreach presentations to campus offices, departments, and programs. He also continued records inventories and added more than one hundred new records retention and disposition schedules to the records-management program. At the same time Mr. Robyns established the University Records Center, a four-thousand-square-foot secure and climate-controlled facility with a storage capacity of approximately ten thousand cubic feet.

Mission and Goals

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Collection Development Policy and Statement (available on the Internet at http://www.nmu.edu/www-edgar/ais/web/archives.htm) informs patrons that the archives serves as the final repository for the historical records of Northern Michigan University and as an archival repository for historical materials documenting the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The archives is similar to other college and university archives: it appraises, collects, organizes, describes, makes available, and preserves primary and secondary resource materials emphasizing the documentation of its home region and parent institution. Important goals for the archives include serving as a resource and laboratory to stimulate and nourish creative teaching and learning through the use of primary research materials and providing instruction in the use of those materials. …