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HOUGHTON– After more than a year of research, testing and community-led design, the Keweenaw Time Traveler is ready to launch. This digital map-based project allows the general public, as well as social and natural scientists, to explore how the region and its population has changed through time.
Supported in part by a three-year $259,882 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project—officially titled “Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure”—goes by the user-friendly moniker of “Keweenaw Time Traveler.”
A group of researchers at Michigan Tech have been digitally recreating the many environmental histories or “stages” of the Copper Country using Geographic Information Science (GIS) technology. Each stage is comprised of many “scenes” or time periods, much the way a filmmaker creates a scene to contextualize the story he or she is portraying on the screen. From more than 1,000 historical maps and archival documents scanned from our region’s archives, most of Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties have been digitally modeled from 1850-1950.
The public will have their first chance to try the Keweenaw Time Traveler at a launch party from 6:30 to 8p.m. Thursday (June 15 at the Carnegie Museum in downtown Houghton.
Over the past year students and staff from Michigan Tech, working with local schools and community groups, have scanned and mapped historical records such as city directories, censuses and school registers. This record linkage technique places past residents in their specific homes, workplaces and schools, allowing anyone to search by name or address and see the results on historically accurate maps.
Don Lafreniere, assistant professor of geography in Michigan Tech’s Social Sciences Department says users can search historical records by name, address, place and building type by year. “In addition,” he says, “they can pick a location and add their knowledge, memories and stories to share with other Copper Country enthusiasts as well as researchers.”
Lafreniere explains: “Not only can someone look at the history of a specific address at a specific time, but then they can move ‘horizontally’ across the landscape to learn about the relationships between people and places. This kind of exploration can reveal the immigrant experience, ethnic segregation, daily life in the mining locations and the environmental legacies of industry.”