In the Shadows of the Shafts : Remembering mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan, in 1972-1978

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Title: In the Shadows of the Shafts : Remembering mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan, in 1972-1978
Author: Kataja, Meeri
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies (2010-2017)
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Poliittinen historia
Political History
Politisk historia
Abstract: Copper mining has characterized the Keweenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from the 1840s. The industry that lasted in the region over 100 years has been profoundly studied, but the industrial heritage has received less attention. This study is interested in the memory of mining and in the future prospects of locals right after the closure of the mines in 1969. This study is data-driven, using the interviews conducted within the Finnish Folklore and Social Change in the Great Lakes Mining Region Oral History Project by the Finlandia University in 1973-1978. The method is thematic analysis, which is used to identify, analyze and report themes related to talk on the mines, mining, the 1913 Strike, and the future. Two main themes are negative and positive talk. Within negative talk, three sub-themes are identified: insecurity, disappointment and loss. There is more negative talk within the data set, especially because of the 1913 Strike and the Italian Hall Disaster, which were still commonly remembered. In addition, insecurity is present with topics like working conditions, copper mining operations and workers’ organization. The theme of disappointment is most clear in parts where the interviewees are talking about the economic heritage of mining and strikes that were organized after 1913 too. Loss is felt with the dying industry itself, with environmental heritage, but also when discussing the many men who died in the mines. The sub-themes of positive talk are paternalism, comfort and communality. Paternalism is mostly seen positively: the mining companies took care of the people and the communities. Keweenaw was a single-industry area and the interviewees found comfort in having the mines operating, as this was all they had. The theme of communality includes talk on achievements outside the mining shafts. Interestingly, the region was able to maintain a stable, yet smaller population. Education in particular became important, and many interviewees saw hope in the future even without the mines. The themes within future talk respond well with the themes identified within the remembrance of mining. The history of mining in the Copper Country has largely followed the grand narrative of mining sites. This study focuses on what happens after mining activities come to an end, which is always the case with boom-and-burst industries. It brings to the forefront the locals that have been recognized as important actors in mining operations. In a broad meaning, industrial heritage can comprise the experiences, beliefs and attitudes of locals. In this case, the regionality of industrialization, modernity and de-industrialization is clear, and it can be taken as an example of the industrial heritage of mining
Subject: Mining
industrial heritage
Subject (yso): kaivosalueet

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