We are continually trying to tweak and improve the SeekingMichigan web site.  To date, we’ve put out over a million records and images online.  We hope to launch an e-commerce module in the next month, and then look at comments, ratings etc.  We have also begun to build out resources like our Michigan County Clerks map.  More of this type of material will be available soon.

Reaching People

In the end though, our goal is VERY simple: to reach people with stories and resources about Michigan.  So we are especially tickled when the people from the stories reach back.  A recent example is Archivist Bob Garrett’s article on the 1961 Miss Michigan, Karen Southway  (here’s the article).

Karen Southway Dewert, Miss Michigan 1960

Upon publishing the blog article on seekingmichigan.org, we quickly had a comment posted stating “I’m flattered please write”  Turns out, the comment was from Karen Southway Dewert, Miss Michigan 1961 herself.  Here is a little snippet of Karen’s message:

WHAT A CRAZY WORLD WE LIVE IN.. MY BROTHER, WHO LIVES IN AZ. FORWARDED THIS TO ME IN CHICAGO…AND YES, I FOUND TIME TO MARRY ROGER DEWERT IN JULY OF ’64.(HE PASSED JAN ’06)  WE HAD 3 FABULOUS CHILDREN, NOW IN THEIR 40’S. I BECAME A PROFESSIONAL MAKE-UP ARTIST AND PAGEANT COACH..AND MOST RECENTLY, PHOTOGRAPHER AND PHOTO EDITOR.  LAST AUGUST I CELEBRATED 47 YEARS IN THE BUSINESS. HAVE HAD MANY WINNERS; BUT THE ONES I MOST LIKE MENTIONING ARE THE THREE MISS AMERICAS I ASSISTED TO THE CROWN..MARJORIE VINCENT 1990, KATE SHINDLE 1997 AND ERICA HAROLD 2003.  JUST TO THINK THAT IN ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF, IT WILL BE 50 YEARS AGO THAT I WAS CROWNED MICHIGAN…..SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY….WHERE DID THOSE DAYS GO?  -KAREN
We keep plugging away at seekingmichigan.org.  Adding new content, thinking of new ways to serve the public.  I’m personally looking forward to a story in January about winter golfing–on a lake.  Join us and let us know what you think.  If you have comments or suggestions please share them with us.

I need to catch up with what has occurred at the Archives of Michigan in the last few months.  Nothing has been more time consuming than the launch of seekingmichigan.org. We went live yesterday and the site teetered for 3-4 hours before succumbing to high traffic.  It illustrated a typical problem with a new website launch.  Namely, you don’t know what you are going to get for traffic.

This site is already a Frankenstein mash-up of OCLC’s CONTENTdm and WordPress. The php nature of CONTENTdm, caching issues, high site traffic, high link traffic and our server situation all played into the temporary demise.  We started the site on a virtual host thinking there would be demand, but not huge demand and we failed to consider load testing the site (not that it would have helped in the end).  As I write this, we have seen site traffic increase 2600% since the beginning of the month.  We are in the process of moving to dedicated servers on both ends (CONTENTdm and WordPress).  It may be overkill but will help us as we launch huge record sets.

We do DO other work besides Seekingmichigan.  Archivists are working on the private collections of the Campbell Construction Company, Detroit, MI.  They pioneered the construction of prefabricated steel buildings.  Final steps are being made to open the North Country Trail collection and a large collection of Mackinac County Clerk records.

New acquisitions and collections on the horizon include the Wexford County naturalization records and the Washtenaw County Probate Records.

I will be presenting at the National Archives Preservation Conference on March 26 in Washington D.C.  The topic will be an overview of our NHPRC grant project, “Thank God for Michigan.”

Drop us a line on Twitter @seekingmichigan or visit us on youtube.com/lookaboutyou or vimeo.com/seekingmichigan.

Quietly last month we turned the Archives of Michigan EAD site on to a live server.  The initial guide for the Michigan Military Establishment is the result of a National Historical Records and Publications (NHPRC) grant titled “Thank God for Michigan” awarded in 2007.  The grant seeks to uncover time and cost effective methods of digitizing historical records and making them accessible online.

Central to the project are uploads of large amounts of digitized, original records with minimal meta data attached.  The EAD finding aid serves as the guide to the collection linking to images of individual documents (search the Second Michigan Infantry to find examples of actual documents online).  The Archives is in the process of loading all 75,000 Civil War related images from the state collection.  Follow the EAD ink in the right column to the site.

In addition to the State of Michigan Civil War materials, other EAD guides are being loaded as they are completed.  Browse the collections to see a full listing of available guides.

Special thanks to the University of Michigan for providing DLPS servers and the XPAT search engine for the project.  I will post more information as the project nears completion in 2008.