MARQUETTE- Visitors to the Peter White Public Library this month will have the chance to learn more about the life of Copper Country residents during the late 1800s and early 1900s, thanks to a visiting exhibit on the work of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara.
Titled "People, Place and Time: Michigan's Copper Country through the Lens of J.W. Nara," the exhibit is at the Peter White library through July 27, with a special lecture by Michigan Technological University archivist Erik Nordberg, who will be speaking about Nara's work and life set for 3 p.m. on July 26.
"I think the fact that he was active in Calumet at the zenith of its industrial might means he was in an important place at an important time," Nordberg said.
The J.W. Nara photography exhibit at the Peter White Public Library is pictured. (Journal photos by Adelle Whitefoot)
Nara was born in Finland, immigrated to the U.S. and set up a photo studio in Calumet, situated in the middle of the country's most productive copper mining region in the 1890s.
His work captured downtown Calumet at its height, including the lives of underground mine workers, local picnics and celebrations and the reality of the 1913 copper miners strike.
"He was the only photographer we know of who got into the Italian Hall on Christmas Eve," Nordberg said of the location of a stampede that tragically resulted in the death of 73 people - most of them children - during the strike.
Nara also shot the landscape of the Keweenaw Peninsula, resulting in some of the only pictures of daily life on the farms of the era.
His studio provided portrait work, which was purchased by immigrants to the area and sent back to families across the world, with his pictures of family and social activities providing a look at life during the time period.
The exhibit is funded by Nara's descendants, Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack, Mich., and is taken from a collection at the Michigan Tech archives.
The exhibit itself is focused on 10 images out of a total collection of around 300 that represent different themes and situations that Nara photographed. Each photograph is shown on a free-standing panel, and each includes the life-size image of someone depicted in the photos.
"We wanted it to be simple and to talk about the different things a photographer in Calumet might have seen," Nordberg said.
Nordberg's lecture will include additional photographs from the collection.
For more information, contact the Peter White Public Library at 906-226-4318 or the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.