Keweenaw Time Traveler Expands Immersive Experience

By Rick White


Then and now: the Continental Fire Company Building, original home to Michigan Technological University when it was known as the Michigan Mining School. (image credit Nathan Frazier and MTU Archives)

The acclaimed Keweenaw Time Traveler (KeTT) is getting a major upgrade. On June 1, the online interactive historical atlas will add 600,000 records across 14 million data variables, an exponential increase from its current 25,000.

In addition, KeTT will significantly improve user experience. A newly designed user interface makes it easier to search for information about past people, places and stories. 

The KeTT is a one-of-a-kind example of deep mapping — a living map connecting layers of archival, geological and geospatial data across time and space. Begun in 2016 and launched publicly a year later, KeTT is changing how we learn about, share and research the history and heritage of Michigan’s Copper Country. ​The atlas contains historical data from archival collections from across the region — including the Michigan Technological University Archives, the Keweenaw History Center in Keweenaw National Historical Park, the historical societies of Keweenaw and Houghton counties, and census data from IPUMS USA — collected and connected using high-resolution scans of hundreds of historic maps. 

“The Keweenaw Time Traveler provides an immersive mapping experience in which to explore and search for people and places in the Copper Country from about 1880-1970,” says Don Lafreniere, KeTT project director and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Tech. “It facilitates engagement with the humanities and brings history and geography to life through the use of advanced digital spatial technologies. With the launch of our new interface on June 1, both researchers and citizen historians will have access to even more data — data that will be so much easier to search for now.”

"The Keweenaw Time Traveler is a prime example of what can be done with history and technology at a flagship technological university like Michigan Tech."Don Lafreniere, KeTT project director and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Tech

Lafreniere says earlier iterations of the KeTT attracted attention and accolades around the world, inspiring similar projects from New York to Madrid, Spain. Sarah Fayen Scarlett, KeTT project co-director and associate professor of history at Michigan Tech, believes the expanded capabilities of the new version will only increase this exposure. “KeTT is Google Maps for history,” she says. “It’s a way for individuals to understand their roots better, their place in history and the history behind their place. Now, with the new upgrades we built, it will be even more accessible and useful than before.” 

The Keweenaw Time Traveler

The Keweenaw Time Traveler is an online interactive historical atlas changing how we learn about, share and research the history and heritage of Michigan’s Copper Country. It is the public face of the Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure housed in Michigan Tech’s Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab

The KeTT is one of the longest-running continuously funded projects in the Department of Social Sciences. It has received over $1.4 million from financial supporters including the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Other funders and partners include the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Portage Health Foundation and the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw.

Keweenaw citizen historians and others interested in the KeTT are invited to attend a relaunch celebration June 2 at 6 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw (105 Huron St., Houghton). Please register at

An online launch celebration will take place on Facebook Live on June 3 at 3 p.m. EDT. For details, visit

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Last Modified 10:57 AM, October 3, 2022