MTU’s Keweenaw Time Traveler Honored in 2024 Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation

Keweenaw Time Traveler awarded for Historic Preservation
Keweenaw Time Traveler awarded for Historic Preservation
Celebrating excellence in historic preservation: MTU's Keweenaw Time Traveler honored with prestigious Governor’s Award for its commitment to preserving cultural heritage.

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences, Geospatial Research Facility and University Archives have been recognized by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office for their significant contribution to the Keweenaw Time Traveler.

Alongside various partners, Michigan Technological University has been awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation for leading the development of the Keweenaw Time Traveler, or KeTT — a digital online atlas of Michigan’s Copper Country recognized as a significant contribution to historic preservation efforts in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Governor's Award for Historic Preservation presented to the Keweenaw Time Traveler
The Governor’s Award shines a spotlight on Keweenaw Time Traveler, a pioneering project enriching historical exploration.

“The Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation celebrates the collaborative spirit fueling MTU’s Keweenaw Time Traveler project,” said Don Lafreniere, KeTT program director and Department of Social Sciences chair. “We are very honored to have been recognized by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the State Historic Preservation Office for our work.”

The Keweenaw Time Traveler project was led by researchers and students from MTU’s Department of Social Sciences, Geospatial Research Facility and the Michigan Tech Archives, in collaboration with partners Monte Consulting, the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw and Keweenaw County Historical Society. “Over 45 students, faculty and staff from across campus have worked with local and regional partners and the general public to build the Keweenaw Time Traveler,” said Lafreniere.

“The project has supported dozens of cultural initiatives and built heritage projects around the region and now is expanding to support other communities around the world who wish to protect, interpret and promote the value of historical assets in their regions.”Don Lafreniere, Keweenaw Time Traveler program director

The Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation, hosted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and announced by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, celebrate outstanding achievements in preserving Michigan’s unique heritage and historical sites. This year’s awards, presented during National Historic Preservation Month, honored projects from across Michigan, including the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Watch Keweenaw Time Traveler | 2024 SHPO Awards video
Preview image for Keweenaw Time Traveler | 2024 SHPO Awards video

The Keweenaw Time Traveler is changing how we learn about, share and research the history and heritage of Michigan’s Copper Country.

“It’s an honor to recognize this group of outstanding historic preservation achievements,” said Gilchrist. “The honorees represent the rich diversity of our communities, our inclusive heritage and the welcoming culture that has long defined us in Michigan. Across our two peninsulas, these historic sites represent critical pieces of the fabric that makes us who we are as Michiganders.”

Launched in 2017, the Keweenaw Time Traveler integrates over 2,000 archival maps with historical datasets, including building data, censuses, city directories and employment records from 1870 to 1940. Through meticulous mapping and linking efforts, every resident’s home and school from that period has been connected with oral histories and building inventory records. In 2022, the Keweenaw Time Traveler underwent a major expansion, adding 600,000 records across 14 million data variables, enhancing user experience with a newly designed interface and solidifying its status as a leading example of deep mapping technology. 

Awardees at the 2024 Governor's Awards for Historic Preservation
Collaborative efforts of the Keweenaw Time Traveler project help to protect the cultural legacy of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Pictured from left: Rep. Greg Markkanen; Lindsay Hiltunen, MTU Archives; Dan Trepal, Geospatial Research Facility; Sarah Fayen Scarlett, Department of Social Sciences; Don Lafreniere and James Juip, Department of Social Sciences/Geospatial Research Facility; Larry Molloy of the Keweenaw County Historical Society; and Matthew Monte of Monte Consulting. KeTT partners Elise Nelson of the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw and Sean Gohman of the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission were unable to travel to Lansing for the May 2 awards ceremony.

A key aspect of the project is its public engagement program, which includes educational outreach at local festivals, schools, libraries and heritage sites. The online atlas serves as a gateway for individuals worldwide to explore the history of the Keweenaw region, fostering conversations about its industrial past and its enduring impact on contemporary life and identity. “Keweenaw Time Traveler is a very valuable resource to people who move to the community or want to research the local area,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen of Michigan’s 110th District. “I’ve searched my own address on the deep map app; there’s a lot to be gained from the interactive and educational tools.”

The Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation recognizes Michigan Tech’s dedication to preserving and promoting the cultural and historical significance of the Keweenaw Peninsula. As Michigan continues to celebrate its heritage, Michigan Tech is proud to lead initiatives like the Keweenaw Time Traveler that foster a deeper connection between past, present and future generations.

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.