WGNHS has a large number of historic research collections that will be of great interest to science historians, geology researchers, and Survey staff. My goal as archivist for the survey is to catalog as many of these collections as possible, provide easily used databases to allow access to their contents, and preserve them both in material form and electronically. From a records management perspective, I am also interested in tracking new and ongoing projects carried out by survey geologists.
Recently, with the help of Liz Krznarich, a UW-Madison library school student, I processed the professional papers of Fredrik T. Thwaites, who worked for the survey in the first half of the twentieth century. The papers included published and unpublished reports, correspondence, class materials, and manuscripts for two textbooks Thwaites wrote on Pleistocene geology and geophysics. Before that, I spent a year indexing the township and range files, a heterogeneous mass of material left behind by a somewhat unsystematic filing method that obtained in the Survey through the 1950s. This material included the township reports that were a part of the land classification survey, correspondence on a wide variety of topics, maps and sections from mines, and fieldwork from research that was published in WGNHS bulletins such as Report on the Lead and Zinc Deposits of Wisconsin by U.S. Grant, and Sandstones of the Wisconsin Coast of Lake Superior by F.T. Thwaites.
Funded by a grant from the USGS Data Preservation Program, I am working to index the paper records of the Lake Superior Division of the USGS. The division was formed in 1882 under the direction of R.D. Irving, one of the first geology professors at the UW-Madison. The division worked for 40 years exploring the Precambrian rocks around Lake Superior. Along with a large number of physical samples, the division left nearly 500 field notebooks as well as supplementary paperwork including microscopic descriptions of rock written by Irving and Charles Van Hise. We’re in the process of creating an electronic index that will tie together all of the collection’s elements and attach locations to the notebooks and rocks, thin sections and maps. We’ve also partnered with the UW Digital Collections to scan and place online the entire field notebook collection. At this point, a portion of the earliest notebooks and those authored by Charles Van Hise have been done. A large portion of the work has been done in FY 2012, and we will continue the work into FY 2013.