Program Structure and Resources

Introduction | Faculty | Curriculum | Resources


Broadly speaking, Industrial Archaeology (IA) is the recording, study,interpretation, and preservation of the physical remains of industrially-related artifacts, sites, and systems within their cultural and historical contexts. These remains may be as old as a seventeenth-century bloomery forge, or as recent as an abandoned mid-twentieth-century steel mill. In practice, IA in the US and UK generally focuses on the period of the industrial revolution and later, though there is a strong connection to the study of earlier technologies, particularly in the area of archaeometallurgy.

Industrial Archaeology emerged as a distinct field of study in the United Kingdom in the 1940s and 50s, when historians, preservationists, archaeologists, and engineers became concerned that many of the key relics of Britain's industrial heritage were disappearing. By the 1960s and 70s, the IA movement had spread across the Atlantic to the United States, as well as continental Europe, spawning several journals, and a number of professional associations, including the Society for Industrial Archeology, based here at Michigan Technological University.

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Tech

The M.S. Industrial Archaeology Program at Michigan Technological University is unique in the United States, and one of the few in the world to explicitly study industrial archaeology. The IA program emphasizes a truly interdisciplinary approach to to the field, fusing the academic perspectives of archaeology, historic preservation, history of technology, and anthropology. Students complete course work in all of these areas, in addition to approved electives of the Department of Social Sciences or other Departments at Michigan Tech. Most students complete the program in two academic years, using the summers to fulfill the program's archaeological fieldwork and thesis requirements. Click here for a list of recent theses written by MTU graduate students.

Career prospects for IA Master's Students

Michigan Tech's Industrial Archaeology program has a strong applied aspect designed to give students the tools to succeed in future work. Coursework includes specific practical and professional skills in addition to theoretical and intellectual content.  Thesis projects are often developed in conjunction with outside sponsors, and incorporate real-world situations concerned with site identification, interpretation, preservation, and management. Our 30+ graduates since 1993 have moved successfully into professional positions and/or Ph.D. programs for further education.

Our program logically leads to four potential career trajectories:

To date, all of our graduates who have applied to Ph.D. programs have been accepted, and have gone to programs at Brown University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nevada-Reno (2), and University of Arizona (2). Several graduates have accepted jobs with State or regional museums as curators or site historians.  For example, one graduate became curator at Sloss Furnaces National Historical Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama and has since moved on to the Detroit Historical Museums.  One is employed as curator at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, another is historian at the Soudan Mines State Park in Minnesota, and a third works as an archaeologist with the New York State Museum. Other government agencies that have hired our graduates include the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma State Historical Society, the Historic American Engineering Record/National Park Service, and the US Forest Service.  In addition, several program graduates have gone on to successful careers in private CRM firms throughout the USA.

You can download a PDF file version of a recent article from the National Parks Service's Cultural Resources Management (CRM) Bulletin describing one of the research areas of our program.

"Industrial Archeology and Historic Mining Studies at Michigan Tech," by Patrick E. Martin


The faculty is one of the key strengths of Michigan Tech's IA program. The Department of Social Sciences encompasses many disciplines, bringing together scholars with diverse perspectives on industrial archaeology. To date the program has never had more than a dozen graduate students at one time, allowing for close interaction between faculty and students. In addition to small classes, students can expect easy access to their advisor, and many opportunities to become engaged in research projects with the faculty.

Alison K. Hoagland , M.A., George Washington University
Associate Professor of History and Historic Preservation
Historic Preservation, architectural history

Larry D. Lankton, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Professor of History
History of technology, material culture

Carol A. MacLennan, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Anthropology of industry, technology and politics

Patrick E. Martin , Ph.D., Michigan State University
Professor of Archaeology
Historical and industrial archaeology, cultural resource management

Susan R. Martin , Ph.D., Michigan State University
Associate Professor of Archaeology
Prehistoric Archaeology, cultural resource management

Terry S. Reynolds, Ph.D., University of Kansas
Professor of History,
History of technology, history of the engineering profession

Timothy Scarlett, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno
Assistant Professor of Archaeology
Archaeology, ceramics, history of the American West

Bruce E. Seely , Ph.D., University of Delaware
Professor of History, Chair of the Department of Social Sciences
History of science, history of technology


The M.S. in Industrial Archaeology requires completion of, at minimum, seven classes and a thesis project. The thesis project is based on one or more semesters of graduate research.

Required classes- 1) Industrial Archaeology Proseminar I; 2) Industrial Archaeology Proseminar II; 3) Archaeology of Industry; 4) Heritage Management; 5) Archaeological Field Methods (summer class); 6) Documenting Historic Structures; and 7) one 3000/4000 level elective class from the following list: History of American Architecture; Copper Country History; Archaeology Laboratory Methods; Geographic Information Systems; or Directed Study in Industrial Archaeology.

Industrial Archaeology Proseminar I (History of Technology and Material Culture)- A graduate seminar with two purposes: to provide students with a basic introduction to work in the history of technology, and to introduce students to the interpretation and understanding of material culture.

Industrial Archaeology Proseminar II (Historical Archaeology and Industrial Communities)- A graduate seminar organized around modules covering the main components of historical archaeology and anthropological studies of industrial communities. Introduces the methods and approaches of both fields through reading and discussion of selected articles and case studies.

Heritage Management- Introduces the current field of heritage management: the legislation that underwrites its practice; the articulation of federal state and local governmental activities; the evolving philosophies of archaeologists and historic preservationists operating in the public interest; parallels on the international scene; and the impacts of heritage tourism.

Industrial Archaeology- Directed readings in Industrial Archaeology using a wide range of material from the historical, engineering, and archaeological literature. Regional case studies provide a central focus for the course.

Archaeological Field Methods- Practical experience in the methods and techniques of field archaeology. Background readings are followed by participation in site survey, testing, excavation, and record keeping. Students learn through their involvement in ongoing research in the Upper Great Lakes region.

Documentation of Historic Structures- Principles and practice of survey and documentation of historic structures. Techniques include reconnaissance survey, in-depth survey, measured drawings, architectural photography, primary research, and written descriptions. Students learn to use survey and documentation to analyze historic structures.

Directed Study in Industrial Archaeology- Directed readings or research conducted under the direction of a member of the graduate faculty. Students must meet with their supervising instructor and receive approval of their study plan before registering.

Graduate Research- Individual research work leading towards the master's thesis. Open by arrangement to students in the Industrial Archaeology master's program.


The Program in Industrial Archaeology and History at Michigan Tech maintains close ties with the Michigan Historical Center, the National Forest Service, and the National Park Service. MTU is close to any number of industrial sites within Keweenaw National Historical Park to the north, and to Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests, to the respective east and west. Houghton itself is the headquarters for the Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.

The Archaeology Laboratory has worked closely with both the State of Michigan and the Federal government on a number of projects, such as the Ohio Trap Rock copper mine site from the 1850s, and the Carp River Forge Project in Negaunee, Michigan, the region's first iron making site. The Laboratory serves as the curation facility for archaeological materials from both Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests, as well as material from the State of Michigan.

The Robert J. R. Van Pelt Library, in addition to its extensive holdings on industrial technology and history, maintains the Copper Country Archives, containing a massive amount of original documentary material. Holdings range from historic photos of the Keweenaw and Copper Country to the records of many of the copper mining companies that dotted the region as few as fifty years ago.
The Department of Social Sciences supports IA graduate students through its ongoing projects, and through MTU-funded teaching assistantships. Internships are often available to interested students though its connections with the U.S. Forest Service, the Michigan Historical Center, and others. The Department is also the institutional home of the international Society for Industrial Archeology, and the graduate program works closely with the Society.

The Archaeology Laboratory also houses a computer graphics facility with a mix of great Macintosh and PC computers. The computer lab has a color scanner, two digitizing tablets, laser printers and a plotter. The lab machines run a variety of programs for acquiring, processing, and analyzing digital images and digital map data. The lab supports several different programs for computer assisted drafting (CAD) and ArcView for GIS analysis. We also have a video image capture system to create digital images from a either a low-power or polarizing microscope.

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