NMU alumna Karen Kasper ('79 BA) of Ishpeming will receive the 2020 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year award from the Historical Society of Michigan. She regularly volunteers for her alma mater at the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at NMU and at the Central U.P. and NMU Archives.
Kasper earned a degree in English with a minor in graphic arts. She left the area for a number of years before returning to her hometown of Ishpeming in 2009. Kasper wanted to get involved in local history, which had been a passion of hers since she was a child. She began to volunteer at the Ishpeming Historical Society helping run their museum and research library.
While visiting the NMU Archives in May 2013, she was inspired to volunteer there as well. She works two times per week. Her duties include serving as the point of contact to assist patrons with genealogical research; writing blog posts; scanning documents, as requested; processing collections for the archives; serving as the point of contact for the Northland Consortium, an affiliation of historical societies and museums around the Upper Peninsula, and coordinatiing two consortium seminars each year at various U.P. locations.
In November 2013, Kasper began to spend time each week on NMU's campus to volunteer at the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center. She has conducted research for past exhibits on WWI, Immigration, Ghost Towns, the Cold War and the Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival. She is doing research for the upcoming labor history exhibition. Kasper assists the Beaumier Center with collections management duties, writing and editing interpretive text for panels, and installing exhibits.
According to Beaumier Center Director Dan Truckey, Kasper is applying the skills gained from her NMU volunteer service to her volunteer work with the Ishpeming Area Historical Society and the Cliffs Shaft Mining Museum.
"In short, Karen Kasper's work at each of these institutions, and assisting with professional development for small museums around the U.P., has made a huge impact," Truckey wrote in an email. "Because these institutions have very few or any professional staff, and often rely on untrained and transient student labor, Karen has been a stable presence offering guidance, institutional knowledge and expertise. And she does it all for the love of history and the thrill of learning more about the past."