2015 – Eric Nystrom for his article “Underground Mine Maps and the Development of the Butte System at the Turn of the Century,” published in IA, Vol 37, Nos. 1 & 2 (2011), pp. 97-113.
From its very inception, the SIA has been fascinated with mining history. Industrial processing plants for converting raw materials into mineral products have frequently been the focus of process tours. These tours have, however, always been above ground. Seldom, if ever, have industrial archeologists ventured underground into sites either off limits or simply too dangerous to explore the places and artifacts that gave these mining sites their reason for being.
That is, until Eric Nystrom of Rochester Institute of Technology wrote “Underground Mine Maps and the Development of the Butte System at the Turn of the Century” published in Vol. 37 of IA. Eric takes industrial archeology underground as he explores the historical significance and industrial context of mine maps. Framing maps as important artifacts in and of themselves, Eric demonstrates that mine mapping offers vital clues to archeologists about mine company economics, development, and engineering, particularly through the work of David W. Brunton and Horace V. Winchell as they utilized the innovative Brunton pocket transit. While illustrating the close link between geology and industrial enterprise, mine maps also yield important information on company history. Eric describes the increasing role played by geologists at the turn of the 20th century who worked in concert with engineers in developing the Butte mines.
Eric combined archeology and industrial and corporate history with artifact analysis to weave a compelling narrative about the individuals who pioneered underground mapping and the artifacts they left behind for future industrial archaeologists.