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The Finnish American Historical Archives which are located in Suomi College's Nikander Hall are the most extensive in the world outside of those owned by the Finnish National University in Helsinki.
Possesising a value of between $50,000 and $75,000, a large number of the volumes on the Suomi shelves are almost irreplaceable. Many cannot be replaced.
Archivist of the Suomi collection is Dr. Armas Holmio, the college's professor of European history and the philosophy of religion.
The former Suomi seminary instructor has a formidable group of collegiate institutions from which he received either meritorious credits or academic degrees. In Finland, he has attended both the University of Helsinki and Turku University. In America he has spent his collegiate time at Boston University and Harvard University. It was Boston which gave him his doctorate in theology.
Assisting him in the cataloguing and other clerical work is his wife. He frequently calls on Suomi students for aid in his general archives' promotion program.
Archives founded in 1932
The archives were founded in 1932 and originally were located in Old Main. In 1950 they were moved to Nikander Hall where they presently occupy what once was the faculty smoking room.
Indexing and cataloguing of the book reservoir originally fell to Miss Ellen Ryynanen who at one time was a Suomi College librarian and also a librarian for the Houghton Public School System.
Dr. Holmio was named archivist in 1954 by the college board.
According to his compiling, the volumes have been tabulated through the years as follows:
Approximately 1,000 books were indexed in 1954, 2,000 in 1955, 3,000 in 1956 and 4,000 by 1959. By the end of 1961 a total of 5,000 books had been classified. To the present time the indexing has proceeded to approximately 5,300 books and other publicity mediums.
Another 1,000 or so publications currently await classification.
The Dewey decimal system is used to properly identify the works. It has been adapted to provide specific points for Suomi's individualized method of classifying.
Archivist Holmio has his society is interested in works involving either the American or Canadian Finn. The archives are dedicated to this objective and it does not stock books concerning topics related to other Finnish items.
Books are not the only media stored. Newspapers, magazines, documents and a variety of other items are gone over carefully to preserve the biographies, etc., of Finnish Americans who have left their mark on this nation's soil.
The society is proud of its possession of the first Finnish newspaper published in America. It was printed in Hancock in 1876, many years before Finns began to immigrant to the area in large numbers.
Dr. Holmio indicates that over 100 Finnish newspapers were published in the States since the first Finns made their home here. Only eight are still being printed, he said with a certain amount of regret.
As for magazines, the oldest Finnish American periodical is the Paimen Sanomet which was published in Hancock in 1889. To the credit of those who support it, the publication still is being printed.
The collection reveals that in Michigan, alone, there were 80 temperance societies, each with its own publication. The United States had some 250 of these societies and almost each one published its report or periodical. Suomi College's archives house virtually all of these publications in one or more copies.
Additional booklets on hand concern labor movement, co-operative societies, biographies, religious societies and others.
Crystal Falls donates
The Finnish Historical Society of Hiawathaland has given its entire collection to Dr. Holmio's society. This is a renowned organization and has been in existence for a long period. The Finnish Historical Society of New York also has given the archives considerable help.
Even the Washington D.C. organization has come forth with volumes which relate, in general, to the activities of the Finns in the eastern part of the nation.
Although there are eight Finnish universities only four are noted for their Finnish-American collections.
The volumes have quite a clientele. Currently, and in the past, they form a storage bin which is frequented by scholars and, especially, those seeking material for dissertations and theses. Many a degree has been procured through their use. Hardly a week passes but there is a request for books or information from outside Michigan and the nation.
A perusal of the archive files reveal many of the devious manners used to attempt to infiltrate the Finnish youth with Communist beliefs.
The society, according to Dr. Holmio, solicits Finnish American contributions from any individuals or groups who may have such collections.
Although the archivist will not speculate on it, he does look forward to a day when the collection may have its own separate building.
A full time professor at Suomi, Dr. Holmio devotes virtually all his spare time to the archives. He calls it a "labor of love".
Published in The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, Michigan), Febr. 10, 1962.
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