Thousands of Ship Documents Archived, Available for Public Research

Northland Uncovered: Fraser Shipping Documents

SUPERIOR, Wis. – The shipping industry is a business impacting the entire Northland.

About four years ago, Fraser Shipyards donated thousands of ship drawings dating back to the 1890s to UW-Superior for archiving and research.

Now, librarians are finishing up that task.

“They’re more works of art than anything else,” Senior Project Assistant Dara Fillmore described of the donated documents.

The ship drawings take up several shelves at the University of Wisconsin Superior’s Jim Dan Hill Library.

Receiving the National Maritime Heritage Grant from the National Park Service, librarians have moved over 2,000 large formation drawings since 2015.

“We’ve also scanned almost 10,000 drawings on 35mm slides and indexed those,” said Shana Aue, Archivist and Reference Librarian at UWS.

This project has piqued the interest of many from those just interested in ships to model ship builders and maritime engineers.

“It’s such an important part of our history here, our culture here, our whole life here in the Twin Ports,” said Aue.

A new web-based system with many categories is making studying easier for researchers.

“Basically it was a database with fields for everything that you might want to know about a drawing,” said Aue.

Education has been a constant theme through this work for Fillmore, “some of the research I’ve done brought out information about fractures that happened on ships during WWII, I’ve learned a lot about ships that ran aground, or had to have repairs, a lot of issues with ice damage during the winter.”

The intricate details have been a common interest to those studying the documents.

“Now we’re switching to digital stuff and we won’t have as many of these, so why not save them while we can,” said Fillmore.

The collection is open to anyone, librarians just ask those interested to make an appointment to view the documents to ensure someone is staffed at that time.

If interested contact Shana Aue at (715) 394-8359,, or head to their website.

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