About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

Archiving AK episode 3: tourism in Alaska

In the third episode of Archiving AK, archivists Gwen, Veronica, and Arlene discuss some of the tourism-related collections available here at the Archives. We look at how Alaska tourism has changed, what has remained the same, and how it is represented through the lens of the archival materials that have come to us.

Below, you can find explanations and links with further information regarding collections and people mentioned during the episode. They are arranged in the order in which they were mentioned in the podcast. We also have a topic guide of our collections which relate to tourism in Alaska.

Martin Itjen (left) and his street car, Skagway. Mannequin of Soapy Smith is on the right. From: Eby, Shelland, and Stark tourist papers, Alaska Historical Society collections, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage

Purgatory, AK and St. Nicholas. From: Eby, Shelland, and Stark tourist papers, Alaska Historical Society collections, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

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May Day: blinded by the light

We’re a teensy bit late on May Day this year. On May 1, we often celebrate May Day by doing something to help us out with preservation or disaster recovery planning. We’ve been getting some collections with old stills in recently so we decided it was time to figure out how to tell if something is cellulose based stock or not. Both acetate and nitrate cellulose film stock are best stored frozen.  (Here’s an earlier blog entry about nitrate moving image stock gone wrong.)

I’ll skip the history of film stock and nitrate in particular since you can find that easily enough elsewhere (here’s one source) and I’ll skip the long version of why we’re keeping the stuff when we can. But it’s not always simple to tell what the film stock is. Some have little notches in the edges of the negative where different patterns can tell you what type it is, but not all do. And unfortunately most of the definitive tests that determine whether something is nitrate specifically are either illegal for us to do (burning) or impractical (chemical testing with some seriously nasty chemicals). They’re all basically destructive, which means you’d have to clip a section off the negative to test it. The problem with that is that not all negatives have clear space on the edges allowing for clipping without cutting into the image, even if we could do chemical or burn testing.

Since Veronica and Arlene both were working with collections of the appropriate age to have nitrate or acetate cellulose stock and both of which had a lot of still negatives in them, unfortunately without the notch coding, it was time to see if we could figure something out. According to one of our colleagues in AMIPA, who is our resident expert in all things film-related, there’s a polarization effect that happens with polyester based films that doesn’t happen with cellulose based films. So we found some instructions from the National Park Service on how to build a quick and easy film viewer with a polarizing filter that would allow us to do some quick checks. So that’s what we did today to celebrate Archives May Day.

We gathered our supplies and started cutting the mat board to size, the filtering film to size, and taping the pieces together. They’re not the prettiest things on earth, mat stock does not yield easily to a cutting blade, plus the craftiest of our bunch is Arlene and she failed scissors in kindergarten, but the end result mostly looked like what was in the NPS instructions.

And that’s when things went a bit awry. First of all it took us all a while to get the polarizing film oriented correctly. And then we were having problems seeing the interference patterns on our sample of polyester based film. But with a little help with from our AMIPA expert and carefully holding it up against one of our new, very bright task lamps, we finally saw the difference between the two. And we also decided that we need to keep a piece of polyester film on the side so we remember what it looks like since what we’re looking for is the absence of that look in the cellulose stock. We also learned that we should not look directly into our new, very bright task lamps since they’re, well, very bright.

That’s what we did for May Day. And we have an offer for you: we built three of these but we don’t need three. So we’re offering one of the ones we built (the prettiest one of the bunch) to the first archives, library, or museum in Alaska who contacts us and asks for it. Please use the contact link above and include your mailing address and institution name and we’ll get it mailed out to you.

Happy May Day!

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New in the Archives: April 2018

We kept busy in April, with the launch of our podcast, Archiving AK, as well as the 5th iteration of our annual Eating from the Archives potluck. Here’s what we did last month:

Collection description:

HMC-0370: Christine McClain papers; 1907-1992. 0.5 cubic foot addition. Articles and drafts of fiction stories of an Anchorage-area freelance journalist.

HMC-0429: Sam McClain papers; 1940-1994. 0.4 cubic foot addition. Photographs taken of trips around Alaska and elsewhere.

HMC-1287: Chugach Conference records. Originally part of the Larry Pearson papers, this section of the collection was separated out to be its own collection. Materials from a conference related to telecommunications policy and planning.

UAA-0131: UAA. Center for Information Technology records. Originally part of the Larry Pearson papers, this section of the collection was separated out as a University records series.

Chilkoot Challenge

A feast fit for the gold rush. Dishes entered into the Chilkoot Challenge.


HMC-0480: Matanuska Valley Bank records; 1947-1965. Records of a bank based in Palmer, Alaska.

HMC-0492: History of Sand Lake project records; 1950-1988. In 1988, a group of fourteen sixth grade students from Sand Lake and Chinook Schools combined to write a history of the Sand Lake neighborhood in Anchorage.

HMC-0507: Indivisible: stories of American community Alaskan fishing communities project records; 1999-2001. Records related to a documentary project on Alaskan fishing communities.

HMC-0923: Howard Culbertson family scrapbook; 1967. Scrapbook of postcards and tourism flyers from a family who traveled across Canada and Alaska.

Karl Bowersox

Karl Bowersox on in front of the radio office door on the deck of the USMS Boxer.

Alaska’s Digital Archives:

Images of Henry S. Kaiser Jr. Photographs taken by a man who was born in Fairbanks, spent time in the Seward Sanitorium due to a heart defect, and later worked as an educator with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

53 images from Dorothy and Grenold Collins. The papers of an Alaskan bush pilot, sportsman, and business owners.

41 images from McGlashan and Monsen family photographs. Photographs primarily taken in Naknek and Akutan.

53 images from Karl C. Bowersox papers. Photographs of a purser and radio operator aboard the USMS Boxer and USMS North Star.

158 recordings from Alaskan poet and storyteller Ruben Gaines, including many Beluga Bugle short mock radio news pieces and longer items from his Conversation Unlimited radio broadcast.

added metadata to 8 images from the papers of Leland A. Olson, a worker on the White Alice system.

The sheet music to: When the moon shines down in old Alaska then I’ll ask her to be mine. 1916.

Monsen family in Naknek, circa 1934-1935.


Our podcast, Archiving AK, is live! In our first episode the three archivists from Archives and Special Collections take turns interviewing each other. You can find the first episode here and follow us on SoundCloud.

We hosted the Chilkoot Challenge cooking competition and potluck on April 23. This year, our annual Eating From the Archives potluck featured dishes inspired by the Klondike Gold Rush. The twist: all of the dishes had to be made using only the ingredients found in the recommended grocery outfit for the Chilkoot Trail listed in a Montgomery Ward advertisement. This was also our first potluck that was also a cooking competition, complete with prizes.

Pick and Hammer shows from Ruth Schmidt papers, digitized with funding given to the Archives by the Schmidt estate.

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New in the Archives: March 2018

March has been a busy month for us! Must be all that extra light we’re getting right now that’s letting us get all this work done!

Collections described:

Ruth Hart papers; 1964-2003. HMC-1279. The collection contains the papers of Ruth …

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Did you miss it?

We had an Open House on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Archives Month and because we love just hanging out with our researchers, donors, colleagues, supporters: they’re friends! And we’re very thankful for them.  We’re also thankful for Northwest Archivists, …

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