Introducing multi-institution topic guides on SLED


It can be difficult and time consuming to figure out what different archives in Alaska have on a particular subject. Alaskan archives all have different tools for finding their collections, ranging from searchable catalogs to lists on their websites, and having to navigate these different search mechanisms can be a barrier to access for some researchers. Archivists or librarians at one institution do not necessarily know what collections another institution has, so they might not be able to point researchers to helpful collections outside their own institution. A new, grant-funded project seeks to make finding collections housed at different institutions easier for researchers, librarians, and archivists.

Last year, we partnered with the Alaska Library Network to get a grant to create a series of multi-institution topic guides, which bring together links to descriptions of primary source collections on selected topic topics held at archives, libraries, and museums across . The project was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through the Alaska State Library’s Interlibrary Cooperation Grant program. With the funding we received, we were able to create 12 guides on frequently researched topics, all of which are available on Alaska’s Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED).


After several months  of work, we produced guides on the following topics:

The guides are not completely comprehensive. For example, if a collection only had one document relating to a topic, we did not include it. We would still encourage researchers to search the institutions’ websites, especially if they are looking for a specific document.

The process

We initially identified 20 topics for which we wanted to create guides. The topics were selected based on our observations about what our researchers were looking for, as well as our conversations with other archivists in the state. We came up with estimates for how long each guide would take, based on how many relevant collections we expected to find and how challenging we thought they would be to find.  We then prioritized the topics based on anticipated demand, knowing that we would probably not be able to create guides for all of the topics we had identified. Because our time estimates were mostly guesses, we decided to start by dividing up out six highest priority guides so that Arlene, Veronica, and I each had two guides to work on.

For each guide we took a look at the various repositories’ websites and searched for collections using the different search terms we could think of. We then emailed the institutions the lists of collections we found on their websites and contacted institutions that did not list their collections online. If the archives we contacted had anything to add to the list or wanted us to remove collections that they didn’t feel were relevant, we made the changes they requested.

Once the first guide (Military in Alaska, in case you were wondering) was finished, we began adding the guides to the SLED site. Both SLED and our own topic guides are built using LibGuides, and we thought it would work exactly the same. It turns out that the State Library, which maintains SLED, has some additional rules about accessibility (which we should probably also follow) and uses a different method for adding links than we do. After a brief adjustment period, adding the guides to the site went quickly. We overestimated the amount of time it it would take to complete some of the guides, so we ended up being able to produce more guides than we expected.

We could not have done this alone

While the three of us at the Consortium Library took the lead on this project, we could not have produced as many guides as we have without help at every step of the way. Steve Rollins, as Executive Director of the Alaska Library Network, helped us apply for and administer the grant funding. Our counterparts at the other archives in Alaska provided valuable input on the lists of collections we found by searching their websites, especially Chris Hieb at the Alaska State Archives, Sara Piasecki at the Anchorage Museum, Angela Schmidt at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Film Archives, and Becky Butler at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Archives. Freya Anderson and Amy Carney at the Alaska State Library helped us navigate the process of adding the guides to the SLED website. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous support of the Alaska State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Studies.


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Archiving AK Episode 15: Interview with Becky Butler

In this episode of Archiving AK, Gwen interviews Becky Butler, an archivist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives. The collections that she mentions in the interview, including the Ernest Gruening papers and the The Fabian Carey Collection of Fairbanks Red Light District Photographs, can be found by searching UAF’s Archives Catalog. Thanks for listening!

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Archiving AK episode 8: Jennifer Stone

In this episode of Archiving AK, archivist Gwen Higgins speaks with Dr. Jennifer Stone, a professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Jennifer discusses her decision to incorporate archival research into her History of English Language course and what she has learned from having her students use archival sources for their projects. She also talks about her experiences using archives for her own research on language in Alaska.

Thanks for listening! You can find this and other episodes of the podcast right here on our website, on SoundCloud, and now, on iTunes.

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New in the Archives: May 2018

May seemed to be a quiet month, but we kept busy with reference requests and speaking to donors. We also described four new collections and added 487 photographs to Alaska’s Digital Archives. Further details on what we have been up to are below:

We released the second episode of Archiving AK, in which archivists Gwen and Veronica interview researcher Pierce Bateman. Links to Archiving AK episodes can be found on the podcast page of our website.

Collections described:

EPH-0395: Eagle River Elementary School yearbook and newsletter; 1972-1973.

HMC-0932: Walter Johnson papers; 1902-2008, bulk 1961-1978. We received a 6.4 cubic foot addition to our already existing Walter Johnson papers. Johnson worked as a doctor at Bethel Hospital, served as the Chief of Medicine and then Medical Director at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, and was a Director and Instructor for the Community Health Aide training program (also called Community Health Aide Program, or CHAP). The collection includes Johnson’s research on tuberculosis, files relating to the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP), and the founding and establishment of the Alaska Medical Library (formerly called Alaska Health Services Library). The collection also includes Johnson’s research on the discovery of gold in Nome, history of Swedish people in Alaska, the Sami and reindeer herding, and advocacy for bike paths in Anchorage.

HMC-1281: Botens-Stoops family film; circa 1955-1978.  This collection contains 8mm films created by members of the Botens and Stoops family.  Subjects of the films, as indicated by family members, include camping at Skilak Lake, a canoe trip in 1966, the Botens’ homestead in Anchor Point, North Fork and Caribou Hills, a cabin at Summit Lake, Baltic Lake, a canoe trip on the Killey River, a meat house and chicken house, beaches, animals and scenery, hunting and fishing, Eklutna, Nome, Port Moller, and the North Slope. The films also depict community events in Soldotna, Anchor Point, and Homer. Access to this collection may be subject to delays and costs for the digitization of the originals.

HMC-1286: Cheryl Curtis and Morgan Grey; 1954-2018. Cheryl Curtis and Morgan Grey moved to Alaska in 1994. (Curtis was born in Palmer and went to Chugiak High School). Curtis worked in building maintenance, and she and Grey were involved with the Alaska Tradeswomen Network. Grey  worked as an academic advisor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Curtis, who was was diagnosed with amyloidosis, started an online chat room for people with the condition to help herself and others heal. She died in 2008. Grey published the book, The Book of Found Goddesses: Asphalta to Viscera along with Julia Penelope, a linguistics professor at the University of Nebraska. She also has taught workshops on goddess worship and shamanism, as well as performing readings and plays related to feminism. The collection contains both Curtis’s and Grey’s personal papers, including educational and employment records, correspondence, journals, writings, photographs, and scrapbooks

Cheryl Curtis and Morgan Grey

Cheryl Curtis and Morgan Grey.

Additions to Alaska’s Digital Archives:

What was once our picturingUAA site will be taken down at the end of June. 297 of the over 600 images that were on it were added to Alaska’s Digital Archives. This task included modifying and adding metadata on each item. This work continues and we hope to have all the photographs moved over by the end of June.

We also received news that Robert Knox, one of our collection donors, passed away. We digitized one photo of Bob, as well as his Alaska Press Club membership card from the Robert and Wilma Knox papers; 1949-2001. HMC-0461. These were added to the 330 photographs that we had previously digitized.

Bob Knox and Helen Gillette in the Anchorage Daily News newsroom in 1952.

22 images from the Henry Gilbertson papers, HMC-0115. Henry Gilbertson worked for the state of Alaska as an administrator for the state-operated schools in many areas of rural Alaska. His photographs, from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, include images of many rural schools and schoolchildren.

60 images from McGlashan and Monsen family photographs, HMC-1278. Photographs primarily taken in Naknek and Akutan. More photographs of this collection will be added in the next few months.

Caption on back of photograph: “Main Street Naknek [circa] 1946”. From McGlashan and Monsen family photographs.

32 images from the Al E. Beyer papers, HMC-0958.  In the summer of 1994, he completed a motorcycle tour to Alaska covering over seven thousand road miles. Photographs from his trip were added to Alaska’s Digital Archives.

Beyer and his motorcycle at the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction.

Al Beyer in front of the Welcome to Wrangell sign.

75 images from the Francis Huber slides, HMC-1280. Huber was an avid photographer whose photographs were published in magazines and textbooks. Most of Huber’s photographs recently added to the Digital Archives were of wildlife. Additional photographs from this collection will be added within the next couple of months.

Sea otter recovering from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, 1989.


HMC-0439: Gary Thurlow papers; 1930-1995.  Thurlow was an attorney for the Greater Anchorage Area Borough, manager for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and a lawyer in private practice. His collection primarily contains drafts of articles on urban and governmental planning.

HMC-0793: United States. Air Force. 11th Fighter Squadron photographs; 1945. The Eleventh Fighter Squadron, a unit in the Eleventh Air Force, was assigned to the XIth Fighter Command in June 1942. From September 1942 to August 1946, the squadron was assigned to the 343rd Fighter Group. The squadron was first stationed in Alaska at Elmendorf Field in December 1941, with detachments at Fort Randall and Fort Glenn. The squadron was later stationed at Adak Army Air Field in February 1943, with detachments at Amchitka and Fort Glenn. Finally, the squadron was stationed at Shemya from August 1945 to August 1946. The collection contains images of the fighter squadron.

UAA-0044: Anchorage Community College. ACCent photographs; 1982-1988. Photos from the ACC student newspaper.

UAA-0047: Anchorage Community College administrative subject files; 1953-1978. Historical files related to Anchorage Community College.

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New in the Archives: January 2018

Welcome to the first installment of “New in the Archives,” a series of monthly updates about what’s going on in Archives and Special Collections. “New in the Archives” will feature newly described collections, items recently uploaded to Alaska’s Digital Archives, …

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Alaska Lunch

Our current exhibit in the great room of the Library is all about food in Alaska, with items from the Rare Books collection including cookbooks from the state. After the success (or at least entertainment value) of last year’s Convalescent’s Banquet, … Continue reading