Alaskan archives and advocacy

You might not know this, but these are pretty trying times for Alaskan archives and those who research in them. A lot of the Alaskan archives have cut access hours, are under hiring freezes, are facing additional budget cuts. We’re grateful for our friends and colleagues who are part of the advocacy effort on behalf of Alaskan archives started by the Alaska Historical Society recently. One of the ideas they’ve been working on is to produce short video interviews with users of archives on what archives have meant for them.

Just recently, students at the University of Alaska Anchorage have finished one of those videos about students in the UAA ENGL A476: History of English Language class. We’re incredibly thankful for their efforts on our behalf. Thanks to Dr. Ian Hartman, Erika Coker, and Joseph Longuevan for creating the video. Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Stone, Rose Kruger, and Hollis Reddington for sharing about their experiences with archival research. Working with the students in this class over the past several years has been a complete joy for us and we’re glad to see that the feeling is returned!

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Archives month event: free book enclosure class: RSVP required!

Thanks to Northwest Archivists, the professional association for our region, we received some funding for an Archives Month event.

Do you have some books, journals, or diaries that need a little added protection on your shelves? Want to learn how to make some inexpensive covers for them?

A few enclosed books in our Rare Books collection.

Saturday, October 20, at 3:00 pm, we’re hosting a DIY book enclosure workshop. We’ll supply the card stock, scissors, pencils, rulers, and instructions, you bring along a book that you want to enclose. Because not all books are easy to build enclosures for, we ask that for this training you bring something that isn’t tiny, isn’t skinny, isn’t huge. A relatively standard size book or journal should work well. We’ll be sending you home with supplies to make more.

Since we have limited funding for the workshop supplies and this is a hands-on workshop, you will need to RSVP to us to reserve a place. The Contact Us link up at the top of this page will take you to a webform that you can use to submit an email to us to reserve your spot. Our phone number is there, too, if you prefer to call. If you’re working on a mobile device, the Contact Us link can be found under the menu icon (three horizontal bars) toward the top of the page. If you haven’t received a confirmation from us within one business day, please call!

Want to bring the kids? The project requires the use of fairly sharp scissors (says the archivist who nearly failed the scissors section of kindergarten) and the ability to use a ruler to take measurements. We’ll let you judge if  your kids are up for that. However due to various UAA campus safety regulations, we ask that children and minors under 18 be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Oh, and if you don’t want to bring a book with you–please don’t bring any very fragile or highly valuable books that could be damaged in transit!–we’ll have a few around that you can use to practice with.

Oh, also important: parking is free on campus on Saturdays!

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New in the Archives: September 2018

September is always a season of change in the Archives with the start of the semester! It feels like this has been an intensive outreach month for us with several events that happened and even more that we’re preparing for. More details on that in a moment.

But first up, we hired a student worker: welcome Leticia! Leticia has been doing a lot of scanning for us so far this month, including getting high resolution scans done of nitrate still photo negatives since we’re not sure how much longer it will be before those degrade: nitrate media is one of the few hard copy archival media where the digital may have a longer lifespan than the original (and significantly less flammable, too.)

“The Alaska Flivver” from the Gregory slides

Did you know? The Alaska’s Digital Archives has reached a milestone!

This summer was the 15th birthday of the Alaska’s Digital Archives website! We can’t find the exact day that the site went live, but we know it was between July and September of 2003. Related to that, in September we added some more photographs to the Digital Archives:

29 photographs from the Marion and Thomas Gregory papers.

60 photographs from the Francis J. Huber slides.

Our additions to the Alaska’s Digital Archives will be going on hiatus for a month, possibly a little bit more. The website is moving to being hosted by another service provider and there’s some great things about that. First up, our annual budgets for licensing the software the supports the Digital Archives and for server administration will significantly decrease. That’s always good news! Secondly, we’ll be able to see some great functionality that we haven’t had before: like a mobile view of the site if you’re searching using your cell phone or a tablet. Fingers crossed that the move will go quickly and well.

Classes taught:

ANTH A620: Research Design. 4 students.

ENGL A476: History of the English Language. 27 students.


Live radio interview with KNBA on Morning Line about upcoming outreach events (Arlene)

UAA Bookstore presentation: Alaska Archives, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Gwen, Veronica, Arlene)

PARK(ing) Day

Archiving AK podcast episode 6: STEM in archives

Notable uses of materials:

Well, we’re not quite sure how “notable” this is, but it charmed us no end. A photo of Spenard from the Mounteer papers is now wall-size and in the men’s bathroom at the Bear Tooth theatre. The original photo probably dates from between 1949 and 1952. The photo of the bathroom wall was courtesy of one of the Bear Tooth employees, no, we didn’t sneak in there to see it. Though we have an invitation to visit some morning before they open so we can go see it.  If you’d like to take a closer look at the photo and like us, aren’t allowed to go in the men’s room at the Bear Tooth without getting in a whole lot of trouble, we have it up on the Alaska’s Digital Archives, which is where they found it. Or you can come in and we’ll gladly pull the Mounteer collection for you to look through.

Collections described:

Christine M. McClain papers; 1907-1992. 0.01 cubic foot and 79 MB addition, includes writings and photographs.

Katharine Crittenden papers; 1978-2005. Research files and correspondence relating to Crittenden’s book, Get Mears!

Wanda A. Wheeler slides; 1964. 0.01 cubic feet. Images that depict damage caused by the 1964 earthquake.

Joanne Vivian Sedlock photographs; 1949. Aerial photographs of Anchorage.

Walter Johnson papers; 1902-2008, bulk 1961-1978. 0.5 cubic foot addition.

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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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I’m Going to College (Year 3)

This was the third year that Archives and Special Collections has participated in “I’m Going to College,” a day of classes and workshops for fifth and sixth graders held at UAA to give them a taste of what college is like.  Mariecris Gatlabayan had taught our portion of the workshops in 2009 and 2010, but I took over this year to channel the ghost of my former career as a teacher.

This year, I worked with two awesome groups of sixth graders: Team Arctic Fox from Clark Middle School and Team Harbor Seal from Fairview Elementary.  I say “awesome” because they all arrived hot and sweaty after a 10-minute trek from all the way across campus, and yet they were still engaged, active, and enthusiastic participants!

The first thing we did was have a group discussion about what an “archives” was.  I showed them pictures of different things we had in the archives and asked them to identify them.  They all easily picked out the movie reel, “old letters,” and photographs but had a little trouble identifying the diary.  (One of the students identified it as “paper with writing on it” — and I had to give him credit for it, since that was technically correct!)  We briefly talked about why these things help us understand history, especially the history of Alaska.

Then we moved on to the main exercise.  I broke each group up into six teams.  Each team got a worksheet with three questions on it: “What do you observe?” “What do you think you see?” “What do you want to know?”  Then I showed them two photographs, and each team competed to write down as many observations, assumptions, conclusions, and questions about the photographs as possible.  There was a lot of friendly competition here, and I was thrilled with how worked up they got trying to beat each other with observations about the photos.

Eleanor, Katherine, and Alice, schoolgirls at Savoonga (UAA-hmc-0562-19a)

The two photographs I chose were ones that Mariecris had used in the past two years of “I’m Going to College,” photographs taken by O.C. and Ruth Connelly, a husband and wife who were schoolteachers at the village of Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island from 1938-1940.  They’re great photos because they have a lot going on in them without giving away where and why they were taken, and the kids seem to relate to them because they depict kids their age at school.  The first photograph (at left) was of three girls in front of the schoolhouse at Savoonga, and the second photo showed a boy packing Arctic fox furs into sacks inside a classroom in the school.  Once time was up, I asked each group to present one observation, one conclusion, and one question they had about each photo.  Most of the students correctly identified that the images had been taken at a school, that the photos were from the early twentieth century, and that they depicted Alaska Native children.  They were stymied, though, by the photo of the fur-packing; they wanted to know why the kids appeared to be making pillows in the classroom.  A lot of great questions got asked, like “What were the names of the girls?” and “Why do they have beads in their hair?” and “What does the writing on the chalkboard say?” We spent the last few minutes of class talking about what kinds of other sources they would use in the library to figure out the answers to these questions (and I was personally gratified that not all of these answers started with “Google”).  Then I did the big “reveal” and told them when and where the photos had been taken.  Team Arctic Fox thought it was especially cool that the second photo showed their namesakes.

Team Harbor Seal from Fairview Elementary

This exercise is a great way for students to learn to dissect a photograph for its historical significance.  However, because of time constraints, I had to cut out another exercise that might have been even more fun: a team competition to put pieces of a photograph back together that I had cut up like a puzzle.  Once completed, the photo would have shown a view of the Park Strip in downtown Anchorage on March 28th, 1964.  What’s significant about that date? It was the day after the great Alaskan earthquake hit south-central Alaska and devastated much of the western side of the city, and the photo, an aerial view taken by pilot Frank C. Fox, shows buildings along the park strip sinking into a fault line.

I ended the workshop by taking a photo of Team Harbor Seal to “put in our archives,” like the photos they’d worked with.  Team Arctic Fox ran out too quickly (they are foxes after all!) for me to capture them on film.  Congratulations to both teams for a great workshop and competition! We hope we’ll be seeing all of these students in the Archives in the years to come.