George Harper’s “Blacks in Alaska History” exhibit.

George T. Harper

George T. Harper papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

George T. Harperwas born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930. In 1981, he moved to Anchorage from Oregon to work as a computer programmer for the Bureau of Land Management. After his retirement in 1990, he ran a consulting business called, “One on One PC Consulting.” In addition, Harper devoted more of his time to a project close to his heart, the “Blacks in Alaska History Project,” which became a non-profit organization in 1995. His first exhibit was in 1989, but he continued doing research till he passed away on January 21, 2004. Per his will, his research papers, exhibit materials, and personal papers were donated to the Consortium Library’s Archives and Special Collections so that researchers could learn and build from his research.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Multicultural Center has mounted the George T. Harper’s Blacks in Alaska History exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Consortium Library. The exhibit will be on display from February 1st to February 29th. Putting together this exhibit was no easy feat, as Harper had researched and collected a plethora of information that he used to create multiple exhibits. It was up to Ashleigh Nero to recreate portions of the exhibit so that people get a preview of the rich long history of African Americans in Alaska. Gathered from archives, libraries, and museums from around Alaska and the United States, his exhibit illuminates the African American people who were Alaskan pioneers and settlers, miners, soldiers who served in World War II and builders of the Al-Can highway, public officials, and community members who worked to make Alaska a better place.

To learn more about George T. Harper and the Blacks in Alaska History Project, please visit our finding aids:

George T. Harper Papers

George Harpers Blacks in Alaska History Project records

Blacks in Alaska History exhibit

Exhibit on display on the 3rd floor of the Consortium Library from February 1st-29th, 2012.

To learn more about archival materials in the Archives that document African Americans in Alaska, please read the following blog entries:

African American History in the Archives: Part 1

African American History in the Archives: Part 2

African American History in the Archives: Part 3

African American History in the Archives: Part 4

When state fairs go international

Title page of volume 1

In 1862, the British Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Trades sponsored an international exposition in London. Exhibitors brought wares from 36 countries, and a publishing house chose 300 of the items in the exhibit to publish via tinted lithographs.



Cover of volume 1.

Which they did, in a 3-volume set with the substantial title of: Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at the International Exhibition 1862.


The Rare Books collection at the Consortium Library has the first two volumes of this set. And they’re very beautiful, despite being in fairly rough shape. The edges of the pages–gilt-edged, no less–are worn and brittle, and the covers of the volumes are quite worn too, as you can see from the image on the left.

But the lithographs, well, the lithographs are really quite spectacular. Many very colorful and samples of a wide array of manufactured goods, from paisley shawls from India, to fireproof safes from Berlin, to Milanese glasswork, to British ironwork. The books lean a little toward the British manufacture side of things, but the publishers were very cognizant of the audience for these volumes and made sure to put the description pages in both French and English, so as to broaden the potential purchasing appeal.  And even the descriptions have momentary flights of fancy with insets of poetry. You start to wonder if even the author was occasionally challenged to find enough to say about a floorcloth to fill up an entire page. He occasionally got whimsical as well, as evidenced by the warning to any neophyte attempting to drink alcohol from a Danish carved drinking horn, which was to get instructions first to avoid splashing liquor on yourself (that page is on exhibit. Who could resist?)

Every so often, when I need a bit of graphical inspiration, I go and fetch the two volumes and very carefully page through them and see what there is to see. I usually come away with something. So recently, when I was doing this, Mariecris walked up and wanted to know what I was doing. And I explained that visually, this was one of my favorite books from the Rare Books collection and it was really a pity that more people weren’t aware of the treasures within it. Well, yes. Obviously it was time to take it to exhibit. Which is where it went this morning: into the cases in the Library’s Great Room. Not all: just some selected pages along with the second volume (which is in much better shape than the first).

And before you worry about any tendency I might have to destroy books in the process of exhibiting them, I should tell you that the volumes came to the Consortium Library almost completely disbound. No books were harmed during the making of this exhibit. The pages on display were already completely removed from the spine of the books and from other pages.

Exhibit cases

If you need to practice your French reading skills or want some design inspiration, whether it be ironwork, or web design flourishes, or maybe just looking for your next bit of ink, you might want to take a look.

And after we take it off exhibit, the books will be carefully put back together, wrapped up for their protection, and placed back with the other oversize rare books in our archival storage area. And once again be available for your viewing pleasure. Call # NK510.L7 1862. (actually that should be 1863: the exposition was in 1862, the volume was published in 1863. Projects like this take a little bit of time.) I hope you find it as inspirational as I do.


Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing it but can’t make it in, you might just want to go look at an online version.  Go to the Consortium Library’s main page, click on WorldCat (new) under Find Books, click on advanced search, type in “masterpieces of industrial art” in the title field and 1862 in the keyword field, and click search. You’ll pull up 47 hits, so look at the left-hand-sidebar, and under format, click on the “internet resource.” You’ll pull up one hit, click on the title, and you’ll be given a link to the Ruprecht Karls Universitat Heidelberg online edition of the volumes. You’ll see the three volumes listed there, and as you click on the links to them, you can go looking at individual pages.

Eye of the Beholder 4

Call for Participation: Be a Co-Curator!

Archives & Special Collections

Eye of the Beholder 4: One Image, Many Perspectives

October 3, 2011-?

THE EXHIBIT: Archives & Special Collections is mounting an exhibit to demonstrate how a single item: this image in particular, could be used/interpreted/described in a variety of ways based on the viewer’s knowledge, skills, and areas of interest.  If you’d like to alter the image in some way as all of or a part of your interpretation, we’d welcome that as well.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Deadline for submissions is September 30.  We seek specialists in any field to provide their interpretation of this image for use in the exhibit. What do you have to say about this image? Would you like to interpret it from your own area of expertise whether it be scientific, historical, sports, environmental, or tourism development? Or something else? Are you a graphic artist who would like to take the image and alter it and use it in some way? Does it prompt a story, a poem, a song, a sculpture? Or an Op-Ed piece?  Submit entries to our email at: Please note “Archives exhibit” in the subject line and provide your name, title, and email address, and short description of your own perspective or specialization. Or drop it by the Archives between 10-4, M-F.

Click on the image to the left for a bigger view. Or if you need a higher resolution copy, a tiff file (4 mb) is available at:

The Archives will retain all submissions as part of the exhibit file.   An online version of the exhibit will be posted at a later date.

Spoiler alert!

We find a lot of people who participate in our annual Eye of the Beholder exhibit don’t want to know what the picture is about before they start work on it. If you’re one of those people, you won’t want to read the information below.

What we know about the image:

  • July 4, 1963
  • Seward, Alaska
  • Starting line of the Mt. Marathon race
  • Photographer: probably Christine McClain, a long-time Alaska resident and freelance journalist