Writing Alaska’s History, V. 1

Writing Alaskas History 1In 1974 the Alaska Historical Commission projected the publishing of a series of five booklets under the title Writing Alaska’s History: 

Vol. 1. A Guide to Research

Vol. 2. A Comprehensive and Cooperative Plan for Publishing the Great Land’s Past

Vol. 3. A Guide for Preservation Research and Preservation Plans

Vol. 4. A Guide to Oral History Research and Transcription

Vol. 5. A Guide to Pictorial Reseach

The only one of these guides I’ve been able to locate is Vol. 1: A Guide to Research. The other guides don’t come up in any searches and I assume they were never developed (if anyone knows differently please advise). 

The one I have located is a gem of a book, edited by Robert A. Frederick, who was at the time Executive Director of the Alaska Historical Commission, and while it was written as a guide to researchers, it is, itself, an interesting research project. The Alaska Historical Commission was barely a year and a half old in 1974, comprised of a staff of one (see above), appointed by Governor Bill Egan, and a part-time assistant, Patricia A. Jelle, and they described a herculean task set before them in encouraging the researching and writing of Alaska’s history.  

Ak Historical SocietyThe 1960’s and 1970’s were a banner time for Alaskan history, with the founding of the Alaska Historical Society, the scholarly periodical Alaska Journal, establishment of the State Archives and Records Management Program, and passing of the Historic Preservation Act of 1971, which resulted in surveys of Alaska’s historic sites, buildings, and more. Still, the Guide reported that most Alaskan towns and villages lacked histories and biographies, and also noted: “Alaska lacks the published research tools (bibliographies, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) which aid investigation in state and local history. To add to the complexity of the task, research materials are not easily available. Much of Alaska’s ‘paper trail’ which does exist, is in manuscript collections outside the State. The same is true of artifacts, evidence of material culture. In addition, until very recent times, the history of Alaska’s native peoples has been preserved only through the oral tradition.” 

oie_8EhK79sN6VVbA couple of pages later this is explained further: “Compared to her sisters, some of whose paper trail has accumulated for 370 years, the Great Land’s historiography is in its childhood, if not infancy. Historical assessment which does exist is scattered, incomplete, and fails to include the histories of at least one-sixth of the State’s population. Until this decade, there has been no significant paper trail contributed by Alaska’s major native cultures. Most often, the oral tradition has not been freely shared with those outside a culture.”

And later: “With all the global, national, state and local attention to Alaskan anthropological and historical study in this century, relatively little is known about man’s experience here in the last 20,000 years.”

Those realities were the impetus for the projected Writing Alaska’s History guides, and potentially the most interesting would be Volume Two: A Comprehensive and Cooperative Plan for Publishing the Great Land’s Past, “….which constitutes, a master publication plan of Alaskan history.” 

I would love to find a copy of that booklet!

 

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