Tag Archives: Resources

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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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oie_294320PsjatQA3There’s a new signup form for the free weekly Alaskan History Magazine newsletter, emailed every Monday and chock-full of interesting stuff! Check it out here, and if you’re already a subscriber, why not direct your friends to join the fun and sign up for their own newsletter!

Brown Box

Finding History

Page 48 smallOne feature in every issue of Alaskan History Magazine will be a collection of resources for discovering, researching, or just browsing through our past. The Internet has brought us all a wealth of information and wonderful new ways of exploring, and sharing the best links will be part of every issue.

Here’s a handful which were used in the May/June issue:

oie_223712cl17y84PArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Archives West provides descriptions of materials held by institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, and Utah. See the About page for links to other regions.

Library of Congress The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 5.06.10 PMNorman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center a website that includes more than 10,000 digitized maps, global in scope, dating from the 15th century to the present.

Researching anything online or in a library is always an adventure in unexpected discoveries, for a person may start by searching for a specific book or photograph and become happily sidetracked by any number of exciting discoveries. In researching the several books which make up this first issue of Alaskan History it was difficult to ignore the distractions and maintain focus on the subject at hand, and that actually became part of the reason for starting this magazine: creating a place to share a wider diversity! My hope is to inspire readers to do their own research on the marvelous history of Alaska, and enjoy the sidetracks!