Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Connecting to Collections: Beaded tunic in Winter and Pond photographs

Last month, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the grand opening celebration for Sealaska Heritage Institute's new Walter Soboleff Center. The event featured speeches, dance performances, unveiling of monumental artworks, and a traditional ceremony.
The Yees Ku Oo dancers perform in front of the Soboleff Center, May 15, 2015.

During the traditional ceremony, representatives from clans from around southeast Alaska presented clan hats and other at.oow to be displayed in the Nathan Jackson Gallery. Bill Thomas of Haines presented several pieces of regalia, including a beaded tunic. During his speech, he mentioned that the tunic can be seen in some historic photos taken by Winter and Pond.
Bill Thomas speaks about the beaded tunic held by Chuck Smythe of Sealaska Heritage Institute, May 15, 2015.

The Alaska State Library Historical Collections has a large collection of Winter and Pond photographs, which include some of the most iconic images of southeast Alaska from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Partners Lloyd Winter and Percy Pond arrived in Juneau in 1893, and over the next fifty years, took thousands of photographs that documented life in southeast Alaska. Pond died in 1943, and two years later, Winter sold the business to Francis Harrison, who managed the company until it closed down in 1956. The photographs and negatives were transferred to the Alaska State Library Historical Collections in 1981.
Percy Pond (left) and Lloyd Winter in front of the Taku Glacier. Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-1280

Photographs from this time frequently depicted Native Americans in ways that served to justify colonialist policies that subjugated Native peoples. This is especially true of staged photographs of Native people meant to make them appear primitive or savage. In the Winter and Pond collection, there are a few exoticized studio portraits of Alaska Natives, but there are also many photos taken in Native communities that provide a glimpse of Tlingit life at the turn of the century. In The Tlingit Encounter with Photography, author Sharon Bohn Gmelch notes, "Winter and Pond's photographs are notable for the range of subjects and conditions they show. They did not limit themselves to narrow stereotypes or attempt to create falsely romantic images of the Tlingit by removing traces of modernization or Western culture."

A significant portion of the Winter and Pond collection can be viewed on vilda.alaska.edu, Alaska's Digital Archives. I searched the digital collection and found two images that show the tunic, or one that is very similar. Both photographs were probably taken in Klukwan around 1894 or 1895, according to Victoria Wyatt in Images from the Inside Passage. The top photo was taken outside the Frog House. The lower photo was taken in a makeshift tent studio. In both, the tunic is worn by a man on the far right.

Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-0035.

Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-0037

The opening of the Soboleff Center was a significant event, in part because the Center is a place where young Native people can feel connected to their history. Hopefully, these 120-year old photographs can contribute to that experience. Seeing these old photos alongside the actual tunic made me think about the tunic's long life and its significance to the people who made, wore, and cared for it. It also made me appreciate the ways that Alaska's cultural and historical institutions work together to help preserve and interpret history.

The tunic will soon be on display in the Nathan Jackson Gallery at the Walter Soboleff Center, and you can see it for yourself.

Learn more:
  • View the finding aid and read background information about the Winter & Pond Photograph Collection (PCA-87) at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections
  • See Winter & Pond photographs on vilda.alaska.edu 
  • Read articles by LAM staff about problems of early photographic depictions of Alaska Natives.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Top 10 reasons to visit the Alaska State Library - Tourist Edition

If Juneau is one of your ports of call this summer, either on a cruise or while traveling independently, the Alaska State Library is a great place to stop. Here are 10 reasons why:

10. We're easy to get to - just a short walk from the downtown core, across the street from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and the Alaska State Capitol, and on the way to the Governor's Mansion, Gold Creek, and the Evergreen Cemetery.
The entrance to the 8th floor of the State Office Building, at 4th and Main Streets. You can also enter the building from Willoughby Avenue.

9. We're off the beaten path. You won't find long lines or big crowds around here - just a few savvy people who are looking for a unique and restful stop.

8. We can help you get connected. We have free wi-fi and computers available for checking e-mail and social media or surfing the internet.

7. We keep up with the news. Trying to find the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or USA Today? We've got them here.
Most recent issues of Wall Street Journal, available for reading in the library.

6. We have info about your next stop. Going to Ketchikan, Haines, or Sitka tomorrow? We receive newspapers from all over the state and you can find out what's happening in other Alaskan communities.

5. We've got a great view. From inside the library, you can look out at the Governor's Mansion, the Federal Building, and the Willoughby district. From the deck outside the library, you can look down Gastineau Channel toward the docks, across to Douglas Island, and up towards the Mendenhall Valley. You can also see our new building being constructed.

View from the library window. The large building on the left is the Federal Building. On the right is the Governor's Mansion.

View from the deck. The cables from the Mount Roberts Tramway are visible on the left. On the right is Douglas Island.

4. We've got the best seat in the house. If you're here on a Friday at noon, you can come to a free concert played on the Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ. The organ was brought to Juneau in 1928 by theater operator W.D. Gross and was used to accompany the movies at the Coliseum Theatre. In 1970, it was donated to the Alaska State Museum and restored to playable condition.
 
3. We have some great stuff on display. Come see our 3-D map of Alaska, a mural by acclaimed local artist Rie Munoz, and historic photos from the Alaska State Library Historical Collections. Just outside the library doors, you can take a selfie with a grizzly bear and see the 38-foot Waasgo totem pole.
Map of Alaska in the library.
Waasgo Totem Pole outside the library's front door.

2. We've got some great free souvenirs. Come get an official Alaska state map, pamphlets about the Waasgo totem pole and the Kimball organ, and more.

1. It's your last chance! This is our last summer in the State Office Building. Next spring, the Alaska State Library will move to the new Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum facility at 395 Whittier Street.
Construction of the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum, May 28, 2015. The Library's Richard Foster reading room will be on the second floor.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Since You Asked! Episode 22: Moving the Library, Archives, and Museum

Next spring, the Father Andrew P.  Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum will open in Juneau, but first, the objects, records, books, manuscripts, maps, microfilm, photographs, lantern slides, and glass plate negatives in the collections have to move in to the new, secure storage areas. In this podcast, SLAM project assistant Jennifer Treadway talks with librarian Claire Imamura about her role in coordinating the moves of the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum, her background, and what she's looking forward to in 2016.

Listen to podcast (.mp3)
[13 minutes]
Recorded on May 8, 2015

  • Project SLAM website: Find the latest about the project, see photos, construction documents, and links to SLAM-related news


Thursday, May 21, 2015

A look back at the Alaska State Museum, an Alaska Purchase Centennial project

Demolition of the Alaska State Museum, August 5, 2014. Photo by Damon Stuebner.


The Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives, and Museum is being constructed on the site of the old Alaska State Museum in downtown Juneau. Last summer, the Alaska State Museum, a distinctive boxy building covered in a flicker feather motif, was torn down to make room for SLAM's new exhibit galleries, classrooms, reading rooms, and offices.

The Alaska Centennial Commission, 1966. Vernon Farbes and Senator Ernest Gruening hold a conceptual painting of the museum building. Alaska State Library - Historical Collections. ASL-Alaska-State-Museum-1.
The Alaska State Museum was constructed in 1967 as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial celebrations, which commemorated the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia. Although the Museum was a state facility, the community of Juneau embraced it as their own. State and federal contributions didn't cover the $1.2 million price tag, so residents of Juneau voted to increase local sales tax by 1% for a year to raise the remaining funds.

For 47 years, the Alaska State Museum was a gem of downtown Juneau, attracting artists, researchers, culture-bearers, and visitors from around the world. Although supportive of the SLAM project, many people were upset by the idea of demolishing the Museum. Part of the effort to mitigate its loss was an attempt to save two of the flicker feather panels, which could be incorporated into the landscaping of the new SLAM. Unfortunately, the panels were irreversibly adhered to the structure of the building and were impossible to remove intact.
Over 1,000 people said good-bye to the Museum at its Final Friday event, February 28, 2014. Photo courtesy of Carl Brodersen.



A more successful part of the mitigation plan is the publication of The View from the Future, 2017: Fifty Years after the Alaska Purchase Centennial. Editor Trisha Brown worked with writers and photographers around the state to revisit the Alaska Purchase Centennial projects and examine their social and economic impacts through photos and interviews with Centennial Commission members, historians, and other Alaskans.
The Library's copy of the book - excuse the glare off the mylar cover!


















We'll take a closer look at the book and the Centennial projects in future posts.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Naming the SLAM

On Tuesday, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed SB63, which officially names our new building, affectionately called the SLAM, after two great Alaskans. The building's formal name will be the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum.

Governor Walker signing SB63 at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections. Behind him from left to right: legislative aide Bianca Carpeneti, Education & Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley, Deputy Director of Libraries, Archives, and Museums Bob Banghart, Mayor Merrill Sanford, Representative Sam Kito III, Senator Dennis Egan, and legislative intern Heather Evoy.

From 1919 until his death in 1940, Father Kashevaroff served as the first curator and librarian of the Alaska Historical Museum and Library. Although the institution was created by an act of Congress in 1900, it didn't open its doors until 1920, and Father Kashevaroff personally greeted the visitors.

Reverend A.P. Kashevaroff standing outside the Alaska Historical Museum
P243-3-007

Father Kashevaroff was uniquely positioned to lead the fledgling institution. As a Russian Orthodox priest with Alaska Native heritage, Kashevaroff had a deep interest in Alaska's history and culture. His strong relationships with Alaska Native and Russian American communities allowed him to acquire the objects that form the foundation of the Alaska State Museum's collections and to advocate for the library and museum.

The Reading Room on the second floor will be named for Representative Richard Foster of Nome, who served in the Alaska legislature from 1989 until his death in 2009. Representative Foster was a Democrat who often caucused with the Republicans, and was well-known for crossing party lines to benefit his community. He was also a great user of the Alaska State Library, and would walk from the Capitol to the library and the archives to read newspapers and research Alaska's history.

Representative Richard Foster
Alaska State Library Historical Collections Portrait File


We look forward to opening the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum and Representative Richard Foster Reading Room next spring. We'll be honored to work in a place bearing the names of these two men and we hope to see you there, helping us write the next chapter in the State Library, Archives, and Museum story.

More on the naming of SLAM: