Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Using Alaska newspapers for research

A few months ago, Alaska's National Digital Newspaper Project Coordinator Leah Geibel wrote us a guest post about the first batch going online. Now that we've had a chance to explore the site a little more, we're very excited to put it to use.

The Alaska State Library has one of the most complete collections of Alaska newspapers on microfilm, and they are a fantastic primary resource that document the lives of 19th, 20th, and 21st century Alaskans. However, anyone who's tried it will tell you that searching through microfilm is a long and tedious process. Librarians and historians in the past have done great work creating indexes to make the newspaper collection accessible, and we continue to use those resources nearly every day. Betty Miller's incredible five-volume masterpiece, Vital Records from Alaska Daily Empire 1916-1936, is a lifesaver for researchers. But what if you're less interested in the birth, death, and marriage information and want more day-to-day articles?

Mickey and Issie Goldstein eating lunch on ice at Auk [sic] Lake 1916. Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 329-30.
That's where the digitized newspapers on Chronicling America can help. We recently looked into the life of former Juneau mayor Isadore Goldstein. There was a brief entry in Biographies of Alaska-Yukon Pioneers and our Historical Collections had a slim biography file on him. There were also a few pictures of him on the Alaska Digital Archives, which is certainly more than you'd find in your average genealogy search. But searching the Alaska newspapers on Chronicling America provides 100 results that shed more light on Mr. Goldstein's life as a young man and on Juneau's history.

Isa Goldstein returned with the launch Grace E. last night from a hunting expedition. He was hunting furs and was very successful, too. somebody killed two big grizzly bear, because Isa brought the skins home. Two of these skins are enormous in size, one is at least 11 feet long. They are both beautiful specimens.
This short article about Goldstein's grizzly bear hunt is from the Alaska Daily Empire from June 17, 1913.
Friends of Isadore Goldstein have nicknamed him "Willie Burns." Isa had an experience this morning of which he is saying but little. Doc Hamberg, who aided and abetted Mr. Goldstein, also has but little to say about it. Both of the sleuths feel that enough has been said already. At any rate, it happened thus: At 3 o'clock this morning Mr. Goldstein heard someone try to enter the Fairbanks restaurant, located opposite his apartments, over the Goldstein store, in Front Street. Isa seized his trusty gatling gun and warped across the street. He saw a man tinkering with the cash register in the restaurant, and after examining the gun to see if it were properly loaded, waited for his quarry. Finally the burglar came out. "Stick up your dukes," Goldstein commanded, and up went the bad man's mitts. "Say you big tramp, I'm one of the proprietors of this restaurant," the man explained, hands aloft. "I forgot the cash in the register when we closed up last night, and it worried me, so I came down to get it." Down went the gun, and down came the hands. Mr. Goldstein meanwhile instructed Hamberg, his room-mate, to phone the police. The bluecoats were not needed, however. The most unkind incident in connection with the capture, according to Mr. Goldstein, was the accusation, by the restaurant man, that Mr. Goldstein "must have been intoxicated."
On August 13, 1915, the Alaska Daily Empire described Goldstein's late-night attempt to prevent a "robbery."

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that sometimes Mr. Goldstein's first name is abbreviated to Isa. To capture both variants, you can use Chronicling America's Advanced Search features. You can also search phrases or for terms within 5-100 words from each other.
Select Alaska and enter search terms.
Entering "Isa Isadore" in the first box and "Goldstein" in the second box brings up results with (Isa OR Isadore) AND Goldstein.

Chronicling America features a selection of Alaska newspapers published before 1923, an interesting time in Alaska's history. It includes the gold rush, the Alaska Organic Acts, World War I, and the sinking of the Princess Sophia. We look forward to more pages and more titles being added as the project continues.

For more information about Alaska's National Digital Newspaper Program, visit, or follow the project's blog at or Instagram at @alaskahistoricalnewspapers.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

At the APK makes its television debut!

We're excited to announce our new television series, At the APK, created in partnership with KTOO-TV and 360 North. The series showcases events that take place in our building, the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff (APK) State Library, Archives, and Museum that relate to art, history, culture, literature, and education in Alaska. We are always looking for ways to reach out around the state and are thrilled about this opportunity to share our programs statewide through public access television. It also means that if you miss one of these events in our building, you'll be able to catch it on air or online at
It's exciting to watch the At the APK page grow as more episodes are added.

We are currently making the first "season" of the show, which premiered on Alaska Day with Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes presenting What Shall We Do With Our Heroes? Subsequent episodes air Thursdays at 8 pm on 360 North and include artist talks with carver and visual artist Jackson Polys, photographer Ben Huff, sculptor Annette Bellamy, Nimbus creator Robert Murray, and painter Daniel Papke. Authors are also represented by poet Joan Naviyuk Kane, novelist Don Rearden, playwright Vera Starbard, and Janet Collins, whose recent book On the Arctic Frontier tells the story of Arctic scientist and surveyor Ernest Leffingwell.

The KTOO team has been so much fun to work with and up for anything we want to try. When Annette Bellamy, one of the Alaska State Museum's 2017-2019 Solo Artists, wanted to lead an exhibit tour of her ceramic show Moving Mountains, the KTOO crew brought over cameras on pedestals and leapfrogged Annette and an audience of more than 50 people to beautifully capture her words and her monumental work. They've also helped us get the control booth in our lecture hall broadcast-ready and have mentored our staff in sound, lighting, and filming.

Video of Moving Mountains, the featured piece in Annette's exhibit, captured its scale and movement better than a still image could.

This partnership has helped all of us think bigger about what we can do in our new building and how we can better share programs around the state and the world! Thanks to KTOO and to our former deputy director Bob Banghart for making this collaboration a reality.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Internet Bandwidth: More computers = less for everyone

This is the first post in an occasional series on factors affecting internet access in public libraries. This information should apply anywhere where internet is offered.

Many libraries in Alaska face slow internet. One common reason is because there are too many devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, etc) for the amount of bandwidth a library has.

When you buy internet for your library, say 3x3 Mbps, that speed is delivered to your library wall. It is then available to be split up among your library computers and anything connected to your library’s WiFi network. 

Assuming that there are no tweaks to your network, you can find out how much bandwidth is available to each computer/smartphone/tablet connected to your network with this formula:

(bandwidth purchased) x 1024) / (total number of devices connected to your network) = current level of kbps per user

For example, let’s say that you purchased 3x3 Mbps for your library and you have two public computers. Each user would get:

(3x1024)/2 = 1,536 kbps per user – This speed for the two computers is excellent and should allow people to do most activities, including movie streaming, if you allowed that sort of thing. 

BUT. Let’s say you have a WiFi network and you also have five people out in the parking lot with smartphones or laptops. Now our calculation looks like:

(3x1024)/7 = 438 kbps per user – Here you have the same bandwidth delivered to the library wall, but because you have seven people working with it, each user only has 438 kpps worth of bandwidth. This is bad. It’s below the Edge Initiative’s recommendation of 512 kbps per user in order to deliver basic web browsing and e-mail. It’s very likely that all seven of your internet users are going to have unhappy experiences. 

Some libraries only have 1.5x1.5 Mbps for internet. What does their bandwidth look like for those two public computer users and five wifi users? Here’s the sad calculation:

(1.5*1024)/7 = 219 kbps per user.  At this speed, a typical cell phone photo of 4 MB would take two and a half minutes to download. It is unlikely anyone on this network is having  a positive experience. Yet the ISP has delivered their promised 1.5x1.5 Mbps to the library. 

If this is the source of your bad internet, your main two choices are 1) Buy more bandwidth (if you can afford it) or 2) Limit the number of devices that use your network. You could also tweak your network to block some usages or prioritize one computer’s access to bandwidth, but this won’t get you as much relief as either limiting devices or getting more bandwidth. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can offer advice on limiting or tweaking. If you are a library, you may also contact the Online With Libraries (OWL) program for advice on tweaking your network.

If you have questions or comments on this post, we'd love to hear them.


Edge Initiative Article
Benchmark 9: How much bandwidth does my library need?
By Samantha Becker, Sofia Leung, and Robert Bocher

Guest post: Damon Stuebner on the film Report from the Aleutians

On Friday, November 10, the APK will host three showings of the award-winning World War II film Report from the Aleutians by filmmaker John Huston at 1, 2, and 3 pm. LAM film and video specialist Damon Stuebner shares some background on the film. -Claire

Damon Stuebner during filming of his documentary about the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis.
Report from the Aleutians is the official U.S. Army film documenting the combat operations and daily life of soldiers serving in the Aleutians during World War II. While he is not officially credited, Hollywood filmmaker John Huston wrote, directed, edited, and narrated Report from the Aleutians.

Prior to the war, John Huston was Hollywood’s go-to-man for fixing poorly written scripts. His first venture into directing feature films won him two Academy Awards for the film, Maltese Falcon (1941). At the start of the World War II, Huston enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the recently established U.S. Army Signal Corps - Motion Picture Unit as a lieutenant.

Huston was quickly promoted to captain after receiving his first assignment to film at a remote Aleutian outpost on Adak Island in Alaska. Capt. Huston and his small film crew spent 6 months on Adak living and working out of the same tent and filming in all types of weather conditions. His chief cameraman, Lt. Rey Scott (a well-regarded Hollywood cinematographer prior to the war) received a medal for flying nine combat missions over Kiska in six days. While filming bombing missions himself, Huston had several close-calls. On one mission, enemy fire killed the gunner standing next to him. On another mission, the bomber that he was filming in crashed and caught fire upon landing.

Title card from Report from the Aleutians via Wikipedia.
Along with Huston’s narration, Report from the Aleutians also featured his father, Hollywood actor Walter Huston, as co-narrator, and bomber pilots who had flown combat missions over Kiska played themselves in voice-over roles.

The U.S. Army wanted Report from the Aleutians to be released as a short film, but Huston insisted that the film be released in its original form as a feature length documentary. The film won a New York City Film Critics Circle Award (1943) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (1944). The film lost to Divide and Conquer, directed by famed Hollywood filmmaker, and Huston’s commanding officer, Major Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life).

Huston also served as chief cameraman for the joint U.S./British Army film Tunisian Victory, and he shot newsreel footage during the Allied Invasion of Italy.

Report from the Aleutians was the first of three films Huston directed for the U.S. Army. His second, Battle of San Pietro, became the standard for how Hollywood makes war films even today. While billed as a documentary, it was largely a re-enactment of how U.S. forces, despite being greatly outnumbered and having taken heavy casualties, captured the San Pietro Valley in Italy. His third film, Let There Be Light, which examined the effects and treatment of “combat fatigue” (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), was deemed so controversial by the U.S. Army that it was listed as classified until 1980, when it was released to the National Archives. Today, film critics consider Let There Be Light to be one of Huston’s greatest films.

After the war, Huston returned to Hollywood as an actor and director. He appeared in 54 films and went on to direct 47 motion pictures, including such Hollywood classics as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The African Queen, and Moby Dick.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How can I find historical Alaskan weather?

Here in Juneau, we're constantly talking about the weather, even though it's pretty consistent, especially this summer (read: so.much.rain). But what if you want to know what the weather was in the past?

We recently had a question like this from a patron looking for the weather on the day he was born. He asked that we send him the weather section from the newspaper in the town where he lived. That was a great idea. It worked especially well because there was a big storm on his birthday so there was a full article on the weather. We have one of the most complete Alaska newspaper microfilm collections in the world and our microfilm scanners make it easy to scan an article and send it by email.
Juneau's weather report from Wednesday, September 13, 1916 as reported in The Alaska Daily Empire.

You can also find historical weather information from the National Weather Service, although the amount of information may differ depending on the local forecast office. Let's say I wanted to know what the weather was like in Nome fifty years ago. When I looked up Nome, it said that the local forecast office is in Fairbanks, with a link on the right side. Then I went to Climate and Past Weather.
The local forecast office page for Fairbanks. There is a link to Climate and Past Weather at the top of the page.

From the Climate and Past Weather page, you can find a tab called NOWData, which stands for NOAA Online Weather Data.

In NOWData, you can select the location and information type. Several of the options will give you historical weather data in various formats, so it's up to you which product type you select. I chose the Daily Almanac for September 13, 1967, which shows the high, low, and average temperature, precipitation, snowfall, and snow depth. It also provides the record highs and lows for the observation period, which goes back to the 1890s for many Alaskan locations.
The Daily Almanac for September 13, 1967 shows that the high temperature was 55, low was 36, and there was no precipitation or snowfall.