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.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest post: Historic Alaskan newspapers online with Leah Geibel

Imagine firing up your computer, opening your web browser, and with the click of a button, searching through 100,000 pages of digitized Alaskan historical newspapers from the comfort of your home. Whether for historical research, genealogy, or school projects, this will soon become a reality for Alaskans with the Alaska State Library’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).
National Digital Newspaper Project Coordinator Leah Geibel, with her microfilm reader and project notes.

What is NDNP?
The National Digital Newspaper Program is a joint collaboration by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities dedicated to preserving and providing access to our nation’s historical newspapers through digitization and inclusion in Chronicling America, a freely accessible web-based text-searchable newspaper database.

AKDNP: Alaska’s Role in NDNP
The Alaska State Library is coming up on one year since its inclusion in NDNP – so what do we have to show for it? First, let’s start with the roles and responsibilities of the library, which will help explain where we are now and where we’re going in the future.

By the end of the grant cycle, in August 2018, the Alaska State Library will have digitized 100,000 pages of Alaskan historical newspapers from across the state ranging in date from 1898-1922. These pages will be sent to Library of Congress in 10,000 page batches which will then be made available free to the public on Chronicling America (see above section). This will involve two sections within the library, Historical Collections and the Micrographics Lab. Micrographics is responsible for creating preservation quality duplicates of all microfilm reels being digitized for the grant which will eventually make their way into the hallowed stacks of the Library of Congress as preservation copies. Historical Collections is in charge of day-to-day management of grant operations ranging from gathering page level metadata from the historical titles chosen, to shipping content to vendors for digitization and performing quality control checks, to managing outreach through social media and creating programs and content aimed at providing instruction awareness of Chronicling America as an instructional resource for researchers, educators, and students.
Jerry Duncan, Microfilm/Imaging Operator, duplicates reels of newspaper microfilm in the lab at the APK. The red light is safe to use without exposing the film.

What titles were selected for digitization and how were they picked?
There was a lot of time spent, effort organizing, and views debated before a final list of titles was chosen. A sixteen member advisory committee comprised of community members diverse in experiences, geographic locations, and professions, but united in their passion for preserving Alaska’s history was tasked with this very important aspect of the project. Several factors influenced their final title selection such as technical specifications provided by Library of Congress, geographic coverage of the paper, completeness of the paper (meaning we weren’t missing huge chunks of its run), date range, and diversity of viewpoints recorded within the paper. With over 300 titles to choose from, 10 were selected for digitization during this grant cycle which the committee members felt were papers of record, had close to complete runs, were diverse in geographical coverage, and fell within the specifications recommended by Library of Congress.
  1. The Alaska daily empire (Juneau, AK ). 1912-1922
  2. Douglas Island news (Douglas City, AK). 1898-1921
  3. The Thlinget (Sitka, AK). 1908-1912
  4. The daily Alaskan (Skagway, AK). 1898-1922
  5. The Nome nugget (Nome, AK). 1901-1922
  6. The Alaska prospector (Valdez, AK). 1902-1918
  7. The Iditarod pioneer (Iditarod, AK). 1910-1919
  8. The Cordova daily times (Cordova, AK). 1914-1922
  9. The Seward gateway (Seward, AK). 1904-1922
  10. The Alaska citizen (Fairbanks, AK). 1910-1920

Where are we now?
The first batch of digitized pages is now available on Chronicling America. It includes 1,206 issues of The Alaska Daily Empire (1912-1918), 448 issues of the Douglas Island News (1898-1907), and 47 issues of The Thlinget (1908-1912). These pages are free to search at You can expect to see new batches of 10,000 pages go up monthly until we reach our 100,000 page limit.

The first page of the first issue of the Douglas Island News, November 23, 1898, viewable on Chronicling America.

Where are we going?

Anastasia Tarmann, the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project Director, has been meeting with educators to bring historic newspapers and other primary sources into the classroom, and plans to support other Alaska institutions with supplementary projects. We plan to continue educating Alaskans and other researchers on navigating Chronicling American and promoting NDNP through exhibits, social media, and public programs. We will also be focusing on reapplying for the next grant cycle, where we hope to extend our title selection to papers covering smaller, more diverse, and underrepresented communities!

Learn More & Follow Along!
For frequent project updates and a behind the scenes look you can check out the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s blog at

For project highlights, content features, photographs, contests and more follow the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s Instagram account @AlaskaHistoricalNewspapers

To contact the Project Coordinator for more information email Leah Geibel at To contact the Project Director, email Anastasia Tarmann at

Thanks to Leah for contributing this guest post! Leah has been with the Library since February and is busy bringing historic Alaskan newspapers to you! As someone who spends a lot of time looking through Alaska newspaper microfilm, I'm thrilled that this project will make research easier. -Claire

Friday, July 14, 2017

Addressing concerns about EBSCO resources in SLED Databases

Last week, the Alaska State Library received this question via our Twitter account:

The World Net Daily (WND) article linked from Chickadee Chick's tweet reported on claims from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) that children in Colorado were able to search EBSCO databases and find sexually inappropriate materials. EBSCO is a national vendor of online indexes to magazines with linked full-text articles from the magazines. EBSCO databases are available to Alaskans through SLED. We have not had reports of Alaska students finding sexually inappropriate materials through any of the EBSCO databases on SLED, but we do take claims of possible harm to children very seriously.

Because it is never a good idea to take a single article from ANY source as absolutely true, our first step was to verify the WND story. We visited the NCOSE site to read the claims they made about the EBSCO databases. Next, we found a story from a FOX News affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, where EBSCO is located, that contained additional details on the claims, along with a response from EBSCO.

Our research and reading led us to conclude that there were some articles from professional journals discussing sexual matters that were inappropriately searchable from elementary and middle school databases. EBSCO addressed NCOSE’s concerns when contacted and removed the offending journals from their elementary and middle school databases.  The WBRC article indicated some additional controversy and additional steps being taken by EBSCO.

At this point, we contacted EBSCO directly, both to confirm the account we found from WBRC and to ask about the ongoing status of their work. They told us in part:

“Based on our reviews, we are confident that we have removed all content identified as being sexually explicit from these products. At this time, we are focusing our additional curation scrutiny on our other K-12 products to replicate the approach that we took with Primary Search and Middle Search Plus.”
“Please know that EBSCO is very mindful of issues around censorship and always remains neutral on topics; the content provided in our databases does not reflect EBSCO positions or opinions. As noted, we have strengthened our review system to ensure that questionable content does not appear in our K-12 products in the future and put plans in place to further empower product managers and consistently ensure the content in our K-12 products is age appropriate. Furthermore, in order to address additional concerns that may vary from school to school or district to district, EBSCO continues to maintain processes that enable individual libraries and school districts to control the content they provide and remove titles from their EBSCO databases. While customers have the ability to exclude any title as they may see fit, we are working toward the article level controls so that each customer can ultimately determine if a given article is deemed appropriate for their students/community.”    

Alaska State Library staff tried to find the materials that the original WND article stated were in EBSCO, but we could not find those items. It appears to us that EBSCO has made a good faith effort to remove these materials from their databases. At this point, we are satisfied with EBSCO’s efforts in this area.

Turning from EBSCO to internet access generally, you should know that all Alaska schools and school libraries have anti-pornography filters in place, as does any Alaska public library that receives federal funding for internet access. These filters are not perfect – they sometimes let materials through they should not and sometimes they block content they should not – like research on breast cancer. But the filters are there.

The Alaska State Library strongly encourages parents to be with their children online as much as possible and encourage their children to discuss what find. Parents are children’s first and best teachers.

If you have a concern about a particular resource or article that is available through the SLED databases, we ask you to do the following:

  1. Be as specific as you possibly can, because our databases have a LOT of journals. Please be sure to note the name of the database you are searching, the title of the article, the author’s name and the title of the journal in which the article appeared. The more specific you can be, the easier and faster it will be for us to address your concerns. Please state clearly why you find a particular resource inappropriate for children. 
  2. Start by sharing your concerns with your local library. If you don’t have a local library, you can e-mail us at 

Since 1994, the Alaska State Library has worked with the University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library to make EBSCO databases available through SLED to Alaskans at school, work and home. This is the first time content on EBSCO has been questioned. We hope that EBSCO’s action addresses the concerns of the Twitter user and others concerned about children’s access to databases paid for with government funds.


New alert over X-rated materials .. In School!  (World Net Daily, 6/30/2017 

Could your kids find pornographic articles on school computers? (WBRC Fox 6 News, 6/28/2017)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Lecture Series from the Alaska State Library

We kicked off our summer lecture series here at the Alaska State Library on June 6, with Mike Dunham's presentation on William Seward and Tsar Alexander II, the statesmen behind the Treaty of Cession. Mr. Dunham wrote two biographies on these men and their roles in the shaping of Alaska, called The Man Who Bought Alaska and The Man Who Sold Alaska. His talk featured a wealth of historical photographs, maps, and other gems, and his years of working on radio showed in his engaging speaking style.

Next up, on July 8 at 2:00 pm, paper conservator Seth Irwin will stream in to share his work preparing Treaty of Cession maps and manuscripts for the sesquicentennial exhibit that will open at the Alaska State Museum this fall. Seth was the first conservator to use the new paper lab in the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum. It is the only paper conservation lab in the state, and we're thrilled to have it operational. He spent six weeks in Juneau this spring, stabilizing fragile 150-year old documents, removing cellophane tape, and cleaning stains. He'll also answer questions about your own personal papers and photographs and how to care for them.
Seth Irwin works on a Treaty of Cession map in the paper conservation lab. Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum.

In August, Professor Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes from the University of Alaska Southeast and the current Alaska State Writer Laureate will discuss the portions of her writing that examine our society's histories and heroes from a deeper perspective. Her talk ties in with the Alaska State Museum's summer exhibit, Decolonizing Alaska, which looks at the effects of colonization on Alaska's land and people. Professor Hayes will be here for August First Friday at 7 pm.
Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes. Photo courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation.

In September, Ketchikan- and New York-based artist Jackson Polys (aka Stephen Jackson and Stron Softi) will present an artist talk about his work on the third iteration of the Seward shame pole that was raised in Saxman Totem Park in April. The original pole was erected on Tongass Island by Chief Ebbit in the 1880s and a replica was raised in the 1930s. Jackson will be here for September First Friday at 7 pm. Jackson had a solo artist exhibit at the Alaska State Museum in 2009, and you can see the online exhibit here.
Jackson Polys. Photo courtesy of the artist.

We hope you can join us for these programs. If you're not in Juneau, you can tune in via the Online With Libraries videoconferencing system at an Alaskan library, or you can watch the livestream. Visit for the livestream links. If you missed this month's presentation, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum also hosted Dunham at the Valley Public Library during his visit to Juneau. You can see the recording at

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mannequins revisited

Two summers ago, we were busy preparing to open our new building, and I shared some photos from a statewide mannequin workshop for museum professionals, organized by Museum Services Curator Scott Carrlee and funded by an IMLS professional development grant. The workshop was a fun and productive way for museum staff from around the state to learn valuable exhibit-making skills, network with each other, and help the Alaska State Museum churn out 35 mannequins in one week.

All of those mannequins are now part of the Museum's permanent exhibits. After the workshop, heads and arms were added and the mannequins were covered with a stretchy, gray finish fabric by expert sewers at the BrownBoots Costume Company. The curation team decided on the gray fabric to provide a neutral backdrop for the garments, rather than trying to make the mannequins too lifelike.

Here are the mannequins-in-progress alongside their completed exhibit. Mannequin-makers, do you recognize your work?

Anchorage Stealers t-shirt (ASM 97-20-1)
Undressed and dressed mannequin for Anchorage Stealers t-shirt in the Contemporary Alaska gallery
The Anchorage Stealers mannequin was one of the few that needed finishing on the bottom, since it's suspended in the air.

Silk caftan (ASM 94-39-1)
Mount-maker Jeff Thole works on the first stages of the mannequin for the caftan, presented to Mikhail Kuhkhan by Adolf Etolin.
It's hard to believe that the trapezoid shape above became the mannequin for this silk caftan. The tricorner hat had extensive conservation work prior to exhibit.

Chief's police uniform (ASM III-O-416)
Textile conservator Sarah Owens of the Anchorage Museum works with exhibits specialist Aaron Elmore (kneeling) and mount-maker Tanna Peters on the first fit of Chief's police uniform.
This police uniform was one of several that required torsos and legs, a special challenge for the mount-making team!

Child's parka (ASM II-A-3647)
Although the goal for most of the mannequins was a natural posture, some garments were uncooperative. The parka for this mannequin was tight in the shoulders, so the arms had to be sticking out to prevent strain on the garment.
This was probably our smallest mannequin, and it looks even tinier in the exhibit in its sweet little swans' down parka. The parka was made in Siberia and traded to Alaskans.

Reindeer parka (ASM II-A-4816)
A roomy parka like this one requires a very large mannequin to properly support it while on exhibit.
Adding the head and arms helped fill out the folds in this reindeer parka once worn by territorial governor George Parks.

Japanese uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175)
This mannequin for a Japanese World War II uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175) was one of the first ones we created.
Our mannequin-making skills improved with practice! Although most visitors probably don't notice, this mannequin looks a little stiff.

A multitude of mannequins!
Mannequin-makers at work in the Museum's collections processing room during the workshop.
This World War II case shows the variety of uniforms worn by the US military in Alaska and also demonstrates the wide variety in mannequin shapes and sizes!
Even heavy coats like these have fully finished mannequins inside to support their weight and make them look like they're being worn.

We hope that everyone who helped out with the mannequins has had a chance to visit their creations and enjoyed this look back at the mannequin workshop!