Monday, April 20, 2020

Newly released: At the APK episodes!

One of the things we really miss during the coronavirus closure is public programming. In the four years since we opened the APK, we've developed a regular series of author and artist talks, presentations by historians, film screenings, and youth art activities that highlight the collections and exhibits of the Library, Archives, and Museum in interesting and entertaining ways.

Thanks to a partnership with 360 North, we've been able to capture many of those programs on video. Our new 360 North producer, Bethany Lowrance, has edited and posted the latest season of episodes. Here are a few of our favorites from the past year.

Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll on Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline

Kirk and Ray, the scientist and the artist behind last summer's Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline exhibit, obviously have a great time when they get together, and so did the audience. Kirk, a paleontologist and director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, packed a ton of science into his presentation, illustrated by Ray's quirky humor.

Emily L. Moore on Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska's New Deal Totem Parks

This talk and the accompanying book tie in perfectly to the Library, Archives, and Museum. One chapter focuses on the Proud Raven totem pole, previously called the Lincoln pole, on exhibit in the Museum's Foreign Voyagers gallery. Dr. Moore also used archival records and historic photographs to document the creation of southeast Alaska's most iconic tourist destinations.

Alaska State Museum staff presentations

I never get tired of hearing my colleagues share their knowledge, and we were fortunate to have three of them talk about some of their favorite topics in the past year.

Steve Henrikson presents The Case for Tranquility Base
For the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Curator of Collections Steve Henrikson recounts the saga of the Museum's missing moon rock, a real-life museum detective story complete with international intrigue, possible arson, and a top secret trip to NASA to retrieve "the football." The moon rock returned to Alaska and was one of the last exhibits in the old Museum before it closed in 2014.

Anjuli Grantham on Tin Can Country: Southeast Alaska's Historic Salmon Canneries
Curator of Museum Services Anjuli Grantham wears many hats, including historian and book editor. Along with contributing author and "fishtorian" Bob King, Anjuli talks about the role that salmon canneries played in Alaska history.

Andrew Washburn presents Illuminating Subjects: Snippets of Lighthouse History and Preservation in Alaska
Museum Registrar Andrew Washburn is both a museum professional and the Vice President of the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society. He combines these two roles in a presentation about the history of the lighthouse service in Alaska and the challenges and successes of groups preserving lighthouses around southeast.

The At the APK playlist includes other great episodes from previous seasons, including U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, Ken Coates on the Princess Sophia, Leland Hale on What Happened in Craig? and Tlingit master carver Wayne Price. A big thanks to 360 North for recording, editing, and posting these programs. Happy viewing!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Alaska Folk Fest memories

It's no secret that the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum have a great love for and strong connection to the Alaska Folk Festival. What started as a small gathering at the Museum has grown into a multi-venue week of music, workshops, and revelry enjoyed by musicians and music lovers from around the world. Bob Banghart, our former deputy director, has been a driving force behind Folk Fest since its inception.
The silhouette of an angel plays a musical instrument in a starry night sky around the earth
Cover of the program for the 19th annual Alaska Folk Festival in 1993, designed by Bill Hudson. From Alaska State Library Manuscript Collection 118.

Like many in Juneau, we're sorry that the Festival is canceled this year and miss seeing familiar faces come through our doors and share their memories of music in the Museum, so we're taking a walk down memory lane with our collections. The Library's Historical Collections has some phonotape audio recordings from the early festivals, and has an active Alaska Folk Festival memorabilia collection, which grows every year and includes posters, buttons, stickers, programs, a "Folk Fest family album" from 1994, and even some painted backdrop panels created by University of Alaska Southeast students for the 2009 festival. You can see a selection of the programs on Alaska's Digital Archives and some even have notes, comments, and ratings of performances.
Note from Bill and Clarissa Hudson about Folk Fest.
Bill and Clarissa Hudson wrote this note on the 1978 program they found and sent to the Folk Fest organizers in 1994. The Hudsons created many of the iconic Folk Fest posters in the '80s and '90s.

There are also some mysteries about Folk Fest history that even die hard fans haven't been able to help us solve. Did Folk Fest begin in 1974 or 1975? Although the Alaska Folk Festival website says 1975, others (including the Hudsons, see above) say the original concert was in 1974 and the first festival was in 1995. Who were the original Folk Fest performers? Do programs or flyers from 1974 or 1975 exist in someone's attic, basement, or guitar case? If you know the answers to these questions or have early Folk Fest memorabilia to donate, please contact the Historical Collections.
Six men and three dogs in front of a log cabin. One of the men has a guitar and one has a fiddle.
Although these guys were about 70 years too early for Folk Fest, they'd fit right in at a jam session. From Alaska State Library Photograph Collection 44-03-184.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A look back at Alaska's epidemics

Life during the coronavirus pandemic has inspired us to look back at how Alaskans handled outbreaks in the past through our collections.

1918 Influenza

Gastineau Gossip column describing Juneau's efforts to prevent the spread of influenza by staying home and "wisely foregoing all good times."
This gossip column from the Alaska Daily Empire, November 16, 1918, proves that social distancing has been around for more than a hundred years.
The 1918 influenza epidemic has numerous parallels to today's coronavirus situation. Movement was restricted, quarantines imposed, and communities converted spaces into field hospitals and recovery wards. Helen Wilson, a teacher in Skagway, volunteered to cook and keep house at the White Pass Rooming House, which became an overflow area for flu patients. You can read her letter to her mother about bringing the cooked chicken she'd planned for a dinner to the Rooming House in a taxi with her oil stove strapped to the running board on Alaska's Digital Archives. Last week, Twitter user @alaskarobotics posted a round-up of flu-related (and some just humorous) snippets from Alaska newspapers that he found on Chronicling America.

1925 Diphtheria

Man in fur parka and leggings with a dog
Gunnar Kasson and Balto in their race to Nome. Alaska State Library Portrait File, ASL-Kasson-Gunnar.
Alaska's most famous epidemic may be the one that spurred the great serum run in 1925. Diphtheria broke out in Nome and the only option for transporting the antitoxin from Nenana was by dog sled. Mushers and their dogs, like Leonhard Seppala with Togo and Gunnar Kasson with Balto, braved gale force winds, -85 degree temperatures, and whiteout conditions to make the 674-mile delivery in 127.5 hours and become nationwide heroes. You can follow the mushers' progress through telegrams posted to Governor Scott C. Bone, from the governor's correspondence files digitized by the Alaska State Archives.

1940s-1950s Tuberculosis

A nurse preparing a vaccine for a baby sitting on a woman's lap. A young boy stands behind the woman's chair.
An "itinerant" nurse with the Territorial Department of Health sees a young patient in Tanacross. Alaska State Library Historical Collections, ASL-P143-1018.
After World War II, tuberculosis was a major health crisis in Alaska. The Territorial Department of Health deployed mobile clinics, including a decommissioned military ship, two barges, two railway cars, and a truck, to rural communities to provide basic health care and training. Tuberculosis still took a heavy toll on Alaskans, and in 1946, a 150-bed tuberculosis sanitorium opened in Seward. Patients there published a newspaper called San Chat with patient spotlights, updates from former staff, and drawings, poems, and stories by residents.

Then, as now, Alaskans got through bad times by lending a helping hand, demonstrating their courage and perseverance, and using their resourcefulness and creativity to lift each other up.

More links:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Seeking an Electronic Resources Librarian

We're hiring for an Electronic Resources Librarian here at the Alaska State Library. This position will coordinate the Library's serials collection and other electronic resources. It is a full-time Librarian I, pays $4,355 monthly with state benefits, and is located at the new Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum in Juneau, Alaska. The job description and application information are available on Workplace Alaska.

The Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum building in Juneau, Alaska, with the iconic Nimbus sculpture in front. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

Here are four reasons why you should apply for this position and consider moving to Juneau.

1. It's in Alaska. If you've ever wondered about living in Alaska, this could be your chance! Juneau is a great place for people who love kayaking, hiking, and the outdoors, and prefer cool temperatures and mild winters. If your image of Alaska is a frozen block of ice, think again. Juneau's weather is less extreme than most of the country. My friend in Washington, D.C. reported a colder Thanksgiving Day than we had here.

2. Juneau has a great library community. There are three branches of the Juneau Public Libraries, a university library at the University of Alaska Southeast, and the State of Alaska operates the law library, legislative library, and the Alaska State Library. No matter your library interest, there's a way to pursue it in Juneau.

Staff photo of the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum.
This position is based in the library, but you'll have a chance to work with people from special collections, archives, and museums.
3. Working here is a great way to explore the field. The Electronic Resources Librarian position is part of the Library's Information Services section, but that doesn't mean that the work is limited to state government needs. Since the Library shares a facility with the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, the Alaska State Archives, and the Alaska State Museum, this is a perfect place for an information professional interested in history or heritage work to get a wide variety of experiences.

The Reading Room of the Alaska State Library
The Library's Reading Room gets beautiful natural light thanks to the clerestory windows that circle the building.
4. You'll love coming to work. Our building opened in 2016 and we still can't get over how lucky we are to work in this beautiful space. Our office windows overlook Gastineau Channel and Douglas Island and you can see mountain goats on Mount Juneau from our break room. Many coworkers enjoy walking to the shops downtown or along the new seawalk to the whale park on their lunch breaks. We have dedicated parking and indoor racks for bikes.

The recruitment closes on Monday, December 3, at 5 pm Alaska time. Come join our team as our next Electronic Resources Librarian!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Guest post: Sara Bornstein on dispelling the mysteries of the Research Center

Today's guest post is from Sara Bornstein, Librarian I with the Alaska State Library Historical Collections. Thanks to Sara for introducing readers to the Research Center. - Claire

The Alaska State Archives and Historical Collections Research Center is open to everyone.
“Can I come in here?”
This is a question I got at the Historical Collections reference desk the other day, and unfortunately it’s not the first time. The answer is yes, please do! All we ask is that you leave your food and beverages at the door, stow your pens, and no you won’t be able to check out material to take home.

Perhaps the numerous rules are part of the reason patrons worry about stepping foot in a special collections library. Let me first explain some of the guidelines of the Research Center. A better understanding may make the library less daunting. Then I’ll tell you how you can start your research at home so you’ll be prepared when you walk in the door the first time.

The first thing you’ll notice when arriving at the Research Center is the lack of bookshelves and readily available research material. This is because our overall aim is to save the material you’d like to see for generations to come. In order to do this, we keep everything not currently being used stored in a cold, temperature-controlled environment. This slows the process of inevitable decomposition. Secondly, we ask you the patron to aid in these efforts by abiding by the strangely strict Research Center Guidelines. While you may believe yourself to be a careful person, accidents do happen and we’d rather prevent the possibility of food and drink spilling on irreplaceable material. And as for the no pens, ink can transfer or pens can slip. Believe me, I’ve done it- and I’m a librarian. And the last thing we ask, to prevent the accidental shuffle of rare material into your papers, is that bags and packs are put in the provided cabinets in the library.
Using Folder Out markers help keep collections in order and pencils prevent accidental ink transfer.

So what do you allow in the library then?
We definitely want you to be able to take notes and record your findings since you can’t take material home. You can take notes with a pencil and paper. You can take photographs with a camera or phone. Just leave the flash off- light can fade paper and photographs real quick. We even provide scanners in the Research Center so if you have a flash drive with you it’s no extra charge to make digital images for later reference.

Ok, but you said I could start research at home?
While we love when you come visit us in person, we also like to find ways to decrease the physical use of original material if we can. The less handling, the longer it will last. This has led us to make digital copies of some of the material held at the library and some of these surrogates are available online.

The Alaska Digital Archives: Photographs, Manuscripts & Maps
Photographs, documents, and maps that have been digitized are available on the Alaska Digital Archives ( As a bonus, there are several repositories around the state that add material to the Digital Archives so you won’t be limited to just the State Library & Archives collections.

Chronicling America: Pre-1923 Newspapers
If you’re looking for information that might be in a pre-1923 newspaper, the National Digital Newspaper Program is making word-searchable newspapers available through the Library of Congress on a site called Chronicling America ( To read more about the Alaska Digital Newspaper Program check out the website ( For later papers you’ll still have to visit the library’s microfilm collection.

The Alaska State Library shares a catalog with other libraries from around the state.

The Alaska State Library Catalog: Books & Special Collections
If you don’t find what you’re looking for on the Alaska Digital Archives or Chronicling America, I suggest you next check the Alaska State Library Catalog ( This catalog is also made up of records from several libraries around the state so if your local library doesn’t have a book you’d like, you may be able to Inter-Library-Loan it from another library. The Historical Collections’ photograph and manuscript collections can also be searched through the catalog, however, because you can’t check them out, what you’ll find in the record is slightly different than that of a book. At the bottom of the record you’ll find a link that says “Finding Aid”. Open this and you’ll find an inventory list of what’s in the collection and a little more history about the material. These documents are also word searchable, so you may even be able to narrow down what you’re looking for to a specific box, folder, or item. Once you’ve determined there is something you’d like to see in the collection, either visit us in person so we can pull the material from storage for you, or contact us and find out if there’s another way for you to view the material.
These should be enough resources to get you started. If you’re looking for more, there are several good posts in the archives of this blog, or available on our websites (which can be found on the sidebar).

I hope I’ve dispelled some of the mysteries of the Research Center, and can’t wait for you to visit!