Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to school with the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum

It's back-to-school time here in Alaska! The State Library, Archives, and Museum support education and teachers with some unique resources and opportunities. Here are some ways that we can help make this your best year ever!

We help students succeed by providing resources and educational support for all Alaskans. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Live Homework Help: Can't afford a tutor? Get free help from the experts at every day from noon to 2 am Alaska time.
    Tame the Monster with Live Homework Help
  • Test Prep: The Testing & Education Reference Center provides practice tests and resources for students getting ready for the SAT, ACT, AP exams, GED, graduate school tests, or vocational exams.
    Got a big test? Testing & Education Reference Center
  • Articles and Databases: The Alaska State Library provides access to research resources to all Alaskans. Find full articles, encyclopedias, news, and language resources for writing reports or just for fun.
    Screenshot of the SLED website
The Library, Archives, and Museum also supports Alaska's teachers. Although the Archives and Museum are currently closed to the public, we still provide opportunities to bring historical and cultural activities into the classroom.
  • Hands-on Loan Program: Alaskan teachers, students, libraries, and museums can borrow objects from the Alaska State Museum's Hands-on Loan Program, managed by the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. This collection, which is separate from the Museum's permanent collection, includes hundreds of objects from Alaska Native cultures and natural history specimens, including animal hides, baleen, and plant samples.
    This Eskimo yo-yo is one of hundreds of objects available to check out. Trying to get the balls rotating in opposite directions is a favorite activity with museum visitors of all ages. Photo courtesy Alaska State Museum.
  • Historic photographs: The Alaska State Library Historical Collections is a primary contributor to Alaska's Digital Archives, a photo database that includes thousands of historic Alaskan photographs from major research institutions around the state.
    Juneau's first school in Log Cabin Church, 1885. Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, PCA 01-2208.
  • Alaska history modules: The Museum and Historical Collections have created Alaska history modules on several topics, including Eight Stars of Gold: The Story of Alaska's Flag, Quilts of Alaska, and Alaska's Gold.
    The Alaska's Gold module uses primary source materials to tell the story of Alaska's golden history.
  • Art activities: Artists and museum staff develop kids' activities and instructional videos to correspond with their exhibits. A selection of these is available on the Museum's Teacher's Resources page, including hats and headdresses, a birchbark canoe, and Alaskan action figures.
    An Alaskan action figure with two dogs and sled, made from pipe cleaners and tongue depressors. Photo courtesy Alaska State Museum.
We look forward to seeing teachers, students, and families at the new Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum next spring. In August 2016, we will be hosting First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and will work with teachers to arrange class visits.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

View from the Future: Spotlight on Alaska's Centennial Libraries and Museums

As part of the remediation plan for the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum, the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums published The View from the Future, 2017: Fifty Years after the Alaska Purchase Centennial, edited by Tricia Brown, now available for purchase from Taku Graphics. In a previous post, we highlighted the section on the Alaska State Museum, our sister institution, and today we look at a few other projects from around the state.
View from the Future

Many communities built libraries and museums for their centennial projects, including Juneau, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Cordova, Petersburg, Kotzebue, Anchorage, Valdez, Homer, Kodiak, Nome, Fairbanks, and Bethel. In this way, the Alaska Purchase Centennial provided the foundation for the preservation and dissemination of Alaska's history around the state.
EStablished 1868, National Historic Landmark, Baranov Museum, Kodiak Historical Society
Kodiak used centennial funds to renovate a historic log building to house the Baranov Museum. Baranov Museum by J. Stephen Conn, CC BY-NC.
Interior of the Pratt Museum showing an animal skeleton suspended from the ceiling.
Homer citizens built the Pratt Museum, a natural history museum, as their centennial project. Beaked whale by Travis, CC BY-NC.

Nearly fifty years later, these institutions are showing their age, as weather, erosion, and neglect have taken their toll. Some of the centennial facilities proved completely unsustainable. The Kotzebue City Museum closed down in the late 1980s and the artifacts were scattered around to city offices and the traditional council. The museum at Fort Kenay was transferred to the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in 1991. The Yugtarvik Region Museum in Bethel was badly damaged by fire in June 1980. Others struggle to hang on despite major issues. On the coast, roofs of the centennial buildings have been particularly problematic. In Cordova, the ceiling is held together with Visqueen and duct tape, scant protection against wind and rain. At the Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan, the flat roof in the wettest place in Alaska soaks up moisture like a sponge, continuing to leak long after it stops raining outside. Former director Michael Naab noted, "It's like a wetland up there...There are actually small bushes and small trees on the roof."

Like the Alaska State Museum, many of the centennial libraries and museums are preparing to move into new, state-of-the-art facilities, or have moved in the past few years. The Seward Library joined forces with the Resurrection Bay Historical Society and moved into the new Seward Community Library & Museum in 2013. Ketchikan Public Library moved out of the Centennial Building in 2013, leaving the museum to renovate and expand into its vacated space. The Cordova Historical Museum and Library will move to the new Cordova Center this year. The Carrie McLain Museum, Nome Public Library, and regional non-profit Kawerak will move into the new Richard Foster Building in 2016. And the Alaska State Museum, Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Alaska State Archives will open as the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum in the spring of 2016.
Artist's rendering of the Kashevaroff SLAM, opening spring 2016.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Learning about Japanese balloon bombs with Ross Coen

In June, historian Ross Coen came to the Alaska State Library to present a lecture on fu-go, Japanese balloon bombs used in a strange and little-known campaign during the end of World War II. The lecture was based on research for Coen's new book, Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America, published last year by University of Nebraska Press, and included many historic photographs that were once considered highly classified.

The Japanese hoped that the balloon bombs would start wildfires and terrorize Americans by raining fire from the sky. However, several factors contributed to the overall failure of the campaign. First, due to seasonal winds, the balloons could only survive the trans-Pacific flight during the winter, when Pacific forests were the least susceptible to fires. Second, the U.S. military requested media silence on all stories concerning the balloons, and although the order was not mandatory, most news outlets complied. Thus, although hundreds of the balloons reached North America, the Japanese had no way of knowing if the balloons were surviving the oceanic flight, and eventually the lack of discernible results and resource shortages led to the termination of the campaign.

This balloon, recovered at Alturas, California, on January 10, 1945, was reinflated for testing by the U.S. military. U.S. Army Air Corps (Air Force) photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
We shared Ross' presentation on the Alaska Online With Libraries (OWL) videoconferencing network, and were joined by participants from Craig, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Fairbanks, and Haines. If you missed the presentation, you can watch the archived videoconference recording online. Sharing a program like this on OWL was a new endeavor for us, so please excuse the screen sharing difficulties during the first few minutes of the video.

Ross' book is available at many local libraries, including the Alaska State Library, and as an e-book on ListenAlaska.

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