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 fantastic primary resources 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.
Screenshot of the Chronicling America search interface.
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 our historical newspapers site, or follow the project's blog 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 the At the APK page on 360 North..
Screenshot of the site for the At the APK program.
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.

Still from the video of Annette Bellamy's gallery walkthrough of her exhibit, Moving Mountains.
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.
Report from the Aleutians, John Huston's award-winning World War II film, showing at the APK on November 10 at 1, 2, and 3 pm.

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.
Weater Report - 24 hours ending at 3 pm today: Wednesday, September 13th, Maximum 52, Minimum 44. Cloudy - Rain. Precipitation - .63.
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.
Screenshot from the National Weather Service page.
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.
Screenshot from the Climate and Past Weather page.

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.
Screenshot of the Almanac for Nome Area, AK (ThreadEx), September 13, 1967.
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

Logos of the AKDNP project, Alaska State Libraries, Library of Congress, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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.
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 the OWL page 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 on YouTube

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!
Float coats on mannequins in the Museum's Oil and Timber exhibit.
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!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planning a visit to the APK State Library, Archives, and Museum

Summer is just around the corner, and if you're anything like me, you're dreaming about your summer travel plans! If Juneau is one of your of stops this summer, a visit to the new Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum should be on your to-do list.

How to get here:
The APK is located at 395 Whittier Street, a short walk from the cruise ship docks or an easy drive from the airport or ferry terminal. If you're coming from the docks furthest south, it's a straight shot along the waterfront. Thane Road becomes South Franklin Street, then Marine Way, then Egan Drive. You'll travel past City Hall, the blue Wharf building and the float plane hangar, Centennial Hall, and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Turn right at the traffic light onto Whittier Street and you'll see the Nimbus sculpture in our front plaza.
This is the view of the APK State Library, Archives, and Museum that you'll see when you turn onto Whittier from Egan Drive. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

If you're coming from the airport, ferry terminal, or other points north, head south on Egan Drive towards downtown. There's only one highway in Juneau, so it's hard to miss. After you pass the Douglas Bridge, then take a left at the traffic light onto Whittier Street. The APK will be on your left, just past the KTOO radio station.

Where to park:
If you're in your own car, you can park in our underground parking garage off Whittier. One local called it the nicest garage in town, and visitors can park there for up to three hours while in the building. The gates go down when the building closes, but you'll still be able to get out if you're in the building. If you've left the facility and the building is closed, your car will be waiting for you when the gates open in the morning.
Our parking garage is well-lit and provides easy access to the APK facility. The public entrance with stairs and elevator is in the far corner of this photo.

What's here:
You'll find the Alaska State Library on the second floor. There's free wi-fi and public computers to check your email or share photos on social media, and newspapers like the New York Times and periodicals like The Economist, Wired, or Time to help you get your news fix. If you want to do genealogy research or look at historic photos, you can visit the Historical Collections and Archives Research Center.
Patrons in the Alaska State Library's Richard Foster Reading Room. It's a great place to relax, research, or keep in touch with folks back home. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

The Alaska State Museum's permanent exhibits were fully re-designed over the past four years and present a wide-angle view of the state's history, including Alaska Native cultures, the periods as a Russian colony and an American territory, and post-statehood. There are also displays about industry in Alaska, shipwrecks, World War II, a children's Discovery Room, and three temporary galleries with rotating exhibits. Find more info on the Alaska State Museum's web site.

The APK is home to Raven Cafe, run by the fantastic folks who operated Twilight Cafe over by the State Office Building. Their specialties include enormous adobo burritos, breakfast sandwiches, house made soups, refreshing fruit smoothies, and coffee and espresso drinks to keep you going. This summer, local literary maven Katrina Woolford will be running our gift store, which will have art, books, and other gifts for everyone at home. She plans to open for business by June 1.
Raven Cafe is a popular spot for visitors, locals, and staff to grab coffee or lunch. The Cristobals are always cooking up new creations so their menu is never the same. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

When to come:
Summer hours begin in mid-May. The Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Archives are open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Mondays for research appointments. The Alaska State Museum will have transitional hours in early May, and 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily from mid-May through mid-September. Call (907) 465-2901 for the early May schedule.

Winter hours for the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Archives are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Winter hours for the Alaska State Museum are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Hope to see you here at the APK this summer!

Monday, March 13, 2017

ADA Accommodations at APK State Library, Archives, and Museum

When we moved into our new building, we wanted to make everyone feel welcome, including people with disabilities. Our Division's ADA coordinator worked with Assistive Technology of Alaska to select devices and equipment for our visitors with mobility issues, cognitive disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, and low vision.

Unlike our old space in the State Office Building, the door of Reading Room at APK has an activator button, and we can keep the doors propped open so it's easy to navigate in a wheelchair. There is an accessible restroom on the first floor, as well as large stalls in all the restrooms. We also have wheelchairs, a rollator, and two cane seats available for use within our facility. At our public computers, we have adjustable height desks and the option to use a trackball mouse.
Located right outside our door, this button will open the door to the Reading Room. Kids have been impressed that there are no visible wires attached.

Hard of hearing visitors can request a pocket talker to communicate with staff or amplify a presentation or tour. The visitor wears a set of headphones and the presenter speaks into an amplifier about the size of a deck of cards. There are also desk amplifiers on the Library's front desk and the Museum's reception desk for people with T-coil hearing aids. Deaf and hard of hearing visitors can request a sign language interpreter for any programs or events at the APK with at least five days notice by calling 465-2910.
If a visitor has a hearing aid with a T-coil, they can activate it while talking to us at our reception desks. This enables us to communicate discreetly with hard of hearing visitors without yelling.
Thanks to our volunteers, we are actively adding captions to all of the videos that we post on our YouTube channel. Although auto-captioning has improved a lot in recent years, we still have to manually create captions for some videos. We are using Amara's web editor to create manual captions, and although the process is slow, we prioritize the videos for which patrons have requested captions.

One very low-tech tool that we've implemented are communication boards. They are single, laminated pages with images for commonly asked questions or items, like restroom, elevator, water fountain, or help. We had a speech therapist come through last summer and she was thrilled to see one of these cards at the Library's desk.
This communication board helps overcome communication difficulties of all kinds, from language barriers to hearing impairments.

For people with low vision, we have a large print option on our public computers and large print keyboards with bright yellow keys and larger labels. These keyboards are not very expensive and have been popular with our low vision users. We also have digital magnifiers that magnify up to 13.5x and have been especially good for looking at detailed materials like topographical maps.
High contrast, large print keyboards like this have been a hit with our low vision users.
The Pebble digital magnifier makes small words and images more readable. I noticed much more detail on these topo maps when I tried it out.

We administer the Talking Books program for Alaska, providing audiobooks and Braille books for Alaskans who can't use standard print books. It is a free service that supplies special playback equipment and delivers books and magazines postage-free. If you or someone you know might benefit from this service, you can find out more at on our Talking Books website or by calling 1-888-820-4525.

If you need accommodation to visit or enjoy your state library, archives, and museum, please contact us to make arrangements. Contact info is available at the LAM homepage.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why can't I just call it SLAM?

Here at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum, we're having a bit of an identity crisis, in that nobody knows how to identify us. Since the early phases of our new facility project, the building has been called SLAM, an acronym of State Library, Archives, and Museum. I've always liked SLAM. It's easy to remember and fun to say. When I worked as a SLAM Project Assistant, I received an email that I had "the coolest job title ever."

Now that construction is finished and we have an official name, we've transitioned away from SLAM to the APK, an initialism of Andrew Petrovich Kashevaroff, our eponym. We usually have to add "formerly known as SLAM" for anyone to know where we're talking about, but we hope that it'll catch on with time. Father Kashevaroff was the first curator and librarian of the Alaska Territorial Library and Museum, which eventually evolved into the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum. He gave 20 years to this institution and laid the foundation for everything that we do. It's an honor to be part of his legacy. So if you're headed to our beautiful building, help us out and call it the APK.
Studio portrait of Kashevaroff taken by Calvin Studio in Sitka, circa 1934. "The Very Reverend A.P. Kashevaroff, Curator and Librarian of the Alaska Territorial Museum and Library in Juneau." Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 243-3-005.
Father Kashevaroff and another man with a large spruce round in the Alaska Territorial Library and Museum. This object is currently on view in the timber section of the Alaska State Museum. Alaska State Library Historical Collections - PCA 243-3-008.

Or, if you want to be official, you can go with the whole mouthful: The Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum. And if you're unsure about how to pronounce it, you're not alone. Although Russian-speakers might cringe, we say it:
Pronunciation guide for Kashevaroff: cash-ah-VARE (rhymes with hare)-off

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Books for the Alaska State Museum's Discovery Room

The Discovery Room in the Alaska State Museum is home to the good ship Discovery, and is a space where kids can explore, create, and discover Alaska's art and culture. The Museum's curatorial and exhibits teams are continually adding new treasures to this room, including kid-centered exhibits, dress-up clothes, activities, and books, so if you came by last summer and didn't see enough for kids, come on back and check it out.
A rare quiet moment in the kids' Discovery Room at the Alaska State Museum.

Before we opened, the Museum's Visitor Services Manager asked me for help selecting 40 books that would be entertaining and educational for kids, teens, and their adults. Challenge accepted! I borrowed piles of books from libraries around the state, read reviews in Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews on Academic Search Premier, and asked other librarians for advice.

Here are the books that we selected, with links to Alaska's Joint Library Catalog where available.
  • Alaska's First People by Judy Ferguson.
  • Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide edited by David Burnie and Don E. Wilson. This huge animal encyclopedia has facts and habitat maps about animals from around the world. I would have loved this book as an 8-year old.
  • Anna's Athabaskan Summer by Arnold Griese, illustrated by Charles Rabin.
  • Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Are Those Animals Real? by Judy Cutchins and Ginny Johnston. The Wonderwall exhibit at the Museum's entrance contains taxidermy of Alaskan animals, and explaining them has been a challenge for Museum staff. This book provides kid-friendly information about preparing animals for exhibit.
    The Wonder Wall exhibit of Alaskan animals at the Alaska State Museum.
    Talking with kids about Alaskan animals is fun, but answering the question, "Are these animals dead?" can be awkward.
  • Benny's Flag by Phyllis Krasilovsky, illustrated by Jim Fowler. The story of Alaska's state flag, designed by thirteen-year old Benny Benson in 1927. The illustrator is a Juneau artist whose work is in the Alaska State Museum's collection, along with Benny's original entry.
  • Berry Magic by Terri Sloat.
  • Big Alaska by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Big Enough Anna, by Pam Flowers, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. This true story about the author's solo journey in the polar north features a little dog who became the lead dog, and is a favorite of our former director.
  • Born to Run: Athletes of the Iditarod, by Albert Lewis. Everyone likes a dog portrait, and the sled dogs and their mushers featured in this coffee table book are full of character.
  • Carrying on Irregardless: Humour in Contemporary Northwest Coast Art, by the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.
  • Charlie and the Blanket Toss, by Tricia "Nuyaqik" Brown, illustrated by Sarah "Anuyaq" Martinsen.
  • A Child's Alaska, by Claire Rudolph Murphy, photographed by Charles Mason.
  • Children of the Midnight Sun, by Tricia Brown, photographed by Roy Corral.
  • A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds, by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher. This beautifully illustrated Canadian title, published in Nunavut, includes scientific illustrations and Inuktitut words for many birds featured in the Museum's exhibits.
  • Dance on a Sealskin, by Barbara Winslow, illustrated by Terri Sloat. Our exhibits curator loved the illustrations of a young girl wearing a Yup'ik dance outfit with headdress, parka, boots, and dance fans, as she danced for the first time.
    Dance fans and drums like these are featured in the book Dance on a Sealskin.
  • Eye of the Needle by Terri Sloat and Betty Huffmon. 
  • Frog Girl by Paul Owen Lewis. Historical Librarian Sorrel Goodwin recognized Frog Girl as an example of balancing old and new traditions in storytelling and visual art in his webinar, "Selecting children's literature that accurately depict Native experiences."
  • Gone Again, Ptarmigan, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Great Serum Race, by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle. 
  • Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, by Mary Beck.
  • How Raven Stole the Sun, by Maria Williams, illustrated by Felix Vigil.
  • I Would Tuck You In, by Sarah Asper-Smith, illustrated by Mitch Watley.
  • Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing, by Margaret Nicolai, illustrated by Dave Rubin. 
  • The Lamp, the Ice, and a Boat called Fish, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Beth Krommes. The story of the Karluk expedition to explore the polar north in 1913, with an emphasis on the Inupiaq family who helped the explorers survive.
  • Lucy's Dance, by Deb Vanasse, illustrated by Nancy Slagle.
  • Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, by Cheryl Bardoe. Developed in conjunction with an exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum, this book introduces readers to these fascinating animals that once roamed Alaska. The Museum's orientation area features an unusual display of mammoth tusks.
    Mammoth tusks in the orientation area are beautifully displayed but can be out of context for kids.
  • My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure, by Claudia McGehee. Rockwell Kent, the renowned painter and woodblock printer, spent a winter on Fox Island in 1918-1919 with his son Rocky. This illustrated account is told from Rocky's point of view.
  • North, the Amazing Story of Arctic Migration, by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Patrick Benson. Sara Lee, our resident Science-on-a-Sphere expert, is working on creating customized datasets that relate to this book.
  • The Raven and the Totem, by John Smelcer. One of the Museum's most popular publications series were booklets of Alaska Native myths and legends. This book compiles the stories into a single collection.
  • Recess at 20 Below, by Cindy Lou Aillaud. Created by a P.E. teacher from Delta Junction, this photo book shows Alaskan kids getting ready for recess in all weather.
  • Solomon's Tree, by Andrea Spalding, illustrated by Janet Wilson and Victor Reece. Based on a true story about a Tsimshian boy and his uncle who create a mask out of a log from the boy's favorite tree.
  • Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, adapted by Donnell Rubay, illustrated by Christopher Canyon. The true story of John Muir's dog, Stickeen, is a perennial favorite for Alaskan visitors, and this version is adapted for young readers with beautiful illustrations.
  • Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity, by Lars Krutak. Selected specifically for teenage visitors, this book explores traditional tattoos around the world and accompanies the tattoo brushes on display in the Clan House exhibit.
    Tattoo brushes, face stamp, and other adornments are on exhibit in the Clan House.
  • Ten Rowdy Ravens, by Susan Ewing, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz. Zerbetz is the creator of We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth, the large glass mural in our Reading Room, and her bold, colorful style is reflected in this fun counting book.
    We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth by Evon Zerbetz, is the centerpiece of the Library and Archives area on the second floor.
  • Togo, by Robert Blake. Everyone knows the story of Balto, but Leonhard Seppala's lead dog Togo was every bit as heroic during the serum run that inspired the Iditarod.
  • Whale Snow, by Debbie Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson.
  • Whaling Season, by Peter Lourie. Profiles John George, a scientist studying bowhead whales in Utqiagvik.
  • Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature's Footprints, by Jim Arnosky. Kids in Alaska have the opportunity to see a lot of animal tracks, and this book contains actual size illustrations of a variety of animals.
  • Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman. Although neither of the title animals are found in Alaska, this fun rhyming book introduces readers to different watercraft, including kayaks and canoes, which are featured prominently in the Museum's exhibits.
    Model watercraft, including a kayak like Yak's and a canoe like Gnu's. Full-size versions are on display throughout the Museum.
This is just a sample of the great Alaska children's books out there. If you've got a favorite that's not on this list, please share!