I’ve been working on the Pipeline.

Recently an Anchorage resident stopped by the Consortium Library and dropped off a manila envelope addressed to the Archives.  The Access Services clerk who received the envelope dutifully brought it up to us (thanks Behnaaz!).  We popped it open and inside it was a little white slide box with 20 slides in it, of Trans-Alaska pipeline construction from 1977.  The donor, Bill Lathan, had thoughtfully provided us with some description of the machinery pictured in the slides and his contact information.  So I (Arlene) called Bill, and he was kind enough to agree to sign a deed of gift legally transferring the materials to us and provided a little more information about why he was there (he was a surveyor for Arctic Surveying) and where it was (most likely around 5 Mile Camp.)

Bill Lathan slides, machine wrapping insulation around the pipe.

Bill Lathan slides, machine wrapping insulation around the pipe.

I get really excited when collections like this come in: these weren’t just pretty slides of a construction site, they clearly showed different types of equipment at work and this represents a major piece of Alaska’s recent economic development.  People have images of pipeline construction, but it’s recent enough that not a lot of these images have shown up yet in archives.  Our colleague, Kevin Tripp, walked by and so I did a little show-and-tell (who better than another archivist to understand our glee at being able to make these slides available to researchers?)  Turns out Kevin’s dad had worked for the company that did all the insulation for the pipeline and for many years, his dad had on his desk a little scale model of one of the pieces of equipment–the one that wrapped the insulation pieces around the pipeline.  But he was pretty sure that his dad had never actually seen the machine at work.

Since this was a fairly small collection and it wouldn’t take much to do a collection description and make these available to researchers, I wrote up the brief finding aid.  In our finding aid template, about half-way down, there’s a field for us to talk about whether or not digital copies of the images exist.  I got to that point in the writing and then I got to thinking.  Small collection, limited metadata at the item level but decent metadata at the collection level.  Scanning and digital manipulation would be the work of about a half-hour or hour and doing the rest of the work to put the images up in the Alaska’s Digital Archives would take about another half-hour.  And if we linked them together as a compound object, we could make the most of the collection metadata without worrying so much about item-level description.  And so I did that too.  Take a look.  And if you recognize the place and can tell us specifically where this is or know anybody in those images, please let us know.  Aside from the fox, of course.  We’re guessing he doesn’t have a name.

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