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Arliss Sturgulewski

Guest blogger: Mariecris  Ed. note: We’ve been working on Arliss’s papers for quite some time. Arliss originally gave them to us in 1997, I’d worked on them from about 2003-2005 sporadically, and after Mariecris started, I assigned them to her to polish off. We’re so pleased to finally be able to make these records available to researchers! Now back to Mariecris:

Ah… thank you Megan for the nice teaser!  There are numerous treasures in the Arliss Sturgulewski papers! Arliss came to Alaska in 1952 for a two week vacation and stayed.  Her vacation quickly morphed into a career and years of public service. She has served Alaska in a variety of ways: at the Anchorage municipal level; statelevel as a legislator, and at the community and educational level with her work with organizations and committees. The Arliss Sturgulewski papers reflect many of the roles she played in Alaskan history and the hard work and diligence it took to fill those roles.  It also reflects the aides and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make things happen.

The commitment to run a campaign prior to the existence of email, campaign websites, RSS feeds, and social networking was something I thought little of until I processed series 2 of Arliss’ papers: the campaign files.  What I saw was a vast network of knowledge that was: not keyword searchable, relied on stamps to mail campaign information to constituents, and a paper filing system that coincided with their work flow.  One such example would be the volunteer files in the gubernatorial campaign papers.  If you are looking for volunteer files from 1986 in the 1986 gubernatorial portion of the box list, you probably won’t find them.  You will find them down in the 1990 gubernatorial portion of the box list. Why? Archivists try their best to retain the original order the donor or the organization arranged their papers.  If the campaign workers kept the 1986 volunteer files with the 1990 volunteer files, archivists have to do the same.  Doing so preserves the context in how information was used. In the case of these volunteer files, campaign workers needed a ‘database’ of volunteers.  Their database consisted of papers filed in a way that would be useful to them.  This includes using information from the 1986 volunteer files to find campaign volunteers who would be willing to help out for the 1990 campaign.  In addition to the interfiling, they had to integrate new volunteers files into their filing system.

Best to have a 5&1/4 drive in order to read such a diskThis is not to say that there were no computers during the years Aliss ran for senator and governor.  While you look through materials throughout the collection, you may find notes written in the margins “entered into database,” or papers grouped together as “not entered into database.” So there was definitely a computer somewhere.  And we definitely have some computer storage media transferred to us, such as the optical disc (CD); floppy disk (3 ½ disk, which I used to call a ‘hard disk’ in the early days); and the original 5 ¼ floppy disk. Computers must have seemed like a gigantic step towards efficiently running a campaign.  It definitely helps today.  The thing is…as efficient as computers are, sometimes accessibility can be an issue.  Files on the 5 ¼ disks are totally unreadable, while the papers that date as far back as 1954 and 1967 are still readable.  Suddenly, the fact that the 1986 volunteer files grouped along with the 1990 files, while everything was divided by campaign year, doesn’t seem so weird.  Trying to find a computer with a 5 ¼ drive that works on this campus?  According to one of our wonderful systems computer guru, that’s just crazy.


  1. I was the person who created those disks. They were an early version of filemaker in which I recorded all her legislative actions in searchable format – something that did not exist before that. Yes, it was all paper….

  2. Thanks for the addition, Melissa! We’re still out seeking a 5 1/4 drive that can be plugged into our segregation computer, where we make sure none of the disks can transmit old viruses to our server before transferring them there. So if you know anybody with a working external 5 1/4 drive, we’ll gladly take the donation!

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