What goes around, comes around

Back in 2012, after our umpteenth request for the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation records that had been here very very briefly in the 1990s, I wrote a blog entry about where to find documents about the Palmer Colony. We had (and have) several collections related to the early years of the Colony but the ARRC records hadn’t been part of them. The short story, if you don’t want to read the old posting, is that through a roundabout way, the records had ended up with Alaska Pacific University (APU) who gave them to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on the grounds that they were federal government record and that’s where they belonged.

Fast-forward to this year and the announcement that the Anchorage NARA office was closing. Several conversations ensued between NARA personnel and archivists and librarians in Alaska about collections at the NARA facility that could potentially be left within the state. Some were, mostly on the grounds that either the State of Alaska had some potential legal ownership claim to the records. The question with others was if they were, perhaps, not permanent federal government record after all. The Alaska Railroad records and a lot of 3rd District Court records went to the State Archives. NARA employees re-evaluated the status of the ARRC records and agreed to have the ARRC records come to us. We picked them up about 3 weeks ago.

Veronica converted the folder listing provided by NARA into our standard finding aid format and put the collection into new boxes. (Note: the NARA boxes were in beautiful shape! But we’re dealing with decreasing space here and the boxes she moved them into use our shelf space much more efficiently.) Then both Veronica and I left for a professional conference in DC. Finally this week we both had time to review the collection guide she’d created and she took it online. Since we wanted to have a visual to share with you, we selected, cataloged, and digitized one of the documents–a 1936 list of colonists and the land tracts they were assigned–and loaded that to the Alaska’s Digital Archives.

Veronica discovered some interesting things about the collection in the time she spent with the finding aid. Perhaps most importantly, the collection isn’t just the records of the ARRC. Certainly a majority of the collection is ARRC record, though perhaps researchers shouldn’t assume it’s a comprehensive set of them! As it turns out, occasional files in the collection aren’t from ARRC, but contain the personal/professional records of Louise Kellogg, who is the person who gave the records to Alaska Methodist University (now APU) a number of years ago.

So from Palmer, to APU, to the Consortium Library, to NARA, and back to the Consortium Library. It’s been a journey for these records. We hope you’re pleased, as we are, that they can stay here in Alaska and be accessible to researchers here.

About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the voyages of these records, Arlene. I’m so happy to find that such an important part of the state’s history will stay here in Alaska. And thank you for giving them a priority in digitizing that one piece. We have lost so much in the movement of these records out of Anchorage and out of Alaska. BTW, there are cases of archival supplies like acid free boxes NARA was going to throw away stashed at the Anchorage Museum if you need more.

  2. Susan Means, Senior Records Analyst

    All of the archival supplies and equipment at the National Archives at Anchorage were donated to archives and museums across Alaska, including UAA’s Archives & Special Collections, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, the Alaska State Archives, the Alaska Aviation Museum, the Dorothy Page Museum in Wasilla, the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office, the Archdiocese of Anchorage, and the 3rd Wing History Office (JBER). None of the archival supplies or equipment was thrown away. In addition, office equipment, furnishings, and office supplies not needed by other Federal agencies were donated to local charity organizations, with most going to the Alaska SPCA and the Salvation Army.

  3. Thanks Pennelope, thanks Susan! We indeed received quite a few supplies from NARA and I very much appreciate that, especially since we’ve been asked to take a cut to our supplies budget this year.

  4. James A. VICKARYOUS

    Thank you for saving ARRC history. I am James A. Vickaryous, a son of Colonists
    Tony and Alys Vickaryous from Lake of the Woods, MN. I was born in the Colony
    Hospital August 1939.

    After growing up in the Valley, schooled in Wasilla Territorial Schools and UAF, US NAVY Aviator I met Catherine a US Navy Nurse. We returned to the Valley and purchased my parents Dairy Farm. In 1975 we chose to hire a farm manager and both use VA benefit to return to college at UAA/APU. I enrolled in a Violin course just for the fun of it. One afternoon, while waiting for Cathie’s Political Science to get out, I found a quiet room near the Library to practice. Needing a music stand, I chose to go over to an old mostly wooden file cabinet to pull out a drawer to set my music on. After one run thru…I leaned on the cabinet to rest. WOW!!!! The label had ARRC boldly typed on a card stuck inside the metal holder. Violin lesson set aside. I quickly search file folders to find VICKARYOUS. It was there, the record of interview with social worker in MN full of rather personal and subjective opinions of the note taker. An inner voice convinced me not to take their folder out, replaced it and closed the drawer.

    I knew V. Louise Kellog personally and that she was on the board of the ARRC for some years. It must have been in her barn where she kept them. She was very instrumental in getting Alaska Methodist University, so there must be some record of her passing them on to their Library.

    Time and Life flew by and we had left Alaska for Florida. We came up to join Colony Days 75th year in May 2010. I had been researching and writing for our family history and wanted to learn just how my father got along with the socialist part of the Colony Project and had chased down the ARRC to NARA in Anxhorage.

    I spent 3 days researching with a proctor in the room looking at one file at a time. I went for that VICKARYOUS file 1st. IT WAS GONE! I pointed this out to the overseer who took care to look for more boxes in a storage room.
    A Gold Nugget file turned out to be a file Titled: “TROUBLE MAKERS” and had several pages dedicated to Tony’s obvious will not to be conformed. The ARRC developed a secret code to communicate from Seward to Seattle and on to D.C.to avoid any adverse publicity. Tony and Alys had refused to sign the “Contract” as did Walt Pipple and a few others. Pippel took a cash payment to leave. He came back soon after and homesteaded near Eagle River to market to the Military Bases and a growing Anchorage market.

    Tony did not go far in school near Alpena, MI and could not write his name. “X” was used. Alys finished Nursing school and was very keen about reading legal papers.
    She told her husband that the ARRC contract was unconstitutional and they will NOT sign it. Attorneys were hired and soon the ARRC settled as they knew the case would go against them. The contract was modified to allow colonist to sell his farm on the open market when his loan was paid off. without the approval of a manager.

    There being some 200 other such “Colonies” in America, it would have been a total mess to deal with if the Court would rule against the Federal Government and FDR !

    It would be fun to research records in some Library in Washington D. C. Surely missives were documented and answered? Thanks for the Vent. Jim VICKARYOUS

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