I moved to Alaska six years ago to be an archivist at the UAA/APU Archives and Special Collections. It was my first professional archives job. And it is bittersweet that I am now leaving to be an archivist at Kansas State University.
In the six years since I’ve been here, I have come to learn, understand, and appreciate Alaska history. I have also come to hate goopy rubber bands, paperclips, and people who don’t fold their folders along the bottom crease in order to make the bottom flat. I’ve also finally determined my favorite brand of pencil after many years of testing, and learned that some erasers work much better than others. I have long since appreciated the loupe and a good light table.
I’ve described 176 new collections and additions, for a total of 516 cubic feet and 367 GB. I also added 100 new Ephemera collections to our holdings which equal 4.5 cubic feet and 16.8MB. I converted 172 legacy collections to current archival standard, which amounted to 191.5 cubic feet. I provided the metadata for 5,892 photographs to be made available on Alaska’s Digital Archives, which includes 584 photographs for ARLIS. I received three grants: $700 from the Elizabeth Tower Endowment to create a multi-institutional topic guide relating to the CANOL Pipeline, $10,000 from the Atwood Foundation to digitize audio, video, and film relating to Anchorage history, and $19,000 from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Recordings at Risk Program to digitize audio, video, and film relating to Alaska Public Health. Unfortunately, I am leaving before the full completion of the CLIR grant, but I am happy I was able to receive the grant for the Archives (out of 77 applicants, this round was only awarded to 20 institutions). I was able to present at conferences, including the Alaska Native Studies Conference, Alaska Historical Society Conference, and the Society of American Archivists. I was also able to teach a number of instruction sessions, and work on the Archives Reference Desk, where I was able to meet hundreds of researchers and learn from them.
I will miss the many donors I have worked with on their collections: Craig Mishler, Michel Villon, George Glotzbach, to name a few. I will never forget one of the first collections I added to Alaska’s Digital Archives: Henry S. Kaiser Jr. papers. Or one of the first I worked on: Charles V. Lucier papers.
At the Archives, we often discuss how these collections are people, and how, as an archivist, you have to understand people. For many of our collections, within these boxes is someone’s life, and in some cases the collection begins at their birth and ends at their death. We’ve seen them live their lives through photographs and letters. We’ve read about their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and accomplishments. We’ve gasped at the sexist or racist comments, and have laughed at their jokes and humorous photographs. And we have cried with them (I’m looking at you Grace and Vin Hoeman papers), or shared in their excitement. We sometimes feel as though we know them, even if we haven’t read every letter or looked at every photograph or actually ever met them. Because in describing their collection, or trying to find something for a researcher, or learning about them from a loved one, we see a piece of them.
And I will miss them. I will miss the collections I have come to know and the ones I have worked on. I know there will be other collections at the next institution, which will be different and wonderful in their own ways.