Expanding access to archival sources all over Alaska

We archivists at the Consortium Library know well how hard it can be to find archival resources on whatever your research topic may be. That’s partly due to the nature of archival collections: they’re unique and they can be voluminous (end to end, our filled collections shelving goes on for over 1.5 miles!) And there’s no central source to find archival resources across Alaska, the US, or the world. We spend a lot of our time working with researchers to help them identify archival resources that relate to their interests.

A row of the collections vault in the archives

Just a portion of the Archives collections storage area

Over the past decade plus, we’ve worked to create many guides to our collections for some of our most commonly requested subject areas. But researchers often need to go to more than one archives in pursuit of their research and that’s where it can get tough: it’s hard enough to keep track of what we have, but to know what other archives have too? Solution: statewide subject guides!

The Archives was just awarded an American Rescue Plan Act grant for nearly $30,000 grant to create statewide subject guides to archival resources across Alaska on 17 different subjects. We surveyed our Alaskan archives colleagues on what topics they get the most requests on, and the top votes went to: environment/climate change, Permanent Fund Dividend, subsistence, boundaries/surveying/mapping, highways/roads, Russian Alaska, World War II, aerial photos, African Americans, ANILCA, aviation, D2, Exxon Valdez oil spill, geology, journalism/newspapers/broadcasting, Alaska Territorial Guard. Soon we’ll be starting in on researching these topics and talking to our colleagues across the state about what they have that reflect these topics.

This grant is a follow-up to a two smaller grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Alaska State Library Interlibrary Cooperation grant funds and UAA’s Elizabeth Tower Endowment for Canadian Studies. The new guides and the guides we’ve already created can all be found on the State Library Electronic Doorway (https://sled.alaska.edu/history/primarysources). Here’s a full list of all the statewide guides we’ve created so far with individual links:

These aren’t comprehensive lists of every document in an archival collection in Alaska relating to each topic, of course. We’re not sure that would even be possible. But hopefully if you’re doing research in any of these topic areas and want to get an idea about what the Alaskan archival sources hold for you, these will serve as good starting points for your work.

And one last thing: this whole concept? Started with two UAA Justice Center professors who came to us over a decade ago, looking for research resources for an article they were writing that required access to governors’ records. Because of their question, we started compiling a list of which governor’s papers were at which archives, and that eventually turned into the Governor’s of Alaska guide linked above. We’re excited to continue to build on that great start!

P.S. If you’re at an institution that has archival materials on any of the above topics–whether one of the existing subject guides or one of the ones we’re going to be working on–please get in touch! We’d love to include your materials too.

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.

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