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  • Wednesday, May 13, 2020 3:44 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    For Immediate Release
    Museums Alaska
    P.O. Box 756960, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960
    Phone (907) 474-5484
    Home page:

    DATE: May 13, 2020

    CONTACT: Della Hall,

    Eight of Alaska’s collecting institutions, in seven different communities from Sitka to Fairbanks, have been awarded $72,917 in grants. The awards will support collections care projects through funds created by Rasmuson Foundation and administered by Museums Alaska.

    Established in 2013, the Collections Management Fund supports projects that advance the preservation of museum collections with awards of up to $15,000. The fund provides critical support for the care of objects documenting Alaska’s cultural and natural heritage. In May, Museums Alaska selected seven projects to fund. The funded projects include conservation of indigenous watercraft, upgrading an archive database, and a pest management consultation.

    For future grant opportunities, eligibility information, application deadlines, and submission directions, please visit the Museums Alaska website.

    Museums Alaska is a statewide professional organization supporting Alaska’s collecting institutions and their staff members and volunteers. The non-profit organization supports museums and cultural centers in Alaska and enhances public understanding of their value. A nine-member volunteer board governs Museums Alaska with funding from memberships, grants, gifts, and sales.


    Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository—$11,153.66 for Integrated Pest Management Consultation

    American Bald Eagle Foundation—$1,869.70 for Diorama Room Barrier Project

    Pratt Museum—$11,854.95 for Condition Reporting Community Collections

    Resurrection Bay Historical Society, Inc.— $8,150 for Conservation of Iditarod Racing Bib and Kuspuk

    Sheldon Jackson Museum—$4,425.00 for Conservation Support Intensive

    Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, Inc.—$14,976.00 for Archives Upgrade Project

    Talkeetna Historical Society—$5,487.24 for Fulfilling Collections Assessment Program

    University of Alaska Museum of the North—$15,000 for Conservation Assessment of Indigenous Watercraft Collection

  • Wednesday, April 22, 2020 1:37 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Six of Alaska’s collecting institutions, in five communities from Unalaska to Cordova, have been awarded $16,870 in grants. The awards will support the acquisition of artwork through a fund created by Rasmuson Foundation and administered by Museums Alaska.

    The Art Acquisition Fund invites museums and culture centers to submit proposals to purchase recent works by contemporary Alaskan artists. Now in its eighteenth year, this initiative has helped institutions across Alaska enhance their collections, interpret contemporary themes, and support hundreds of visual artists. This spring, six museums received a total of $16,870 to purchase 10 pieces of artwork from 9 Alaskan artists—including works in media of oil on canvas, watercolor, beach wild rye grass, copper, fur, ink, and skin.

    Museums Alaska is a statewide professional organization supporting Alaska’s collecting institutions and their staff members and volunteers. The non-profit organization supports the improvement of museum services and promotes public awareness of the value of the state’s museums and culture centers. A nine-member volunteer board governs Museums Alaska with funding from memberships, grants, gifts, and sales.


    Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository

    Alutiiq Hatby Candace Branson $1,800.00

    Not Even a Nibbleby Cheryl Lacy $1,200.00

    Anchorage Museum

    Nkenaghch'/Good Words to Never Forgetby Ted Kim $5,500.00

    Clausen Memorial Museum

    Seal Habitatby Lisa Schramek $120.00

    Endangered Attractionby Don Cornelius $650.00

    Ilanka Cultural Center

    Backbone of Our Ancestorsby Jennifer Younger $2,200.00

    “Falling Rain" Quyak Atmak (Kayak Backpack) by Christine Belgarde $1,000.00

    Kodiak Historical Society

    Self Portrait with Lancet Fishby Brenden Harrington $3,800.00

    Museum of the Aleutians

    Miniature Unangan Grass Basket on bottle form by Agnes Thompson $300.00

    Miniature Unangan Grass Thimbleby Agnes Thompson $300.00

  • Thursday, April 09, 2020 3:05 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has honored Museums Alaska’s Executive Director Della Hall with its Advocacy Leadership Award. Hall received the award from AAM President and CEO Laura Lott at a Museum Advocacy Day event held in Washington, DC on February 24th. Hall attended the event as part of Museums Alaska’s ongoing efforts to share the importance of museums and their work with legislators at all levels of government. She was joined by more than 300 museum professionals from around the country.

    This was the first year that AAM gave the Advocacy Leadership Award, and Hall was one of two museum professionals recognized for their efforts to speak up for museums. Hall was acknowledged for coordinating advocacy efforts when budgetary cuts threatened the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, and the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Her efforts helped to galvanize supporters statewide and protect the institutions.

    Hall was grateful for the recognition. She said, “This was truly a statewide effort and every voice made a difference. This demonstrates how important it is to speak up on behalf of our museums, to help legislators understand the powerful educational and economic value of museums.”

    Hall came to Alaska in 2013, as an intern with the Alaska State Museum Grant-in-Aid program and has experience with museums across the state. She has worked for the Pioneer Air Museum, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Alaska & Polar Regions Collections & Archives at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Western History Association. She joined the Museums Alaska Board of Directors in 2015 and stepped down to become Executive Director in 2017. She served on the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board and is a current board member for the Coalition of State Museum Associations.

    Museums Alaska is a statewide professional organization supporting Alaska’s collecting institutions and their staff members and volunteers. The non-profit organization supports the improvement of museum services and promotes public awareness of the value of the state’s museums and cultural centers. A nine-member volunteer board governs Museums Alaska with funding from memberships, grants, gifts, and sales.

  • Wednesday, April 08, 2020 12:24 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Museums Alaska is pausing all of its grant programs, including the Art Acquisition Fund and Collections Management Fund, until further notice. Current applications will be reviewed, but no new applications will be accepted. We are working with our funders to determine the best ways to support museums during the current public health crisis and future opportunities.

    Please contact us if you have any questions.

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 10:03 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Updated 3/19/2020 11:27am.

    The American Alliance of Museums has calculated that museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19, will be in desperate need of significant federal support and that we needed to urge the U.S. Congress to include at least $4 billion for nonprofit museums in economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance through June. Museums Alaska has signed on to this letter urging Congress to support museums.

    Take Action TODAY: Use this information to craft your own letter, or use the template shared on AAM's website. Find your legislators' contact information here.

    The American Alliance of Museums has also signed on to a letter urging Congress to include museums and other nonprofits in any COVID-19 economic stimulus packages. Read the letter in full here. Find your legislators' contact information here.

    Our Advocacy Task Force, in partnership with the Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services, conducted a quick survey of Alaska museums to gather requested information for Congressional Representative Don Young's office. The results of this survey were conveyed in this letter from Museums Alaska to Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Representative Don Young. Full text of the letter is also below.

    March 18, 2020

    Museums Must Be Included in COVID - 19 Stimulus Package

    Museums of all sizes are experiencing closures. To prevent or slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on March 16, 2020 Governor Dunleavy ordered all museums, libraries and archives to close initially until March 31, 2020. Until the crisis is under control, longer closers could occur. Each year, more than 1.86 million visitors come to Alaska museums. The museum industry in Alaska directly supports 300 jobs and generates $280 million financial impact on the economy in Alaska. Right now 116 museums in the State of Alaska are closed. On March 17, Museums Alaska issued a quick survey to museums to determine the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the Alaska museum community. The 34 respondents indicated that there are both immediate, short-term, and long-term impacts to this pandemic. Seven respondents indicated they have immediate needs for cash to make payroll and pay rent at their facilities. The 14 respondents that calculated projected financial losses due to closures estimate that they will lose $3,392,000 this summer. These are the projected losses for only 14 of the 116 Alaska museums. Front of the house staff are being laid off or furloughed. Programs, tours and events are being cancelled. Revenue generating efforts, such as general admission, store sales, facility rentals, programmatic fees, are all stopped. In fact refunds are being processed. With the decline in oil prices, the suspension of Cruise ship visitors, and the overall fear of travel word wide, Alaska museum are facing a perfect storm of being able to sustain themselves. Additionally, as the stock market continues to falter, donors are reassessing their charitable donations. Any economic stimulus needs to include Museums.

    On a positive note, museums are the most trusted source of information in America, rated higher than local papers, nonprofit researchers, the US government, or academic researchers. Museums can take advantage of this high level of public trust to provide education on COVID-19 and fight misinformation about its spread.

    What our members are saying

    Here are some of the written responses that we received from Alaska museum directors:

    “We can only afford to pay staff through the end of the month and are unable to pay rent effective immediately.”

    “With no [museum] tours, there will be very little jobs to hire for. This has a major impact on the community of Klukwan, a community of below 90, as we hire about 30 people annually. This economic disruption could affect upward of a third of the community. Annual winter programming relies on summer revenues, so next winter, we will not be able to offer cultural camps, vital to the Tlingit culture.”

    “We were already facing an unrelated budget crisis, so COVID-19 has suddenly put us into a battle for survival.”

    “We are a designated federal and state repository and the largest of its kind in Alaska. Our collections require ongoing care and maintenance of the facility (for example, liquid nitrogen vats) and we cannot simply close the doors and walk away. In order to preserve these state and federal resources, financial help is required.”

    “Since no cruise ships, most likely there will be no income for the year (since almost all income tied to tourism).”

    “We would benefit from grants and donations to cover overhead costs until the crisis ends.” 

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 8:48 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Updated 5/28/2020

    Governor's order allows all libraries, archives and museums to reopen with guidelines

    Effective Friday, May 8th, all libraries, archives, and museums may reopen to the public following health guidelines. 

    In order to Reopen Alaska Responsibly new guidance for libraries, museums, and archives:

    Scroll down to the link for libraries, museums, and archives to view this guidance document:

    Monthly COVID-19 Survey For Alaska Museums

    Alaska museum directors have received an invitation to take part in a monthly survey to gauge the economic impacts of the museum closures and tourism fallout. The survey will open at the beginning of the month and close on the 15th of the month. The data will be shared with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to track changes over time. This data will help Alaska museums with advocacy and understand how we can help one another during this time. Please contact us if you have not received the survey link and believe you should have.

    The most recent survey results can be found here.

    Resources for Museums with regard to COVID-19/coronavirus

    The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has released a directory of resources and recommendations for museums with regard to the growing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the United States. View these resources here.

    AAM has most recently released information regarding preparing for reopening. View this resource here.

    The Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services maintains a directory of resources for emergency and crisis, including important updated resources for COVID-19.

    The Foraker Group has created a page of resources to support Alaska's nonprofits during this time. View these resources here.

    The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training has shared this resource on disinfecting cultural resources.


    SBA Loans for Nonprofits

    The Small Business Association is making low-interest loans available to non-profits affected by coronavirus. Learn more here.

    Included in the above link is information about the following:

    • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
    • Express Bridge Loans
    • Debt Relief

    NEA CARES Act Funding

    The National Endowment for the Arts will award funding to award recipients from the past 4 years. Learn more here.

    The Alaska State Council on the Arts will receive a portion of this federal funding, and will update their website with more information when it becomes available.

    IMLS CARES Act Funding

    The Institute for Museum and Library Services has granted $66,000 of the CARES Act funding to Alaska, with the funding to be distributed by the Alaska State Library Administrative Agency. Further information about opportunities to access this funding are forthcoming. Interested organizations are encouraged to sign up for the akmuseums listserv (see below) for rapid updates.

    Funding opportunities for museums were announced Friday, May 8th. Learn more here:

    NEH CARES Act Funding

    The National Endowment for the Humanities announced the NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations grant program. This grant will fund at-risk humanities positions and projects. The deadline to apply is May 11. Learn more here.

    Alaska Humanities Forum Grants

    The Alaska Humanities Forum Emergency Relief Grant program is now accepting applications. Institutions can apply for up to $10,000. The first deadline was May 1, though applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the funding is exhausted. Learn more about this grant program and apply here.

    WESTAF CARES Relief Funding

    WESTAF CARES Relief Fund for Organizations is a competitive grant program, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020. The WESTAF CARES Relief Fund provides general operating support to eligible arts and culture organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.

    ACF Rapid Response Grants

    The Alaska Community Foundation is offering a Rapid Response grant, with a quick deadline of April 10th. There will be more than one opportunity to apply for this grant, so check back on their website.

    State of Alaska CARES Act Funding

    The State of Alaska is opening up applications for a $290 million small business and nonprofit grant program. Learn more here.

    Need Help?

    The National Council of Nonprofits has created a helpful chart to help guide you in understanding the above opportunities.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a useful PDF to explain eligibility and frequently asked questions.

    Tell your legislators to include Museums in COVID-19 economic stimulus packages

    The American Alliance of Museums has calculated that museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19, will be in desperate need of significant federal support. Please urge the U.S. Congress to include museums in economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance.

    Take Action TODAY: Use the template shared on AAM's website to share your message with congress. Find your legislators' contact information here.

    Use this infographic to convey the impact on Alaska's museums.

    Stay Connected -  #museumfromhome

    Museums Alaska will be holding a "distance networking" event every other week on Thursdays at 12:00pm. Join to check in with your colleagues (from a safe distance!) using Zoom meeting software. If there are many participants, we will assign participants into "breakout rooms". Find the event details here.

    Make sure you are signed up to receive updates from Museums Alaska:

    Make sure you are signed up for the AKMuseums Listserv:

    Use #museumfromhome on social media, and check out what others are doing by searching with that hashtag!

    Museum From Home

    Museums Alaska partnered with the Alaska State Museum to create a list of ways people can engage with museums right now. Please share this list with your community. View it here.

    Professional Development Opportunities

    The Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services maintains a calendar of opportunities for Alaska museums, including many new virtual or distance opportunities to support museums in response to COVID-19. The resources can be found here.

    Museums Alaska is also currently piloting a series of webinars. Information and registration for those can be found here.

    Resources for Museums on Permanent Closure

    When a History Museum Closes by AASLH Committee on Professional Standards and Ethics

    Making a Good End: How to Close a Museum, a Connecting to Collections Care resource

    Museums Facing Closure: Legal and Ethical Issues, a Museums Association resource

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 9:16 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    This article was written by 2019 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund Scholarship recipient Angela Linn. Read more from Angela on her blog here.

    The 2019 Museums Alaska / Alaska Historical Society Joint Annual conference marked the 20-year anniversary of my first trip to Kodiak. Back in September of 1999, I was fortunate enough to receive funding to attend a workshop co-hosted by the Smithsonian’s Center for Museum Studies and the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological repository, entitled “MUSEUMS and NATIVE PEOPLE: Audiences, Community and Collaborations.” At that time, I was literally just transitioning from being a 27-year-old graduate student assistant working for the University of Alaska Museum part time, to being a full-time benefitted staff member – my first “real” professional job. Looking through my pages of notes and the printed agenda with articles shared during that workshop, I find it compelling that many of those topics continue to be important today and in fact, were echoed at many of the Museums Alaska sessions I attended.

    Our keynote address on Thursday morning by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko entitled “Discomfort & Renewal: Decolonizing the Museum” introduced many in the room to the concept of decolonization. This is a sometimes-controversial approach to various disciplines that seeks to transform institutions created by western power structures by acknowledging centuries of abuse at worst, and systematic exclusion at best. Catlin-Legutko described her personal experiences at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine as she worked with her board to eventually arrive at an organizational process aimed at sharing authority, privileging local knowledge, and truth-telling for the local Wabenaki people. As I review my notes from that keynote and compare them to those from the 1999 workshop, similar concepts catch my eye. The Indigenous participants at the workshop expressed a desire to represent their own stories in their own words, but recognized not everyone in their communities had the same perspective of that shared history. Alaska’s communities grapple with our colonial history, manifested as often battling perspectives on the Russian occupation, the value or detriment of European and American anthropologists and collectors removing early examples of material culture, assimilative education policies including English-only boarding schools, and the generational trauma resulting from those 150+ years of mistreatment and restriction of power. Catlin-Legutko reminded us that decolonization is one of many processes and approaches we might employ to make our museums, and communities, more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive. Museums and their staff operate from a position of privilege and often within a structure that (perhaps unknowingly) has supported institutional racism over the years. Participants in my 1999 workshop reminded each other that first we must avoid exclusion, and only then can we move on to inclusion. It’s a subtle but important distinction that is worth our time to consider deeply.

    Ellen Carrlee’s excellent session on “Indigenous Participatory Collections Care” was the perfect follow-up session to the keynote, with her insightful and introspective examination of the traditional field of conservation and their thirteen points from AIC’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. Ellen provided a number of examples from Alaska museums where conservation projects employed a collaborative approach with local and Indigenous knowledge holders to both promote a high level of collections care while also respecting traditional approaches and needs of Indigenous community members. She admitted to her own feelings of discomfort over a Chilkat robe project where her local weaver took a more aggressive approach to the care of the tassels than Ellen was prepared for. This served as an excellent example of how, as part of the decolonizing approach advocated for by many professionals, we can learn to give up some control over our collections and share authority with those whose knowledge can provide a more culturally-appropriate way to achieve our mission. The 1999 workshop attendees suggested museums come up with projects to break down barriers, and that the use of local experts for highly specialized tasks like this acknowledges that oral and practiced knowledge is as valid as that gained through academic and professional training.

    As a current Interdisciplinary PhD candidate at UAF working on a museum studies project, I was particularly interested to hear from Selena Ortega-Chiolero and Bethany Buckingham-Follett in their session entitled “Spirit and Vision at IAIA: An Indigenous Approach to the Field of Museum Studies.” They were joined telephonically by Asst. Professor and Department Chair Felipe Estudillo Colón from Santa Fe as he presented the guiding principles and goals of the museum studies program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). This unique undergraduate and online certificate program centers their philosophy on teaching a balance of practical skills needed to become a museum professional while encouraging their students’ ability to analyze various models of cultural stewardship. Faculty foster the exploration of “uncharted and expressive directions in the field of museology” while giving opportunities for hands-on learning in a wide range of museum settings. Both Selena and Bethany spoke with excitement about the online program as an opportunity to expand their knowledge in museology on their own time, while specifically being provided with examples centered in Indigenous cultural centers rather than the standard western museums often cited in traditional museological texts. The AIAI program is inspiring as we at UAF look at re-invigorating our Museum Studies courses and consider how we can create a curriculum firmly based in northern topics, including Alaska Native pedagogy.

    In considering such work, I am inspired again by the attendees of the 1999 workshop who suggested concrete actions to help museum staff be more culturally-responsive:

    • take into account the possible spiritual needs of objects in the collection and the potential for conflicting perspectives;
    • reconsider the use of western-centric terms like “prehistory” and “informants” in favor of terms such as “ancient history” and “collaborator / co-author”; and
    • presenting the complexity of contemporary Indigenous perspectives and the need for self-representation.

    These suggestions sound very similar to what our keynote speakers, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko and 1999 workshop attendee Sven Haakanson, Jr., promoted in their final panel together: consider who we, as museum professionals, are serving and how we can prioritize their needs. Museum professionals of the 21st century must be true to our mission, while also creating safe spaces for diverse audiences, avoid exclusion, demand accessibility, and seek out opportunities for equity. It is no small task – but I have confidence in my Alaska peers that we are fully capable of not just meeting these demands, but of leading the way.

    The Alutiiq Building, home of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository.

  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 10:39 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    This article was written by Museums Alaska member Leslie Fried, who is the Curator at the Alaska Jewish Museum.

    I recently had the opportunity to take a trip back to the East Coast where I grew up. It turned out to be a time not only for visiting relatives, but also some of those places that were important influences on me as a child and young adult.

    I went to Jones Beach and Tobay Beach on Long Island where I spent long summer days swimming and collecting shells. I also visited my 101- year-old Aunt Mildred in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn where I honed my curatorial skills by recording family stories on my Tascam DR-100 digital recorder, a device similar to the one I use at the Alaska Jewish Museum for doing oral histories. It is easy to operate and very unobtrusive. Needless-to-say, some of my aunt’s memories were a revelation!

    Sharing stories was a common thread on this trip as I got together with a high school friend from Frankfurt, Germany that I hadn’t seen in 53 years. We spent quite a bit of time in Manhattan exploring the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Metropolitan Museum. She found it fun that her best friend from 10th grade could quite easily guide her through the paintings, drawings and prints with ease, familiarity and back stories. Shamelessly, I basked in the glory!

    Every year or so I revisit certain art pieces that have influenced me throughout my life, and this time was no different. I made a pilgrimage to Giacometti’s “Palace at 4 A.M.,” an assemblage at MOMA that I have found evocative since my teenage years (above). At the Met, I visited some of my favorite Greek figurines in the Greek and Roman galleries (below). These tiny sculptures influenced me greatly during my years as a decorative painter and plasterer in Seattle.

    My trip ended in Philadelphia where I visited the National Museum of American Jewish History where my sister Susan and I were treated to a private tour with the Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, Josh Perelman, on the same day that the exhibit, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginzburg, was being taken down. The Museum’s core exhibit, Dreams of Freedom, that chronicles the Jewish experience in America dating back to the 1500’s was wonderfully curated but made no mention of the Jewish experience in Alaska. I therefore decided upon my return to Anchorage that I would contact Mr. Perelman about doing a presentation in Philly next winter when I visit again. A traveling exhibit is also a possibility.


    Image 1:  Palace at 4 a.m. by Alberto Giacometti. (Swiss, 1901–1966) 1932. Wood, glass, wire, and string, 25 x 28 1/4 x 15 3/4" (63.5 x 71.8 x 40 cm)

    Image 2: Greek Terracotta Figurines, 3rd to 4th Century B.C

  • Thursday, January 30, 2020 9:33 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Friends and Colleagues,

    Museums Alaska has exciting plans for 2020. This year will be different than last year, with new opportunities for professional education. Why? Because you asked for it! Recent surveys show that our members want more training, in new formats, and on a broad range of topics. We’ve taken your requests to heart and are planning a series of webinars and a special annual meeting this year. We are also re-imagining our annual conference. Museums Alaska will meet in Valdez in 2021 and we are starting to plan a gathering with longer format sessions and workshops—so we can learn even more from each other.

    Here’s a look ahead.

    Museums Alaska 2020


    • Inventories and Checklists – led by Angela Linn
    • Digital Photography
      • March or April (registration coming soon)
    • Storage and Mounts – led by Nicole Peters
      • May (registration coming soon)
    • Outdoor Sculpture and Artifact Care – led by Ellen Carrlee
      • June (registration coming soon)
    Annual Meeting—September 2020, Juneau
    • Museums Alaska annual business meeting
    • 2020 Alaska Museum Survey results

    Museums Alaska 2021

    Advocacy Fly-In, Juneau, January 2021

    • Join us for advocacy training and opportunities to meet with state senators and representatives.
    Annual Conference, Valdez,  2021
    • Our next conference will be hosted with help from the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive.

    As always, we value your ideas.  We know that many people would like longer conference sessions, workshops, and access to content online. As we plan for Valdez, let us know what topics you would like covered. Or join our program committee and help to plan the conference.    

    Looking forward to working with you,

    Della Hall, Executive Director

  • Thursday, January 30, 2020 9:11 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Dear Alaska Census Taker,

    You know why your work taking the census matters for the future of Alaska. The data you collect will determine federal funding, state and federal political representation, and more.

    However, have you considered how much your work matters to history? My job is to help museums across Alaska, and let me tell you, the census is a HUGE help to curators, historians, genealogists, and many other kinds of researchers who rely on census data to understand the past. The census is an essential primary source in Alaska, as it provides an unparalleled snapshot in time.

    I want to show you a few census pages from 1900 to show you how we use the census to understand Alaska’s past.

    Nome census pageThis census record on the left was taken in 1900 in Nome and illustrates that people came from all over the country and world to mine a Bering Sea beach. Not one person on this entire page has a home address in Alaska. Census officials clearly presumed that this would be the case across Alaska when they designed the questions, as another census question asks a person to differentiate between their profession at home and their profession in Alaska. Those answers indicate that many of Nome’s residents in 1900 were novice miners, who spent their professional lives in the Lower 48 working as electricians, farmers, carpenters. From this single census page, we see evidence of how the allure of gold infected the country and resulted in waves of inexperienced individuals travelling from afar with the hopes of striking a lode.

    Many are familiar with the story of Nome. However, the census also captures communities, individuals, and data points that otherwise might be absent from the historical record.

    Below you will see a 1900 census sheet from Klukwan, a Tlingit village in northern Southeast Alaska. This record is meaningful for genealogy, as descendants can find their ancestors listed by their Tlingit names. Moreover, the census sheet shows us the vibrant economy of Klukwan—a place where nearly all were engaged in artistic production as a means of making a living. For example, Cheesach was a blanket weaver, making Chilkat robes. We see that Trakowish was a canoe maker. We see that many people in Klukwan made their livelihoods from beadwork. This data provides a documentary record of the meaningful artistic legacy of Klukwan.

    Klukwan census page

    My dear census taker, I hope that these examples show you that with each census entry you record, you are creating a historically valuable document.

    Ivan Petroff As you make your rounds, consider that you are but the most recent in a line of Alaska census takers that reaches back to 1880. One hundred and forty years ago, census taker Ivan Petroff (pictured here) sailed, rowed, hiked, and dogsledded across Alaska to count residents. Every ten years since, your enumerating predecessors went from mining claim to cannery, from fish camp to fox farm, from military base to village, recording Alaska’s population in fair weather and in foul.

    What persists across those 140 years is your service. Thank you for counting Alaskans now and in so doing, creating a reliable snapshot in time that people generations from now will study and appreciate. Thank you for your role in making Alaska history.   

    Your admirer,

    Anjuli Grantham


    Nome 1900 census page

    Caption: The census taken in Nome in 1900 indicates the large number of people who were temporarily in Nome to take part in what was for them a temporary occupation—mining.

    Klukwan 1900 census page

    Caption: The census taken in Klukwan in 1900 demonstrates the long-lasting artistic legacy of this Tlingit village.

    Ivan Petroff takes the census

    Caption: Ivan Petroff takes the 1890 census on Kodiak Island. Petroff was involved in the 1880 census, as well. From Robert Porter, Report on the Population and Resources of Alaska (Washington, DC: GPO, 1893).

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