Carl J. and Dorothy L. Aho Photograph Collection

Our indexer Alex has finished describing the Carl J. and Dorothy L. Aho Photograph Collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what he has to say:

The Carl J. and Dorothy L. Aho Photograph Collection is comprised of 71 black and white photographs taken around the time of the Second World War, all pertaining to the United States Naval Air Transport Service. The majority of the photos involve airplanes, whether focusing on planes directly or taken from onboard flying aircraft, though several other photos depict the seemingly ordinary interactions of Naval Air Transport Service members. The result is a dynamic, variable collection full of dramatic movement and breathtaking perspective.

The photo “Dog teams near landing strip” is particularly striking, as it depicts a

Dog teams near landing strip.

Dog teams near landing strip.

pair of dog teams racing along a snow-covered runway while an airplane touches down in the distance. A sense of speed is palpable here, as both the dogsled teams and the airplane seem to hurtle toward the viewer. In fact, they seem almost to be racing. The stark contrast between the shadowy sled teams, the white snow, and the overcast sky invokes a feeling of inevitability, of fatedness, while the juxtaposition of the ages-old technology of the dogsled alongside the relatively new technology of the airplane seems painfully suggestive of the Earth-shattering changes that the War would bring.

Frozen river

Aerial view from frozen river.

In addition to these kinds of dynamic action shots, the Collection contains a number of aerial photographs that are equally striking, including some dreamy images of mountain peaks jutting through a floor of clouds, or volcanoes belching smoke into the atmosphere. My favorite of the aerial photography is entitled “Aerial view frozen river,” which depicts what might be considered a relatively ordinary (albeit panoramic) view of a river and a hillside. As a result of the intense contrast between the lightness of the river and the darkness of the hill, however, the image appears strange, abstracted, with a ribbon of light winding up through a valley of brushed felt. The effect is that, at first glance, we might not comprehend what we are seeing. This, to my mind, can make for an immensely gratifying artistic experience, as it suggests something powerful about the variability of experience, that things are not always what they seem, and that there are many different ways of looking at the world.

Finally, there are a number of photos depicting the actions of Naval Air Transport Service members, some of which are hauntingly beautiful (particularly “Village, probably Barrow” and “Two men near a box labeled ‘Top of the World Aerological Station, U.S. Navy’s Northern Most Outpost’”). The best (and best-named) of these images is “Men around table at Top of the World Club,” which, as you can imagine, depicts men lounging around a table in a Quonset hut. I’m struck here by the demeanor of the men, which seems so at ease, and the way the “club” seems so feebly yet so lovingly decorated. It strikes a kind of bittersweet chord, especially when paired with some of the other photos in the Collection, which often feature men in coats and boots, bundled up against the Alaskan winter, working hard to help win the War. Here, the men are in shirt sleeves. They are, for the time being, comfortable, at ease. So are we.

Men around table at Top of the World Club.

Men around table at Top of the World Club.

First Friday at the Library! Billy Berry Drawings February 6th!

Level 4, Rasmuson Library — Free parking after 5 p.m.

Drawings and prints by the late artist Bill Berry, from quick sketches made during his Monday night sketch group to finished prints of the animals he drew and studied throughout his life. Many of these works have not been publicly exhibited before.

PLUS: Premiere of Guides to Drawing, a book of Bill Berry’s notes and tips for drawing humans and animals, especially Alaskan mammals and birds.

The exhibition will be open until March 19, 2015

Bill Berry Drawings  First Friday Exhibition and  Book Premier Feb. 6, 1015


Howard J. Thompson — Jessen’s Weekly Photograph Collection

Printing equipment, Jessen's Weekly.

Printing equipment, Jessen’s Weekly. (UAF-1993-252-16)

Typesetting machines (UAF-1993-252-21)

Typesetting machines (UAF-1993-252-21)

Our indexer Lisa has finished describing the  Howard J. Thompson — Jessen’s Weekly Photograph Collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she has to say:

These 41 black and white photographs were taken by Jim Ogden with a Rolleicord camera in April, 1954. Jim was an amateur photographer that was stationed with Howard J. Thompson in the 449th Fighter Squadron at Ladd Field, and Howard had purchased the camera from Germany for him to use. The photos are mostly of the machinery used for publishing Jessen’s Weekly, a newspaper of interior Alaska published in Fairbanks, Alaska. Jessen’s Weekly was published from January 23, 1942-August 25, 1968, when it was absorbed by Jessen’s Daily.

Equipment. (UAF-1993-252-23)

Equipment. (UAF-1993-252-23)

When I was first diving into this collection of photos, I was a bit daunted by all of the printing industry machinery that was depicted in the photos. I have no knowledge of the printing industry, nor of newspaper publishing in general, and wondered how I would begin to describe all the fascinating-looking pieces in this collection. Nonetheless, once I looked closely at each photo, I began to see clues that drew me in and nudged me to do further research. Who knew that a simple plate on a machine could lead to finding the type of machine, its purpose, and/or its manufacturer? Or that a “galley tray” is not something from the kitchen of a ship, at least not in the printing industry? From the “Model K” Linotype machine, which could set a whole line of type, to the “Little Giant” created by American Type Founders in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the print enthusiast will find much of interest in this collection. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Banks Overflowing the ‘Banks: Candace Waugaman Collection. Fairbanks Floods Photographs

Our indexer Dee has finished describing the Candace Waugaman Collection. Fairbanks Floods Photographs which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she has to say:

I have some heart for these photos, a personal connection, as my parents and my older sister, six months at the time, endured the 1967 flood firsthand when unusually heavy rains swelled the Chena Rivers six feet above flood stage, resulting in one of the worst disasters in the history of Alaska.  The flood displaced nearly 7,000 people from their homes, including my own family who evacuated their home and took refuge with their dear friend, Libby Wescott, winner of the 1960 North American Championship dog race, and her husband, Bob for two weeks until the waters slowly receded.

Nearly surrounded (UAF-2006-64-18)

This flood was destructive – roads, bridges and railroad tracks were washed away; homes were destroyed; buildings were wrecked, causing around $80 million worth of damage.

Photos in this collection show the flood waters reaching stunning heights – almost completely submerging entire cars! There was great destruction, but even sadder, tragedy, as seven people lost their lives to the 1967 flood.

Flooded streets (UAF-2006-105-17)

Eighteen of the 39 photos in this collection capture images of the 1967 flood. The other 21 photos include photos of the Chena River floods in 1937, 1948, 1960, 1963, and 1964.

To put it mildly, Fairbanks had to endure many a flood before the devastation of the 1967 one captured Congress’ attention and authorized the Chena River Lake Flood Control Project.  This flood control project established by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, consisting of a dam about 40 miles up the Chena River from Fairbanks has prevented any further flooding in Fairbanks and the surrounding areas.

James Edwin Morrow Photographs

Old Russian Church at Kenai, Alaska

Old Russian Church at Kenai, Alaska

Our indexer Lisa has finished describing the James Edwin Morrow Photographs which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she has to say:

If you have a penchant for landscape photography in Alaska, then you’ll want to take look at the James Edwin Morrow photograph collection. James Edwin Morrow (1918-2002) was a professor of zoology at the University of Alaska for seventeen years—from the 1960’s through the early 1970’s. He was author of some pieces on the fish and fisheries of Alaska, including “Illustrated Keys to the Fresh-water Fishes of Alaska.” His photograph collection, which holds 121 color slides and transparencies, has many landscape photos of a variety of locations around the state. James was the photographer of these various photos, depicting everything from aerial views of smoke from forest fires to men panning for gold in the Little Minook. Automobile enthusiasts might appreciate the old Ford pickup seen in UAF-1977-59-16 and UAF-1977-59-17. Aeronautical folks may appreciate UAF-1977-59-41, which shows a partial tail number creating a mystery as to which plane it may have been. From a road carved through a glacier on McKinley Highway to the old trading post in Rampart Village, you’ll find photos taken in Chicken, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Kenai, Seldovia, and more, all from the early to mid-1960’s. There’s also a group of pictures taken in 1971 on the North Slope. A few of my favorites images from this collection are highlighted here in this blog.  Enjoy!

Sunset at Iniakuk Lake

Sunset at Iniakuk Lake

Panning at Little Minook

Panning at Little Minook

Research room closed for lunch

We are very sorry for the inconvenience but the research room will be closed from 12 pm to 2 pm on Wednesday, November 26.


Research room closed today

We are very sorry for the inconvenience but the research room is closed Thursday, November 20.

Pioneer Voices Presented by Leslie McCartney- Nov. 13th 7:00pm

Join Curator Leslie McCartney as she shares memorable audio clips from the Pioneers of Alaska Igloo No. 4 collection. The recordings, made by members of the Pioneers of Alaska, record the histories of hundreds of pioneers, from miners to homesteaders and captains of industry. The collection ranges from early gold camp days to the 1967 flood.

  • When: Thursday, Nov. 13 @ 7:00pm
  • Where: Research Room, Level 2, Rasmuson Library

For more information, contact Leslie McCartney, 907-474-7737 or

Railroad Man Promotes Flying in Fairbanks – the James S. and Hannah Rodebaugh papers

Our indexer Dee has finished describing the James S. and Hannah Rodebaugh papers, which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she has to say:Hannah_and_Jimmie

 James S. “Jimmy” “Jimmie” Rodebaugh, born ca. 1887 in Ohio, brought his wife Johanna “Hannah” Rodebaugh to Alaska where he worked as a conductor for the Alaska Railroad. Seeing the potential of commercial aviation in Alaska, he quit his railroad gig, and in the spring of 1924, made a trip to the Lower 48 in search of planes and pilots. In St. Paul, Minnesota, he found two World War I planes, Hisso (Hispano-Suizas) Standard J1 biplanes for $5000. He also hired two young pilots, Noel Wien and Arthur Sampson, farm boys with very little experience, but willing to to move to Alaska and work for $300 a month.

Plane_owned_by_James_RodebaughThe Alaska Aerial Transportation Company was born. Two years later, Jimmy left this company, and formed the Bennett-Rodebaugh Company with pilot, Almer A. Bennett. Due to a business disagreement, Jimmy sold his portion of the company to Ed Young. In 1929, this company was taken over by Alaskan Airways.

The most compelling part of this collection is the letter Hannah Rodebaugh wrote on April 10, 1961.  She states that Jimmy formed the first commercial flying service in Fairbanks for humanity. That during his time on the railroad, he had seen so many frozen or injured people brought to the trains from remote areas in serious need of medical care. Jimmy saw an opportunity here to offer flying services to those who needed access to quicker travel, particularly those with medical needs.

Hannah describes her husband as a natural born gambler, taking a chance with their lifelong savings to start a flying service. Eventually, he even learned to fly himself, taking lessons from a Mr. Ryan in San Diego, California.

Jimmy was in the flying business a mere five years, enduring setbacks such as Noel Wien refusing to fly planes in the winter; piloting a plane himself that crashed (no fatalities, but passenger suffered broken arm); and a few business disagreements, one of which caused him to quit this industry for good.

Rose on the radio!

Assistant archivist for reference, Rose Speranza, was interviewed by Anjuli Grantham, curator of collections at the Baranov Museum/Kodiak Historical Society. She spoke about the Nichols Family Collection, a collection we have in the archives, which has some photographs of Filipino workers in the canning industry.

The episode aired 2 weeks ago and is now available for listening at KMXT’s webpage. You can listen via streaming audio or download it by following this link: and clicking on “Way back in Kodiak: Filipinos in Larsen Bay 1915.”