Author Archives: Robyn Russell

Re: Exit Glacier Jukebox now available!

Exit Glacier Header

The Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Kenai Fjords National Park are proud to announce the completion of the Exit Glacier/Kenai Fjords National Park Project Jukebox, available online at http://jukebox.uaf.edu/exitglacier. People who visit the website can access oral, visual and map resources that offer a rich understanding of the history of how people have used Exit Glacier and the Resurrection River Valley.

This project highlights conversations with twenty-three long-term residents of Seward, Alaska about their lives, and traditional activities in the area around Exit Glacier from 1950-1980. The people interviewed are a diverse group, ranging from skiers, hikers and mountaineers, to snowmachiners, hunters, dogmushers, National Park Service managers, and construction workers on the road to Exit Glacier that now provides easy access to the glacier and park nature center. Other topics discussed in the interviews include: life in Seward and how it has changed; the 1964 Earthquake; construction of the road to Exit Glacier; changes in the glacier and the local animal populations; a snowmachine tour operation on Harding Icefield; hunting; and effects of the establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park in 1980.

During the interviews, people used colored pens to mark the areas they used on USGS maps. These maps are visible on this website as interactive Google maps.

Project Jukebox has helped preserve stories from aspects of Seward’s recent history that may not be well-known and have made them accessible to the public. The information discussed in these interviews will be of interest to both local Seward residents wanting to know more about land use activities in their community, as well as to visitors interested in better understanding the community. This project was supported by funding from the National Park Service.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Karen Brewster at the Project Jukebox Office, University of Alaska Fairbanks. karen.brewster@alaska.edu, (907) 474-6672. Shannon Kovac, Cultural Resource Manager, Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward, Alaska. shannon_kovac@nps.gov, (907) 422-0541.

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Re: The Lost Gold Mine of Felix Pedro

Sure, everybody knows that Italian immigrant Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni) made the gold strike that lead to the founding of Fairbanks, but how many people know that he found–and lost–a gold mine much earlier? While prospecting on the Tanana River,  Felix found gold, marked the spot, and then left in order to get more supplies. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to locate his gold discovery again, in part due to the geographically inaccurate maps available at the time.

To hear this story and to see other cool Golden Days-related exhibits, drop by the UAF Archives, located on Level 2 of the Rasmuson Library.

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Re: Denali Diary Part of Museum Exhibit

In the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner today (click here) is an article on the University of Alaska Museum’s special exhibit on the 100th anniversary of the Hudson Stuck Expedition’s ascent of Mt. Denali in 1913. The Walter Harper diary mentioned in the article is part of the Alaska and Polar Regions Archives and we were very happy to collaborate with the Museum to make this exhibit happen. As part of a disaster recovery workshop earlier in the year, myself and some of my colleagues got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum where we saw the planning for this same exhibit. It looked intriguing then even in its notes-stuck-to-the-walls stage and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop into the UA Museum and check it out.

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Re: Tourism in Alaska

In spring, Alaskans’ thoughts lightly turn to …tourism? Yes, indeed. May is traditionally the kickoff of the summer tourist season here in Fairbanks which runs from mid-May to mid-September. Here is pioneer businessman Chuck West talking about how he got into the tourism business in 1947:

Let me see now. I go back just a bit. ’47, that same summer, everything happened all at once it seemed like. While I was still on, across on First Avenue, I had two ladies walk in to see me–schoolteachers. And they said they wanted to know if there’s any sightseeing tours. And I said, “Well not that I know of. What do you want to see?” And they said, “Well, whatever there is to see.” And I said, “Well, I’ve got a Plymouth Sedan out here, 1936 Plymouth; I’ll take you around, show you what there is to see.” I, by then had two girls [Celia Hunter and Ginny Wood] working for me. I said, “Girls, mind the office. I’m going to take these ladies for a little ride around the area.” I put ‘em in the back seat of the Plymouth, took them out to the University of Alaska and showed them the Museum out there. Charles Bunnell was still there. And went around Farmer’s Loop, and a guy named Paul Elbert had a farm there, I went up and got a bucket of water from Paul and a salt shaker and went down in his garden with his permission, pulled some radishes out of the ground. They were just beautiful, big, delicious radishes–washed ’em off, salted ’em, gave ’em to the ladies to eat. And they were crisp, juicy radishes like the ladies had never seen anything like it. And I took them up on the hill, let them pick some blueberries, and back into town, showed ‘em the gold dredges around Ester and so forth…had a flat tire, got eaten up by mosquitoes. RON INOUYE: People loved that experience. CHUCK WEST:They loved it. Came back to the Nordale Hotel, stopped on the way to the hotel, and I said, “Well, how did you like it?” They said, “Wonderful, what do we owe you?” I said I don’t know; you’re my first sightseeing passengers. How about $20?” They handed me a $20 bill. I said, “Great.” So rushed back to the office and said, “Girls–we’re in the sightseeing business. Get a sign made- ­”SIGHTSEEING – $10.”

To hear and/or read more about Chuck West,the company that eventually became Westours, and the role of aviation in developing tourism in Alaska, click here to go the Pioneer Aviators Jukebox. Depending on your browser, you may need to download additional plug-ins to play the audio.

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Re: New Art Book Exhibit

If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, drop by the Northwoods Book Arts Group display case on Level 4 and check out the new exhibit of art books using natural materials. My personal favorite is the book made out of two conks (birch shelf fungus). If you are interested in learning how to make books like these yourself, UAF offers classes on a regular basis.

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Moving the Mountain

The UAF Oral History Program has 11,000 interviews in its collection, but only about 3,000 of them digitized so far. Obviously, extra help is needed, but where to find it? With a little creative thinking, we have been able to recruit several extra pairs of hands. First, we’ve been able to get some help from some of our fellow library employees who were interested in cross-training and learning oral history processing techniques. A tip of the hat here to our dean, Bella Gerlich, who has been very supportive of our internal professional development efforts. Second, we have, during the summer slack time, borrowed some likely student assistants from Circulation. Thanks here to Campbell and Kristie and their supervisor, Kari. And finally, next week the new Northern Studies intern, Summer, will be starting with us (and yes, that’s her real name). Slowly, pebble by pebble, we move the mountain.

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Sign of the Times

The Oral History unit has a grad student volunteer, Erin, who has been working with us these past two weeks, digitizing some of our reel-to-reel tapes and making summaries for them so that we can catalog them.  Whenever she runs across Alaskan names or terminology, she looks them up to be sure that they are spelled correctly.  As a youngster (defined as someone at least twenty years younger than myself), Erin Googles these references. As an oldster, my first inclination to head toward print references because I remember a time–not that long ago–when the Internet was the proverbial vast wasteland where Alaskan materials were concerned. What a difference a few years makes. I continue to be surprised at what (accurate) information Erin is able to find on the web. Two examples: check out the Bowhead whale songs here at Cornell and this book on Koyukon verb classification here at Google Books.

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