50th anniversary reception today!

Archives50 flyer 2015-06-26-B-1

On the Road Recording Old Timers: the British Petroleum Oral History Project

Otto and Mattie Steiner

Otto and Mattie Steiner

Our indexer, Lisa has finished describing the On the Road Recording Old Timers: the British Petroleum Oral History Project which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives.  Here’s what she has to say:

This collection is an added component of a much larger project which was a series of interviews done with pioneer Alaskans. Recorded in 1990, these interviews covered a wide range of Alaskan life. Take, for instance, Alaskan coal miners from the mid-1940s…you can almost feel the camaraderie among the miners.  It can also be seen between the artillery soldiers stationed at Yakutat Bay during World War II.

One of my favorite pieces in this collection was a Christmas card made from a photograph of Clyde and Nellie Sherman. The letter on the back was written to Nellie’s friend during World War II, providing an interesting glimpse into that time in history.

Tank at Ladd Field

Tank at Ladd Field

Pearl Bragg Laska (nee Chamberlain) had a challenging time getting to Alaska in 1944, where she’d heard there was a need for pilots—but make it she did.

From founders of homes for girls, to hunters, farmers, and educators, you’ll find plenty of interest within this collection.  You’ll even find Shirley Temple Black making an appearance in this collection during her visit to Fairbanks!

The taped interviews that go along with the photos in this collection are available at the Rasmuson library; some have been put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to a few. I’ve had the privilege of listening to some and I highly recommend them! They give a world of meaning to the photos you’ll see in this collection.

Coal truck on the move

Coal truck on the move


The library is closed to the public today, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Consequently the research room is closed  to the public.  We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

Do you have a story about the Archives that you would like to share?

Please post it on the 50th anniversary website:



Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives 50th

George A. Morlander Photographs

Our indexer Lisa has finished describing the George A. Morlander Photographs collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she has to say:

Fishing boat at pier.

George Morlander moved to Alaska from Minnesota in 1925 to teach for the Alaska Native Service (ANS). The ANS teaching positions in various schools took George and his wife, Lona, to Kivalina, then along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, and then on to southeastern Alaska. George later became the superintendent of the ANS boarding school in Eklutna, Alaska. Though the boarding school moved locations twice after World War II, George chose not to move with the school. He had suffered a leg injury while traveling by dog sled, and this factored into his decision to finish his career as an administrative assistant in Bethel. Moving to Ferndale, Washington upon his retirement in 1952, George lived until 1986 when he passed away at the age of 92.

Fishing through ice

Fishing through ice.

The 826 color slides that make up the George A. Morlander collection show an amazing cross-section of Alaskan geography and culture. Mostly taken between 1948 and 1950, these photos cover locations all over the state of Alaska. The varied subjects of these photos range from school children at recess, to fishing and subsistence living, to dog sledding and other travel, to landscapes, and more. Many photos capture Native Alaskans in traditional dress, as in photos UAF-1997-108-844, UAF-1997-108-878, and UAF-1997-108-765. Some evoke a feeling of wonder at the vastness of this state, and some a healthy respect for the harshness of the climate in this land. In working through this collection, I felt I became a little better acquainted with this state and its people. It was very difficult to pick out just a few photos to highlight, as there are so many great ones in this collection!

Train passes mountains.

Train passes mountains.

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