In 1965, Paul McCarthy, a librarian at the University Library, and Ted Ryberg, university librarian, established the archives in a classroom adjacent to the library, which was then in the Bunnell Building. The following summer, operating on advice from old-timers, they paddled a canoe from Eagle and Circle on the Yukon River stopping at deserted mining claims and trapper cabins and collecting abandoned papers and photographs with which they established the archives. In the ensuing 50 years, a stack of a few boxes has expanded into a world-class historical collection.
The Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives serves UAF students and faculty and researchers from around the world with more than 11,000 rare books and maps, more than 20,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, more than one million photographs, tens of thousands of historical films and videotapes and over 11,000 hours of oral history recordings. Notable collections include the Alaska Commercial Company station ledgers, the statehood movement, political collections from early state leaders such as Ralph Rivers and Ernest Gruening and oral history interviews with aviation pioneers.