You may remember back in July when we posted about our Alaska and World War I: A Centennial Exhibit featuring archival materials such as historical photographs and documents that provide a window into how the Great War affected Alaskans. If you live in Juneau and haven’t had the chance to check it out, make sure you do! The exhibit is located on the second floor hall, opposite the entrance to the State Library.
However if you are not planning a trip to the state capitol any time soon, we are excited to announce that the exhibit is now live online, for you to visit from the comfort of your living room or classroom!
The records featured in the exhibit are just a small portion of what the State Archives and State Library Historical Collections hold in their collections so if you’re interested in learning more be sure to contact us or plan a visit!
10/10 is #ERecsDay! Today we’ll be sharing tips on electronic records management and State Records Manager, Jennifer Treadway, will be standing by to take all questions related to electronic records management!
Jump on Instagram (follow us @akstatearchives) and check out our story for tips, send us messages or comment on our posts with questions, or send us an email at email@example.com!
While you’re thinking of questions, check out this year’s Electronic Records Day poster below for some tips on managing records and get the answer to the question, “If a bear goes into the woods, do her electronic records survive?”.
It’s October 1, and we all know what that means – the start of Archives Month!! What’s Archives Month? The month of October is dedicated to celebrating and advocating archives in the United States, and we at the Alaska State Archives have some exciting things coming up this month that we would like to share!
To begin, we are so excited to reveal this year’s Archives Month poster featuring historical photographs depicting the recession of Mendenhall Glacier over the past century.
Jump online and ask us any questions you have about archives or what it’s like to be an archivist! To learn more about this event check out our press release! You can question us on Twitter @AKStateLibrary and on Instagram @akstatearchives (use the hashtag #AKArchivists & #AskAnArchivist). We can’t wait to answer your questions!
October 10 is Electronic Records Day – keep an eye out for our informative, funny, and very Alaskan poster that will help answer any questions you have about electronic records.
On October 18 (up here we know it as Alaska Day) the Alaska State Archives will be OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Drop by to meet our staff, check out some cool collections we’ll have on display, and gather information about how to start research in the archives or how to care for your own archival collection! We’ll be here to answer any questions you have!
Check back on the blog throughout the month for fun facts and tips about archiving, archival collections, and the archivists behind it all!
For the past few months the Alaska State Archives has teamed up with the Alaska State Library Historical Collections to curate an exhibit featuring historical records from our collections to tell the story of Alaska during the Great War. We’re excited to announce the exhibit has been fully installed and ready for you to visit! Located on the second floor of the Andrew P. Kashevaroff building in downtown Juneau, this exhibit features historical photographs and documents which provide a window into a critical time in the history of the early 20th century: a time when global war transformed the world and impacted Alaska.
The exhibit is divided into four main sections: Alaska Goes to War, The Front, The Home Front, and Armistice and After the War. Each section examines the way in which the war was impacting Alaska and how Alaskans met and worked through these challenges.
Of the more than 10,000 men in Alaska who enlisted to serve between 1917 and 1918, 2,200 were inducted into service. However not all men (and certainly no women) were allowed to enlist, regardless of how much they wanted to serve their country. While Alaska Natives were turned away from registration offices¹, 12,000 American Indians from the Lower 48 volunteered to serve in the armed forces during World War I².
Many women eager to help with the war effort signed up with the American Red Cross and were sent overseas to care for wounded soldiers in field hospitals. One such nurse was Mollie B. Smith of Valdez, Alaska. In a letter to her sister, published in the November 6, 1918 issue of the Cordova Daily Herald, she describes her experiences on the front:
“Everyone wants to go to the front; then when one gets in to the front line hospital, she is not satisfied until she gets into the dressing station or first aid station. In fact, I do not think the American over here will ever be satisfied until they can march into Berlin.”
“About dusk we reached the French hospital called Ambulance 5-11. Madame Tancenf turned her large estate over to the military department at the beginning of the war. The chateau contained an operating room, dressing rooms, a kitchen, and five wards. Besides these were five tents, capacity in all about 250 beds.”
“…after many questions, we learned the few orders which were necessary for our night’s work. Four delirious men, all the rest terribly ill. Someone was always getting out of bed, or raving for water. The few who slept had nightmares, and talked incessantly about going over the top.”
“I fear the American nurses near the front may become spoiled by the admiration bestowed upon them by the American soldiers. But hardly, for these little things are what make life endurable, for no one can paint the tragedy or strenuousness of a front line hospital. And I’m sure, at least, most of the nurses would be glad to change places with the soldiers and have the opportunity of going over the top.”
Like Mollie’s letter, news from the front was reported in local papers as letters made their way to loved ones at home.
At home Alaskans were supporting the war effort through the purchase of Victory Loans, fundraisers and charity events, and pulling more than their weight in the work force.
Home defense was also on the minds of Americans and Home Guard organizations began to pop up in larger towns throughout Alaska. By 1918 there were units in Anchorage, Seward, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Sitka, Cordova, Juneau, and Eagle. As far as daily duties were concerned it varied from town to town depending on population and resources. While Fairbanks organized watch shifts for Guard members, a note in a report from Sitka speaks to the operation of a smaller Guard (89 members compared to 168 in Fairbanks according to a 1918 report):
“Company under organization. During summer months majority of company absent, engaged in fish and other industries. Plan for active drill during coming fall and winter, and to be available to guard Government property, water frontage at Sitka, or other duty for which available.”
The fear of foreigners, especially those of German descent, was becoming an issue so much so that in 1917 Governor J.F.A. Strong issued a proclamation reminding Alaskans that “no word or deed on the part of American citizens should operate to incite racial feeling or create prejudice against those who have come to the Territory for the purposes of bettering their condition and enjoying the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness“.
During this time the Spanish Flu, a dangerous and sometimes fatal pandemic, spread across the world. Thousands in Alaska died, as well as Alaskans serving in the war effort outside of the Territory.
When the war ended many Alaskans were eager to come home and take up their old jobs. Among those wishing for a speedy discharge were fisherman and prospectors, whose yearly salaries were dependent on specific seasonal work. Despite the governor’s efforts to secure discharges for Alaskan soldiers, release from the armed forces was slow and many continued to serve after the war.
After the war Alaskans wanted to honor and document those that served in the war. In 1923 the Alaskan Territorial Legislature passed an Act that asked the Secretary of Alaska to document veterans inducted into service in Alaska. A few years later the Alphabetical List of Alaska World War Ex-Service Persons was generated. Although this record did not list Alaskans that enlisted in Canada and fought with the British Expeditionary Forces or women that served in the Red Cross, it provided a comprehensive record of the nearly 2,200 Alaskan soldiers that were inducted into service during World War I.
Interested in learning more about Alaska during World War I? Come check out the exhibit for yourself! Like what you see? Learn more about this topic through your research at our Research Center which houses both the Alaska State Archives and Alaska State Library Historical Collections, we’re free and open to the public from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday. For those of you who can’t travel to Juneau physically, don’t worry, we’re working on a digital exhibit that will include even MORE historical documents that we weren’t able to fit into our physical exhibit space (no matter how hard we tried). Stay tuned!
Alaska Natives were allowed to register in late October of 1918, less than two weeks before the end of the war, according to an October 21, 1918 article published in the Alaska Daily Empire.
The month of May marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Attu, the only battle during WWII fought on American soil. On June 2-3, 1942 the Japanese Imperial Navy launched attacks on the American military base of Dutch Harbor.
Above photographs from the “Alaska at War” documentary materials. Department of Natural Resources, Office of History and Archaeology, AS 28145
In a letter sent to Governor Gruening, Claude Smith, an oil burner installation and maintenance man, describes the conditions at Dutch Harbor providing an interesting firsthand account of the bombings as well as general conditions of the base.
“The morning of June 3d we were just getting up at 5:45 when I heard the sound of plane or planes. I immediately knew they were not PBY’s or “flying coffins” as we called them. The first warning we had of the attack was the actual dropping of bombs.”¹
Two days later the islands of Attu and Kiska were taken. These remote islands had not yet been evacuated and as a result the Unangan (Aleut) residents of Attu Village were taken as prisoners of war by Japanese forces. This resulted in a mass evacuation of the Aleutian Islands’ 800+ Alaska Native residents who were sent to poorly supplied camps over 1,500 miles from their homelands where many of them died from disease and starvation.²
Within the Office of the Governor’s correspondence files are letters and reports concerning the “Aleut Relocation” [VS 495]. These records, dated 1941-1947, describe the decision processes relating to the evacuation including the sites of relocation which display knowledge of the poor conditions as described in the following telegram dated July 12, 1942:
“SKOWL ARM CANNERY RECOMMENDED X NO SLEEPING HEATING EATING FACILITIES ALSO NO LIGHTS X BUILDINGS BARE BUT ADEQUATE”
These records have been digitized and are available online on Alaska’s Digital Archives at vilda.alaska.edu under Governor Ernest Gruening’s subject file and correspondence concerning Aleut Relocation.
In 1943, from May 11-30, American troops retook the island of Attu during the Battle of Attu, one of the major conflicts of the Aleutian Islands Campaign. In the translated and transcribed diary of Nebu Tatsuquhi, a Japanese Medical Corps Officer, the events of the battle unfold as described by him until his death. His final entry on May 29, 1943 reads:
“Today at 2000 o’clock we assembled at headquarters. The field hospital took part too, the last assault is to be carried out. All the patients in the hospital were made to commit suicide. Only thirty three years of living and I am to die. I have no regrets. Banzai to the Emperor. I am grateful that I have kept the peace in my soul which Enkist bestowed on me. At 1800 took care of all the patients with a grenade. Goodbye Tacks, my beloved wife, who loved me to the last. Until we meet again, grant you godspeed. Misaka, who just became four years old, will grow up unhindered. If I feel sorry for you, Takiko, born February this year and gone without seeing your father. Well, goodbye, Matsue, brother Hochan, Skuchen, Masachan, Mitichan, goodbye. The number participating in this attack is a little over a thousand. Will try to take enemy Artillery positions. It seems the enemy will probably make an all out attack tomorrow.”
In the retaking of Attu the United States troops lost 549 soldiers, while the Japanese forces were nearly all destroyed with 2,400 casualties.³ Included in the U.S. troops was one of Alaska’s own, John Potochnick, Jr., who was awarded the Purple Heart. In a letter to the soldier’s father, John Potochnick, Sr., Governor Ernest Gruening commends his actions saying:
“In one sense your son John’s experience is unusual because very few Alaska boys took part in the recapture of Attu – most of them came from below and were trained in the states. It should therefore be a matter of special pride and satisfaction to you that he is one of the few Alaskans who took part in the first battle to drive the Japanese invaders from our American soil, and shared in the honor and glory of that victory.”
For more information on the Aleutian Islands Campaign and Alaska during WWII in general check out the documentary “Alaska at War”, available on the Archives YouTube channel at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkvqM6RvJW4
1. Letter from Claude Smith, 1942. Office of the Governor, General Correspondence, 1934-1953, Federal Government — Department of War, 1933-1948, VS 495.
Although Women’s History Month has come to a finish, we wanted to dig into one more collection which focuses on women in Alaska; the records of the Alaska Women’s Commission did not disappoint.
The Alaska Women’s Commission (AWC) stemmed from the creation of the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women, which passed in 1978 as Alaska Statute 44.19.165. The statute outlined the purpose of the commission as “…to implement the recommendations contained in the preliminary study on the status of women in Alaska which was mandated by the Ninth Legislature, Second Session, under Chapter 99 SLA 1976, and improve the status of women in Alaska by conducting further research and by making and implementing additional recommendations on the opportunities, needs, problems, and contributions of women in Alaska including, but not limited to 1) education, 2) homemaking, 3) civil and legal rights, and 4) labor and employment.”
The AWC took on a variety of issues affecting women conducting studies, publishing in-depth reports, hosting conferences in rural areas, providing resources and publications, and producing and backing legislation in the interest of women from all backgrounds and from all regions of Alaska.
The Alaska Women’s Commission records not only record the administrative history of the commission but also offer a view into the issues affecting women during that time on a state and national level. Photographs, public service announcements, speeches, correspondence files, legislative files, committee meeting packets, and annual reports are just some of the resources available in the AWC records.
“Many outstanding women have helped to shape Alaska by contributing their talents and skills. To honor these women and to provide visible role models for tomorrow’s leaders, I have established the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. These awards will acknowledge the achievements of true pioneers like Lisa Starr Rudd, whose unwavering belief in women’s equality led to the creation of the Alaska Women’s Commission. To memorialize her achievements, the Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to her.” – Governor Steve Cowper
Established in 1988 during the 10th anniversary of the AWC, the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame went on to induct leaders such as civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich, health care professional Arne Beltz, activist and educator Lucy Frey, and mayor and activist Lillie Hope McGarvey. In box AS 9427 theirs are just a few files among dozens of biographic profiles on the women who have helped shape the history of Alaska.
These folders include biographical sketches, subject files, photographs, news clippings, and other materials compiled from the State Archives and Library’s Historical Collections as well as from other archives across the state like the University of Alaska’s Archives and Special Collections. Below are peeks into the files of Mary Antisarlook, Marie Drake and Elinor Dusenbury, Della Keats, and Nell Scott, and represent a sample of materials you might find in these folders.
In a letter to Governor Hickel in 1991 Mary McClinton and Carol Mikon, Chair and Vice Chair of the AWC, stress the importance of the commission, its effectiveness and inclusiveness, and their intention of “minimizing the use of state dollars and pursuing efforts to increase the independence and decrease long term dependence of women on state services.” While the AWC was ultimately consolidated with the Alaska Commission on Children into the Alaska Human Relations Commission in 1993, during their existence they branched out, helping communities establish local councils and commissions on a regional scale in places like Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage, Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), and Fairbanks, some of which still exist today.
If you’re interested in digging further into the Alaska Women’s Commission records (RG53), you can visit us at the Alaska State Archives, located on the second floor of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building in downtown Juneau, Alaska. We’re open to the public Tuesday – Friday from 10a – 4p*.
*Summer hours begin April 30th. The Archives will be open Monday – Friday, 10a – 4p.
At 12:04 am on March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef off Prince William Sound resulting in one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history. Approximately 11 million gallons were spilled covering an area of 460 miles from Bligh Reef to the village of Chignik, impacting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline and killing countless animals (with estimates as high as 250,000 seabirds alone) and billions of salmon and herring eggs.¹
The above images come from a collection of over 2,000 slides from the Office of the Governor, SR612 Press Secretary, Public Information Files (AS 17959). You can view more images from this group by visiting Alaska’s Digital Archives at vilda.alaska.edu or by clicking HERE.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) had a huge impact on multiple state agencies in Alaska. The records created by those agencies as they dealt with the impact of the spill hold a wealth information related to this event and how it impacted government, and in turn citizens. You can access these records at the Alaska State Archives in agencies such as the Office of the Governor, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
Among them you’ll find textual records such as reports and minutes, photographs, video and audio records, and maps. Below are a few examples of records relating to the Exxon Valdez oil spill held in the Alaska State Archives:
Dept. of Fish and Game, RG261 – Division of Habitat and Restoration, SR621 – Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) files, 1989-1994
Dept. of Fish and Game, RG261 – Division of Habitat and Restoration, SR1290 – Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) restoration project files, 1989-1998
Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG299 – Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR)
Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG297 – Division of Environmental Quality, SR563 – Subject files, 1989 – Daily Reports, Coast Guard Exxon Valdez spill fact sheet, EVOS daily status reports
Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, RG21 – Commissioner of the community and Regional Affairs, 1975-1999, SR1336 – Exxon Valdez oil spill records
Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG295 – Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, SR1363 – Speeches, 1990-1992
Office of the Governor, RG1 – Executive Office, SR88 – Central Subject files – Exxon Valdez Files of Mike Nizich, Governor Cowper’s Administrative Services Director March – May
However the bulk of records created in response to EVOS were created by the Department of Law, Series 708 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) litigation, 1969-1993.² To learn more about these records and the Archive’s involvement in appraising and processing the materials in this collection visit the Archive’s webpage, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records Appraisal and Processing Project. Currently the Archives is negotiating with the Department of Law to transfer the remaining litigation files of permanent value, referred to as the Reopener files, to the Archives. These files were not among those in the original transfer due to the possibility that the materials might need to be used again in the event that a Reopener Claim was made. The 1991 settlement between the State of Alaska, United States and Exxon included a decree entitled “Reopener for Unknown Injury” which could allow the governments to make an additional claim for unforeseen damages that were not covered in the original settlement. While actions were taken in 2006, the governments ultimately decided not to pursue the claim in 2015, allowing for the final transfer of records to the Archives.
For additional resources and information outside the Alaska State Archives, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) website at www.evostc.state.ak.us is a great place to start your research. The EVOSTC is a joint partnership between the federal and state governments “formed to oversee restoration of the injured ecosystem”. The EVOSTC website offers multiple resources on the spill from their Oil Spill Facts page, to publications including some of the council’s historical records (stored at ARLIS), to the current status of restoration projects.
If you’re interested in reviewing any of the Archive’s EVOS materials, or would like to know more about what we have, you can shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at (907) 465-2270, or just drop in! We’re located on the second floor of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building located at 395 Whittier Street, Juneau, AK 99801.
Records in Series 708, Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) litigation, 1969-1993 are restricted. If you’d like to include these materials in your research we will refer your request to the Department of Law for approval before we can release the records for review.