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Collection Spotlight: Alaska Women’s Commission Records

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.”

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Office of the Governor, Alaska Women’s Commission (RG53), Publications and Reports (SR640), AWC Poster (AS8528)

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.

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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.

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File folders in Alaska Women’s Commission box AS 9427

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.

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Mary Antisarlook pioneered reindeer herding at the turn of the 20th century.  [AS 9427]
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Marie Drake authored the official Alaska Flag Song, while Elinor Dusenbury composed the music to accompany Drake’s words.  [AS 9427]
DellaKeats
Della Keats dedicated her life to medical practice and traditional healing.  [AS 9427]
NellScott
Nell Scott became the first woman elected to serve as a Territorial Representative in 1937.  [AS 9427]
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.

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Caption reads: “Gov. Hammond signs a proclamation designating the week of March 8-14 as Women’s History Week. From left are: Emma G. Widmark, grand president, Alaska Native Sisterhood; Jean Munro, representative, Future Homemakers of America; Blanche L. McSmith, representative, National Council of Negro Women; Donna Flint, representative, Soroptimists International of Juneau; Chottie Angst, representative, League of Women Voters; Caren Robinson, director, AWARE, Inc.; Barbara A. Dale, vice chairwoman, Commission on the Status of Women; Susan Clark, representative, American Association of University Women; and Laraine L. Glenn, representative, Girl Scouts.” Photo credit: Chuck Kleeschulte. [AS 8536]
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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Records

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

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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 Administration, RG84 – Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Commission, 1989-1990
  • 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 archives@alaska.gov, 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.

 

  1. “Oil Spill Facts.”, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/index.cfm?FA=facts.QA. Accessed 22 March 2018.
  2. 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.

Pi Day State Records Pie Chart!

March 14 is Pi Day and this year we at the Alaska State Archives decided to make a pie chart representing our collections!  While we hold district, territorial, and statehood records this chart only represents those records from statehood (1959- present).  Also note this chart does not represent cubic feet, or the amount of space these records take up in our vault, just a count of individual records.

Our biggest record group was a close contest between Office of the Governor with about 3,940 records and Dept. of Law with 3,780 records.  On the other end of the spectrum, Dept. of Military and Veteran Affairs and Special Collections and Local Government Records tied for the least amount of records, each with about only 30 tucked away on our vault shelves.

Pi Day Statehood Records Chart
Click HERE for a larger image.
  1.  Office of the Governor
  2.  Department of Administration
  3.  Department of Law
  4.  Department of Revenue
  5.  Department of Education and Early Development
  6.  Department of Health and Social Services
  7.  Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  8.  Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development
  9.  Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
  10.  Department of Natural Resources
  11.  Department of Fish and Game
  12.  Department of Public Safety
  13.  Department of Environmental Conservation
  14.  Department of Corrections
  15.  Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
  16.  State Legislature
  17.  State Court System
  18.  Special Collections and Local Government

Alaska History Week

Alaska History Week is celebrated during the first week of March.  This year the Alaska State Archives decided to participate by showing off some of our collections through an Instagram campaign (seen below).

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Established by Sec. 44.12.092, “The first week of March each year is established as Alaska History Week to celebrate the contributions and experiences that comprise the past development of The Great Land. Alaska History Week may be observed by school assemblies, programs, and other suitable observances and exercises by civic groups and the public.”

Each day we shared historical government documents you can find in our collections and how we at the Archives can help you with your research needs.  If you weren’t able to follow along while it happened, search #akhistoryweek2018 on Instagram to see what you missed!

In our collections you’ll find District, Territorial, and Statehood records created by government agencies such as the Office of the Governor, all state departments, the Legislature, and the Court.  The records include a variety of formats like photographs, maps, microfilm, audio reels, video tapes, and of course, good old-fashioned paper.

Currently we store around 25,000 cubic feet of permanent records – that’s a lot of potential research material.  Whether you’re interested in genealogy, legislation, agency histories, historic events or government figures, we’ll likely have something of interest for you.  You can schedule an appointment or just walk in; we’re open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 10a-4p in the brand new Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building in downtown Juneau, Alaska.  If you’re not located in town you can contact us by phone at (907) 465-2270 or by email at archives@alaska.gov.

We hope you learned some fun tidbits of Alaskan history and more about our role at the State Archives.  Remember to join us again next year!

 

 

What Is That: Mysteries of the Archives

It’s a #historymystery!

Sometimes as collections are being processed you come across curious and occasionally downright confusing material.  That is precisely how our new blog series, What Is That: Mysteries of the Archives, was born.

The beauty of the internet is that when we do come across a mystery chances are SOMEONE out there might have a good guess as to what the answer is.  And that’s where you come into play!  We’ll be highlighting objects and documents from our collections in the hope that one of you will be able to share your knowledge on the subject, helping both us gain a greater understanding of our collections and researchers in the future who come across these materials.

For our first What Is That post we know WHAT the objects are, but we’re looking for the WHY and HOW.  Why were they created and how were they used?  Below are wooden stamps found in the Alaska Railroad Corporation records.

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Our question to you: What were these stamps originally used for?

For a little context on the Alaska Railroad Corporation records check out our catalog record by clicking HERE or search our collection via our webpage at www.archives.alaska.gov

Comment below with your best guesses or email us at archives@alaska.gov  – thanks everyone!

~ Alaska State Archives Staff

Willard L. Bowman Speeches Digitized

HOT OFF THE PRESS… or in this case, the scanner!

Willard L. Bowman (1919-1975) served as Director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights from its inception in 1963-1970, when he ran, and won, a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives.  Bowman was a widely recognized human and civil rights leader and one of Alaska’s first African American legislators.  His influential words are now available to read online at Alaska’s Digital Archives.

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To view Willard L. Bowman’s speeches visit Alaska’s Digital Archives at:  http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/search/collection/cdmg41/searchterm/bowman/order/nosort

The following excerpt is from one of Willard Bowman’s speeches as Director of the State Commission for Human Rights given in December of 1964, just shy of a year and half after the Commission was created by the 1963 Legislature.

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“Let’s now turn to the question of the human rights picture in Alaska.  As I said before, our agency has been in existence barely 18 months, yet this has been long enough for us to have gathered enough data and statistics to be able to make one statement of fact.  In no city of any size in Alaska, have we found where equal opportunities exist in employment or housing for the Alaska Native, the Negro, and to a lesser degree, other highly visible minorities.

This comes as no shock to the minorities involved, for being the victims they are for the most part well aware of the block put in their road; nor should it be a shock to those of you who work in the field.  For those who make up that mass of faceless humanity called the General Public, it evidently does come as a shock.

In the past year our office has accepted many invitations to speak to civic, religious, and labor groups, and without fail after each talk one of the first questions asked is “But really there isn’t much discrimination in Alaska is there?”

We have heard many proposed reasons for this in equal job opportunities or in equal housing opportunities, they run the gamut from “cultural disadvantages” on the one hand, down to the earthy “drunkenness” on the other extreme, but I say most of it is plan garden type discrimination.

Do you want proof?  Let’s belabor the point by my indicating specific reasons why I can make this statement.  What city do you wish to start with?  Since we are meeting in Juneau, let me tell what I know about it, while I hope none of you are on the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.

Here we have a city which is not only the capitol of Alaska, but is boasting of it’s being the third largest, with a population according to the 1960 census of almost 10,000 people in the greater Juneau area.  Naturally this has increased in four years.

But what of the minorities?  Where do they live?  Where do they work?  How do they live?  The racial climate of any city can be seen, you don’t have to ask.

Walk the streets of Juneau, and observe as I have.  You will find that except for isolated instances the Native, though ranking high in percent of total population, is not represented in the work force of this city, bit it in service, professional, or construction.  Shall we go into housing, or is the less said about that the better?  As for Negros, they are not strong enough in number to constitute an argument one way or the other, yet they too suffer.”

You can read this speech in full on Alaska’s Digital Archives at: http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cdmg41/id/1098/rec/1

For other speeches by Bowman, visit the Alaska Digital Archives at: http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/search/collection/cdmg41/searchterm/bowman/order/nosort

 

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day: February 16

In 1988 the Alaska State Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in honor of a woman whose tireless work on civil rights issues for Alaska Natives led to the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

House Bill 14, Chapter 2, an Act, known as the Anti-Discrimination Act, was approved on February 16, 1945 as part of the Seventeenth Regular Session, Territorial Legislature of Alaska. The Anti-Discrimination Act is considered a landmark piece of Civil Rights legislation in Alaska. This document comes from the Sessions Laws of Alaska, 1945, pages 35-36 and can be viewed at http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cdmg41/id/543.

Elizabeth and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, both served as Grand Presidents of the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) and Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and were leaders in addressing civil and human rights for Alaska Natives.  The Alaska State Archives has digitized and made available online materials documenting their efforts in the form of 65 pages of correspondence and documents from Governor Ernest Gruening’s papers between 1943 and 1946, the period when Elizabeth and Roy were serving the ANS and ANB.

Included in these papers is the 19-page legal opinion by the Attorney General about segregated schooling in Alaska in response to Roy Peratrovich’s letter requesting a legal explanation of segregated schooling.

Letter from the Attorney General, 1943.
The 1943 legal opinion of the Attorney General of Alaska, Henry Roden, regarding segregation of schooling, page 1 of 19.

 

To read the full opinion and other papers and correspondence concerning Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich from Governor Ernest Gruening’s papers visit Alaska’s Digital Archives at http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cdmg41/id/973.

Happy Elizabeth Peratrovich Day!