Online Educational Resources

While you hunker down, why not take advantage of the digital resources available that allow kids (and adults) to take a trip into the past and explore important events and people throughout Alaskan history? All from the comfort of home.

The Alaska State Archives has developed an education section on our website which includes primary source topic pages – perfect for students to examine and analyze original records that document our state’s rich history such as the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act or the telegrams from Governor Bone detailing the heroic Serum Run of 1925.

Click the following link to visit the Alaska History Topic pages: https://archives.alaska.gov/education/topics.html

But don’t stop there.

Come “visit” one of our online exhibits! Learn about the Alaskan experience during World War I, explore the devastating environmental disaster of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or be inspired by some of the women who have shaped our state throughout history. To view the exhibits click on the following exhibit titles:

  1. Women of Alaska
  2. Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
  3. Alaska and WWI: A Centennial Exhibit
Screenshot from the exhibit Alaska and WWI: A Centennial Exhibit.

Not seeing a topic that interests you or your stuck-at-home student?

Check out Alaska’s Digital Archives, an online consortium of cultural institutions across the state who regularly upload digitized materials from their historical collections! Search for a specific topic/person/place or browse the collections of museums and archives across the state.

Visit Alaska’s Digital Archives at: https://vilda.alaska.edu/

We spend a lot of time today looking at the news, but how were people reporting on past events? The Alaska State Library, in partnership with the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been digitizing historical newspapers for the inclusion in the text-searchable online database Chronicling America. Through this resource you can use keywords to search people, places, and events and narrow your results to Alaskan newspapers such as The Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau) or The Thlinget (Sitka), OR see what other states were saying about us by searching newspapers across the nation!

Image from Chronicling America of the first issue of The Thlinget, Vol. 1, No. 1, published August 1908.

Why take the time to look at something old?

Primary sources, historical documents, old stuff – whatever you want to call it, are really important for helping us understand where we come from and why things are they way they are today! From civics to science, primary sources are original records that can provide “students [with] a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past” and give “unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period.” (Library of Congress)

So now that you’ve found something cool, what do you do?

“The Oil & Its Impact”, map from the July 9, 1989 issue of the Anchorage Daily Times.

When you’re looking at a document, photograph, or an object start with observations. What are you looking at? When do you think it was made? Who created it, and for what purpose? Then start digging a little deeper. If this photograph was taken in the early 1900s, why do you think it includes the people it does? How are they dressed? Do you notice any people or groups that might be missing from the photo? If you’re looking at an aerial photograph of a glacier, do you think that glacier looks the same today? Launch Google Earth and check it out!

Google Earth image of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska.

There are tons of resources on the internet that offer activities for analyzing primary sources, the following can help you get started:

  1. Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Primary Sources” from the Library of Congress
  2. Document Analysis Worksheet” from the U.S. National Archives

Questions about any of our resources? Contact Leah Geibel, Archivist at the Alaska State Archives.

New Online Exhibit Features Alaska and World War One

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!

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CLICK HERE to visit the online exhibit 

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 Electronic Records Day

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 archives@alaska.gov!

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?”.

10.10.2018 Electronic Records Day Poster

Click HERE to download the 2018 Electronic Records Day poster (PDF)

Happy #ERecs Day from all of us at the Alaska State Archives!

 

WWII in the Archives: Records of the Aleutian Islands Campaign

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Letter to Governor Gruening, August 10, 1943.  Office of the Governor, General Correspondence, 1934-1953, Federal Government — Department of War, 1933-1948, VS 495

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.

2. Native Voices Timeline: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/469.html

3. 75th Battle of Attu Commemoration: https://www.attu75.org/ 

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.