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!

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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.

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!

 

 

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