In 2002 was a milestone for A&SC: the Alaska’s Digital Archives was founded. This collaborative project between the Alaska State Library, the UAF Rasmuson Library, and the Consortium Library (and the archives sections within each), was founded with the assistance of a Congressional appropriation. Always a challenge, always a lot of work, and certainly not a comprehensive view of any of the growing number of partners’ collections, but it is a great way to make a sampling of Alaskan archival materials available to our users. Especially to our users who may not have need to do more comprehensive research but want a selection of images and such covering a broad range of Alaska’s culture, history, development, and society.
Enough of the background on the Digital Archives and on to my real point. We had kind of a slow start adding materials to the Digital Archives, but our input has definitely stepped up the past couple of years. Enough so that just today, we uploaded our 10,000th item. For this particular milestone, we sat down and talked about the collections we’d yet to select materials from and what would really be reflective of how much of a challenge this work has been for us.
And what better than an image of somebody successfully meeting a challenge? Combined with one of the most iconic pieces of landscape in Alaska?
That would be Vern Tejas, on his 1988 solo winter ascent of Mt. McKinley, the first such solo winter ascent of this beautiful mountain.
Over the next month or so, Veronica will be adding additional photographs from the Vern Tejas papers here at A&SC, so you may want to check the Digital Archives occasionally if you’re interested in seeing more of them. Or you’re always welcome to come in and browse through the originals, too. Then you’ll see all of them, including Vern’s climbing adventures outside of Alaska.
And since we were in memory mode today, we also decided we should share with you a few of our own personal favorites from the images we each have chosen to go in the Digital Archives.
First up is Jay. A few years ago, before we hired him for the Hickel Archivist position, Jay spent a couple of months with us working part-time. This was an image he selected, cataloged, and uploaded back then.
Here’s Jay’s story: My favorite upload to Alaska’s Digital Archives comes courtesy of the Ercelle Davidson collection. This image of Ercelle standing next to the entrance sign for Elmendorf Air Force Base captures Alaska’s role in the Cold War both as the closest geographic point to the Soviet Union and as the northern most portion of the United States. I also really like the stylized jet streaking across the globe.
Next up is Veronica, who started with us just this past September and who has really gotten engaged with this segment of our work.
Here’s Veronica’s story: One of my personal favorites is of Henry Bowen, in the Henry S. Kaiser Jr. papers. The caption to the image reads, “Bowen with first clothes in five years. Happy Ending!!!” Henry Bowen and Henry Kaiser were patients at the Seward Sanitarium in the 1950s. There are numerous images of Bowen, however in all of them but two he is wearing bathrobes and pajamas. This image stands out to me for two reasons: the first is because Henry Bowen looks happy, ecstatic, and I can feel his excitement. The second is Henry Kaiser’s caption, you can read his excitement and know that he was happy that his friend was finally leaving the Sanitarium.
And here’s mine. I’ve done a lot of the selection for our contributions to the Digital Archives, and a lesser amount of the scanning and metadata cataloging, though still quite a bit. So picking just one was quite a difficult prospect for me! And then I remembered, this didn’t have to be about importance and I was definitely not committing myself permanently to this as my favorite picture. So in the end, I went with one that made me laugh and made me think a little harder about some of the challenges about living and working in Alaska.
From the Jack Scavenius papers. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for pigs, and the story that explains this photograph still makes me smile every time I read it. While I selected this one, one of our former student workers, Bret Clark, wrote up the metadata. And he had heard my rule about “don’t try to be amusing” when creating titles for images many many times, but in this case, he begged me to be able to title it as he did. And I have to admit, I couldn’t say no. There is no better title for this image.
We hope you enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane with us! And here’s to the next 10,000. Hopefully it won’t take 12 years.