It’s all about access

In my office is a framed print of one word: “Exhale.”  It’s not that I have it as a regular reminder, but sometimes…

2010 was one of those sometimes for us here at the Archives. A very busy year. And since I forgot to breathe and exhale a few times, it’s nice to take a moment in 2011 to reflect on what all that busyness accomplished.

So semi-chronologically, semi-thematically (a good archivist always puts in an arrangement note, right?), here goes:

In January, Megan began working with us as our third professional faculty-rank archivist. Megan has proved not only to be a pretty efficient worker in both description of collections and in reference, she’s also been a wonderful addition to the team. Thanks Megan, for coming in, getting acclimated so quickly (both to the Anchorage climate and to our workflows) and even occasionally nudging us in a few new directions! And thanks to Mariecris, too, for taking on so much of Megan’s reference training: you clearly did a superb job, as you always do. On a administrative note: Megan and MC have offices right next to each other and mine is at the opposite end of the very long reading room. I don’t think they’re entirely aware of this, but I usually know by the time they hit about halfway to my office that they’re on the march.  Most department heads would probably worry when they hear those dual sets of footsteps heading for their office door knowing something is up, and I occasionally try to put a rather grim administrative look on my face by the time they arrive, but the truth is, I love it. No matter what is about to be presented, I know it has some serious thought and discussion behind it and is something that could mean some real changes in the way we do things. Their batting average is pretty impressive. Keep it up, you two.

I won’t give you the full list of collections we’ve been able to open to researchers this year–it’s too long!–but I’ll hit a few of the highlights.And I’ve provided links to the guides to the collections so you can go look at what they include instead of relying on my very abbreviated notes below.

  • Fletcher Miller papers, HMC-1000, 12 cubic feet, made available in June 2010. Fletcher Miller worked to establish professional beekeeping practices here in Anchorage and for all Alaska. The work on this collection was completed by Sigrid Brudie: a grad student working on a practicum here in the library. For more about Sigrid’s project, see our blog entry about this one.
  • Arliss Sturgulewski papers, HMC-0467, 57 cubic feet, made available in summer 2010. Please go read about Arliss: to describe her in a short summary would be sure to miss so many of her activities in this state.
  • Alice E. Brown papers, HMC-1060, 5 cubic feet, made available in summer 2010. Alice was one of the founding mothers not only of the Alaska Federation of Natives, but also several other Native organizations in Southcentral. Extensive description of this collection was made possible by generous funding from The CIRI Foundation.
  • Elizabeth Tower papers, HMC-1076, 9 cubic feet, made available in October 2010. Betsy, a great Alaskan historian, passed away just a few weeks after transferring her research files to us. Betsy, we still miss you.
  • Ron and Penny Zobel papers, HMC-1079, 3 cubic feet, made available in December 2010. Ron and Penny sued the state over the original plans for Permanent Fund disbursement to Alaskans, as well as a state income tax that was graduated in reverse proportion to how long you had been a resident of Alaska. This collection documents the lawsuit and even (yes) includes the hate mail sent to the Zobels at the time.
  • Dave Rose papers, HMC-0977, 63 cubic feet, made available in December 2010. Dave Rose was not only an Anchorage Assemblyman, but also the first director of the Alaska Permanent Fund.
  • Walter J. Hickel papers, HMC-0660, 340 cubic feet, made available in December 2010.  We’d had a portion of the Hickel papers for some time, but a full 2/3 of the collection came in August and September 2010. The collection is very well organized and so we chose to make it available with minimal description, initially. The collection also came with a very generous financial donation from Mrs. Ermalee Hickel allowing us to take that initial description and improve on it substantially over the next few years.
  • Atwood family papers, HMC-0989. 146 cubic feet. Technically available 1/6/11, but that January stuff was all fiddly things. This is a descriptive project that has been in the works for several years now, generously funded by the Atwood Foundation.

Look at those volume quantities! And this isn’t even nearly complete for all the great collections we’ve been able to open up to researchers this year. One of the things we’ve just started to do is to put quick notes onto our Facebook feed when we open up new collections (I’m falling a little behind, there) so if you want to keep up with these in something closer to real time, go find us on Facebook and join in the fun there. We also have our blog feed directly to that site as well, though I don’t think it shows up nearly as well as it does here.

So that’s the collections, but the description goes on. We completed several subject guides to collections. A new and expanded version of our old one on miners and mining, anthropological collections, health and medicine related collections, political collections, performing arts, 1964 earthquake-related collections, and ANCSA, ANILCA, and D-2 related collections. For all of those and even more, go see our subject guide listing.

And tours, and exhibits, and digitization (have you checked out the Alaska’s Digital Archives lately? Go search Lawrence Eastman and Oliver Edwards and Leland Olson and oh, so many others) and that doesn’t even touch on what is probably our most important duty: reference! Working with the researchers who are using all these great materials we’re making accessible. Is it any wonder I have to remember to breathe?

Especially once I start thinking about how we might outdo ourselves in 2011? Hmm… That’s actually a pretty good question. We have our first departmental meeting of the new year tomorrow. Perhaps it’s time to ask it. Great things ahead!