Back in 2012, after our umpteenth request for the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation records that had been here very very briefly in the 1990s, I wrote a blog entry about where to find documents about the Palmer Colony. We had (and have) several collections related to the early years of the Colony but the ARRC records hadn’t been part of them. The short story, if you don’t want to read the old posting, is that through a roundabout way, the records had ended up with Alaska Pacific University (APU) who gave them to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on the grounds that they were federal government record and that’s where they belonged.
Fast-forward to this year and the announcement that the Anchorage NARA office was closing. Several conversations ensued between NARA personnel and archivists and librarians in Alaska about collections at the NARA facility that could potentially be left within the state. Some were, mostly on the grounds that either the State of Alaska had some potential legal ownership claim to the records. The question with others was if they were, perhaps, not permanent federal government record after all. The Alaska Railroad records and a lot of 3rd District Court records went to the State Archives. NARA employees re-evaluated the status of the ARRC records and agreed to have the ARRC records come to us. We picked them up about 3 weeks ago.
Veronica converted the folder listing provided by NARA into our standard finding aid format and put the collection into new boxes. (Note: the NARA boxes were in beautiful shape! But we’re dealing with decreasing space here and the boxes she moved them into use our shelf space much more efficiently.) Then both Veronica and I left for a professional conference in DC. Finally this week we both had time to review the collection guide she’d created and she took it online. Since we wanted to have a visual to share with you, we selected, cataloged, and digitized one of the documents–a 1936 list of colonists and the land tracts they were assigned–and loaded that to the Alaska’s Digital Archives.
Veronica discovered some interesting things about the collection in the time she spent with the finding aid. Perhaps most importantly, the collection isn’t just the records of the ARRC. Certainly a majority of the collection is ARRC record, though perhaps researchers shouldn’t assume it’s a comprehensive set of them! As it turns out, occasional files in the collection aren’t from ARRC, but contain the personal/professional records of Louise Kellogg, who is the person who gave the records to Alaska Methodist University (now APU) a number of years ago.
So from Palmer, to APU, to the Consortium Library, to NARA, and back to the Consortium Library. It’s been a journey for these records. We hope you’re pleased, as we are, that they can stay here in Alaska and be accessible to researchers here.