Alaska’s Cultural Resource Agencies

Alaska’s Cultural Resource Agencies: Guardians Of Our Heritage

The Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums is in the Department of Education and Early Development.  The Alaska Office of History and Archaeology is in the Division of Parks, Department of Natural ResourcesThese agencies are charged in statutes with protecting Alaska’s heritage.

The Alaska State Museums at Juneau and Sitka (AS14.57.010) collect and preserve the evidence of Alaska’s past, and provide programs to educate the public and assist other museums and cultural centers around the state.  The State Museums have 14 full-time and 4 part-time staff.  The State Museum and the Sheldon Jackson Museum care for and administer a collection of over 34,000 priceless and irreplaceable objects.

Established in 1900, the Alaska Historical Collections (AS 14.56.080) in the Alaska State Library is a major repository for historical manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, maps, films, books and other publications, along with significant personal collections.  The Alaska Historical Collections preserves the first copy of any state publication.  It maintains the master microfilm copies of Alaska newspapers (1866-present).  The materials are arranged, described, and cataloged according to national standards.  At-risk materials, such as glass plates, fragile documents, rare books and maps receive conservation treatment and archival housing.

The Alaska State Archives (AS 40.21) is the repository for original territorial and state government records that document Alaska’s history.  Its records date back to 1873, just after the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia, and are as current as last year’s State Legislature.  The records are in a variety of formats:  paper, film, photographic, and electronic.  Staff assist all state government offices with records and information management services.  The agency is leading records digitization and other electronic records policies and initiatives for the state.  The Alaska State Archives provides essential resources for legislative researchers, state agency personnel, and citizens.

The Alaska Historic Preservation Act (AS 41.35), enacted in 1970, led to creation of the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology.  It is mandated to carry out a variety of programs to save and know the state’s heritage.  Programs include providing research services to state agencies, administering the federal historic preservation program in Alaska, providing technical assistance to communities and owners regarding historic properties, and maintaining an inventory of archaeological and historic sites frequently used by developers and land managers.  The Alaska Historical Commission, supported by the office, has statutory responsibilities including serving as the designated review board for state geographic names and historic preservation programs.