AHS Blog  |  49 History

History & Heritage of Russian America Conference in Moscow

Date Posted: February 12, 2016       Categories: 49 History       Tags: conference, Russian America

The Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences and the Kennan Institute (USA) presents an international conference “The History and Heritage of Russian America.” To be held April 13-14, 2016 in Moscow. This international conference aims to consider a variety of issues related to the history of the exploration of the North Pacific. The conference will present the activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, the history and heritage of Fort Ross, the history of the indigenous peoples of America, and the history of the Russian-American and other joint-stock companies. The conference will discuss issues of the history of Russian-American relations related to current issues involving Alaska and subarctic space as well as various aspects of Russian heritage in this region. The conference aims to highlight the character of U.S.-Russian cooperation through the study of their common history and heritage. The conference will utilize an interdisciplinary approach incorporating the most up-to-date research results in history, archeology, linguistics, and other disciplines that help in the understanding of the phenomenon of Russian-America.

The working language of the conference is English.

St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Sitka, Alaska. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

St Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Sitka, Alaska. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Key topics will include:

1. The history and heritage of Russian America, including the Russian Orthodox Church, Fort Ross,

indigenous peoples, and Russian-American joint-stock Russian-American and Hudson’s Bay Companies.


2. Russian-American relations, especially as they influenced the development of the North Pacific.


3. Contemporary international cooperation surrounding Alaska and subarctic space, including cultural

exchanges, the economy, and interactions between the indigenous peoples of California, Alaska, and


Time for papers will be roughly 20 minutes.

Please send us the title of your report at your earliest convenience ! Reports may be delivered using Power Point, but please let us know one week in advance of the conference. Reports of the conference will be published. The length of articles should be around 12,000 words. Illustrations should be in high resolution JPEG format. Submission of articles for publication will be accepted until May 1, 2016.

The conference will be held on April 13, 2016 from 10:00 – 17:00 at Leninsky Prospekt 32a, Moscow.

Potential Agenda for the Conference Beginning April 13, 2016

Official greetings from US and Russian officials. Moderator: Alexander Y. Petrov

American scholars: a complete list of speakers from the USA and countries other than Russia will be developed in February 2016.

Russian Scholars: a complete list of speakers from Russia will be developed in February 2016.

Examples of possible Russian presentations by Russian scholars:

1. Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk (Kapalin), Chairman of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Doctorate in History: “The significance of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska.”

2. Alexander Y. Petrov,  PhD, (Kennan Scholar, 2001, 2008): “The importance of the history and heritage of Russian America in Russian-American relations.”

3. Michael G. Malakhov, MD: “The Russian heritage in Alaska (based on Russian expeditions).”


Conference summations


Possible Exhibitions:

April 14, 2016

Sightseeing tour

(Direction and recommendations will be announced in February)

With questions on participation please do not hesitate to contact Alexander Y. Petrov at alaska13@yandex.ru or cell +7 916 531 6305. Please address questions regarding logistics of the conference (visa, hotels, and transportation) to Evgenii Osipov at comhist-rus@yandex.ru

As well as to the Kennan Institute: rozhanovskaya.kennan@gmail.com


Valuable Port of Anchorage Historical Documents to be Digitized

Date Posted: December 25, 2015       Categories: 49 History

by J. Pennelope Goforth


History is sometimes found in the most mundane of places, from old business ledgers stuffed in a Nordstrom shopping bag to a pictorial scrapbook tucked into a nautical chart cabinet.


A few years ago, while researching in the Port of Anchorage Marine Library, I discovered two oversized folios with clippings and photographs of the early history of the port. When I looked at them I experienced the historian’s frisson of thrill! A treasure trove of documents.


Deteriorating pages of the folio showing the history of the Port of Anchorage. (Photo by J P Goforth)

Deteriorating pages of the folio showing the history of the Port of Anchorage. (Photo by J P Goforth)

This November I was awarded a contract with the Port of Anchorage to digitize the books and make them available to the public. This contract is the result of several years of effort on the part of Port of Anchorage and the Port Commission’s History Committee and myself to organize, catalogue, and preserve the port’s historical documents.


The project covers two folios, oversized hardbound ‘scrapbooks’ of 256 pages each, that represent a treasure trove of factual information about the creation, construction, and business of the port dating back to the late 1950s. This is the only such compilation of the port’s history. Photographs, newspaper articles, advertisements, and other materials were pasted into the folios over many years. The articles range from photographs and descriptions of visiting vessels like the WICKERSHAM to articles about the 1964 earthquake damage and the crowning of Miss Port of Anchorage. Fifty-five years later the newsprint is yellowing, browned from glue, and flaking apart. The deterioration puts the content at risk of being lost.


Former Port Commissioner John Stallone initiated the discussion on digitizing the material in 2011. “We should be able to have the public see this stuff. There is so much in there about the people who worked at the port. We need to make this widely available,” he said. Over the next few years, I worked with Port Director Richard Wilson and current Port Director Stephen Ribuffo on crafting a plan to preserve the material. With approval from the Municipality of Anchorage, this important project is now underway. The work is expected to take approximately four months.


The 20 inch by 26 inch folio pages were disassembled and individually hand fed into a ColorTrac II scanner. Dave Dubois gently handles the pages going in and coming out. (Photograph by J P Goforth)

The 20 inch by 26 inch folio pages were disassembled and individually hand fed into a ColorTrac II scanner. Dave Dubois gently handles the pages going in and coming out. (Photograph by J P Goforth)

Digital Blueprint, an Alaska reprographics firm, will scan each of the 512 pages through a single feed optical scanner. I will process them through the Adobe Acrobat Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program. This text recognition will apply to captions, the text body of articles and even headlines and advertisements. The resulting key word searchable files will be in PDF format. Meta data, identifying each page will be appended. The finished project will reside on the Municipality of Anchorage server. The public will be able to access the files on the on the Port of Alaska history web pages in the spring of 2016.


The thrill of discovering these records and making them publicly available is reminiscent of my earlier experience with nineteenth-century business ledgers of the Alaska Commercial Company (ACC).


Three years ago I discovered a set of lost ACC business ledgers written in the 1870s. There were in a basement in Snohomish, Washington, quietly waiting in a shiny silver Nordstrom bag. As soon as I saw them I knew they were some of the rarest business documents from the ACC Unalaska District. The Cash Sales and logbooks of daily events at the company trading posts are invaluable time capsules of the culture of the Unanagan during the transition from Russian domination to American territory. The historical record is thin during the years right after the Treaty of Cession in 1867.


The tattered correspondence copy book of the Alaska Commercial Company. (Photo by J P Goforth)

The tattered correspondence copy book of the Alaska Commercial Company. (Photo by J P Goforth)

I presented a proposal to the Alaska Humanities Forum to transcribe and digitize all six ledgers. The AHF, ACC, and Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association matched funds, and the fascinating details of Aleutian life emerged. The most satisfying part has been helping modern day Aleuts find their ancestors through the listings of hunters in the Winter Hunting Party of 1886. You can easily see from the accounts for each sea otter hunter who were the ‘highliners’ of the day. The transcripts of the ledgers are available in a series of DVDs containing the original scans from the ledger pages. I am now writing a book about the project, The Voyages of the Lost Aleutian Ledgers.


Having had the previous experience of working on the ACC ledgers, I can use the same technical expertise to make the Port of Anchorage records just as accessible. The history of the Port of Anchorage is a vital component of the city’s history. Some say without the railroad there would be no Anchorage. I say without the port, with its tenuous toehold in the silt of Ship Creek, there would be no Anchorage.


J. Pennelope Goforth is an active member of many maritime history organizations. Her work appears in the AHS blog, the Puget Sound Maritime journal Sea Chest, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Dispatch and other Alaska publications. Her efforts on the Alaska Commercial Company project earned her an award from the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board (ASHRAB) and the Pathfinder Award from the Alaska State Historical Society in 2012.

Updates on the Canneries Initiative

Date Posted: December 12, 2015       Categories: 49 History Alaska's Historic Canneries

Greetings,canneries initiative logo

 What a busy month for fisheries history.

 The Pacific Marine Expo was very successful. AHS shared a booth with the Kodiak Maritime Museum, and not only did this save money on booth fees, it was necessary to have at least two people at the booth at all times due to the traffic. Hundreds of people stopped by each day to share stories, ask questions, and over a dozen individuals became members. Special thanks to Katie Ringsmuth for designing the fabulous booth materials, Toby Sullivan for collaborating on the booth, and Alaska Sea Grant for sponsoring much of our Expo presence.

 At Expo, Bob King, Toby Sullivan and I presented “Fishing for Alaska’s History” to a good-sized crowd, generating lots of interest. Moreover, my presentation to the Northwest Salmon Canners went very well. Due to contacts made at that presentation, Ross Coen will be meeting with the Seafood Products Association in Seattle to review the company records and hopefully come up a plan for their disposition to the UW Special Collections. The SPA is a descendant of the National Canners Association.

 The Alaska Fisheries Report has started broadcasting the monthly cannery history segments to public radio stations around the state. November’s story was about a visit to the False Pass cannery- you can see photos of the cannery and see the link to the program at the blog. There you will also find Bob’s fantastic Expo presentation “Iron Men of Bristol Bay.”

 Ross took up residence at the museum in Ketchikan and researched the fisheries collection there, giving a lecture, inspiring a nice radio piece, and soon (or already?) is writing something for We Alaskans about salmon can labels. Perfect!  Moreover, Bob and Katie will be presenting at the Bristol Bay Leadership Forum in Anchorage December 10 and 11th and the cannery framework will be distributed there. Oh yes, and did you see Bob’s story about the two billionth salmon to be caught in Bristol Bay?

 Please help to spread the word about the grant program. The deadline to apply is January 1– note that you can apply for a grant, unless you are on the grant committee or your organization is funded by the state or federal government. So far we’ve received two applications.

 And last but not least, Alec Brindle contacted me to discuss Wards Cove Packing Co history. The question has been- what happened to the Wards Cove archive once the company shut down in 2002? Well, it’s in his basement. I expressed the importance of the archive to Alaska history, and he said he will discuss donating it to a library/ archive with his family. He said he doubts there will be any objections. Hopefully he is right, since securing the collection for public access would be a huge coup for fisheries history.

 And with that, I wish you all a happy holiday season!


Anjuli Grantham

Mottrom Dulany Ball: A Founding Father of Alaska

Date Posted: December 9, 2015       Categories: 49 History News

Sometimes one finds bits of history in the oddest places. Recently, the Alaska Historical Society was contacted by William Page Johnson, of Fairfax, Virginia, to let us know about a connection between one of his city’s early residents and the state of Alaska.

Mottrom Dulany Ball  of Fairfax, Virginia, was instrumental in the earliest efforts toward the purchase of Alaska by the United States. According to Johnson, editor of The Fare Facs Gazette newsletter of Historic Fairfax City, Inc.,: “Unfortunately, Ball died relatively young and his contributions have been largely overlooked.”

See their newsletter for two articles by William Page Johnson about the life of Mottrom Dulany Ball and his role in Alaska’s history:

Colonel Mottrom Dulany Ball, Part 1 of 2  (Summer 2015)

Colonel Mottrom Dulany Ball: A Founding Father of Alaska, Part 2 of 2 (Fall 2015)

Happy Birthday, Senator

Date Posted: November 13, 2015       Categories: 49 History

Ted Stevens was born on November 18, 1923, in Indianapolis. In honor of his birthday week, we’re sharing this photo from June 1958, when the young Stevens met with Vice President Richard Nixon on the Alaska statehood vote taking place that month in Congress. Stevens was then working as a special assistant to Interior Secretary Fred Seaton.

(photo credit: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Collection, Box 1, Alaska and Polar Regions, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

(photo credit: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Collection, Box 1, Alaska and Polar Regions, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks)