AHS Blog

Newspaper Research Guide

Date Posted: March 15, 2021       Categories: News

As of March 2021, a great new resource is now available in the AHS website’s For Researchers Section.

Chris Allan, a historian with the National Park Service who is well known for his extensive use of historic newspapers to research innovative subjects, has prepared a guide called “The Newspaper Bonanza: How to Discover Alaska’s Past in Newspaper Databases.”

With this guide, Chris hopes to stimulate others to undertake new investigations in the world of newspaper storytelling.

Eyewitness Booklet Series

Date Posted: March 15, 2021       Categories: 49 History News

Chris Allan has compiled five booklets of what he calls the “Eyewitness Series.”  They are being made available on the Alaska Historical Society’s website. Chris’s intent with the first four booklets is to showcase voices of the past: “I wanted to get away from the traditional historian’s narrative form where primary sources play a secondary or tertiary role behind the historian’s voice and analysis. I like the idea of people hearing history from the eyewitnesses. In each case, I was so impressed with what was available in digitized newspapers that I wanted to share it.” His booklet about mining operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek does the same as the others but allows photographers from the 1930s to tell the story. Each booklet includes advertisements, early maps, paintings, drawings and photographs previously unpublished or never collected in the same place.

Hoping to stimulate others to undertake new investigations, Chris also prepared a guide called “The Newspaper Bonanza: How to Discover Alaska’s Past in Newspaper Databases.”

The booklets are:

Eyewitness Series #1: American Side of the Line: Eagle City’s Origins as an Alaskan Gold Rush Town as Seen in Newspapers and Letters, 1897-1899, a collection from the town’s first year during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Eyewitness Series #2: As the Old Flag Came Down: Eyewitness Accounts of the October 18, 1867 Alaska Transfer Ceremony, a collection of sources describing the ceremony at Sitka after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.

Eyewitness Series #3: A Rough and Tumble Country: Juneau’s Origins as Alaska’s First Gold Mining Boomtown as Described by Eyewitnesses, 1880-1881, a collaboration with Mark Kirchhoff about the discovery of gold in Gastineau Channel and the evolution of what would become Alaska’s capital city.

Eyewitness Series #4: Of Gold and Gravel: A Pictorial History of Mining Operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek, 1934-1938, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a collection of seventy-five photographs illustrating the construction of two mining camps and two gold dredges in Alaska’s backcountry.

Eyewitness Series #5: A River’s Many Faces: Depictions of Life on the Yukon River by Charles O. Farciot and Willis E. Everette, 1882-1885, a collection of photographs and drawings offering glimpses of an Indigenous world shaped by fur trading companies and, increasingly, by outsiders searching for gold.

2021 Call for Papers

Date Posted: February 27, 2021       Categories: News

“Communities Remembered and Imagined”

Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference

October 6-9 and 13-16, 2021

Call for Papers

Kennecott Mine in 2010. Photo by Neal Herbert, courtesy National Park Service.

Alaska is full of once-thriving communities that now stand empty, or have vanished without a trace.  Some were boom towns that grew up around a gold mine or processor, but shrank when the source of wealth dried up. Others were forcibly abandoned because of natural disaster or war, or lost population to lack of government services and the draw of economic survival. At the same time, other towns have risen from the ashes of former ones, or have been rebuilt in a new location. We have also seen some fictional Alaskan towns as settings for books, movies and television.  Some of them are thinly disguised real places; others are a combination of reality and imagination.

Alaskans have always had to be flexible and creative in building our communities, relying not only on sharing a physical location, but also on more intangible connections to the people in our lives. As the pandemic has reined us in more tightly in our homes and communities, but increased our digital communications, we can appreciate a more accommodating definition of community. This year’s conference theme, Communities Remembered and Imagined, focuses on the life cycles of communities, particularly on those phases that exist only in memory or imagination.

Our 2021 conference will be completely digital and held via Zoom.  Again, we will spread the sessions over two weeks, Oct. 6-9 and Oct. 13-16.  We plan special sessions on the 50th anniversary of ANCSA, on statues and monuments in Alaska, and much more!

Please join us for the 2021 digital conference! Papers are welcome about any aspect of Alaska history. Presentations are limited to 20 minutes, and all presenters must be registered.

To submit a proposal, please send your presentation title, an abstract of no more than 100 words, and two sentences about yourself to Rachel Mason, Program Chair, rachel_mason@nps.gov.  Proposals are due May 15, 2021.

Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History

Date Posted: January 17, 2021       Categories: News

The Alaska Film Archives has kicked off the new semester by posting a throwback YouTube video in honor of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The 15-minute video “Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History” celebrates UAF’s archival collections by highlighting the Alaska Steamship Company Collection, consisting of the company’s business records, publications, books and photographs.

*Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History*              Click here to view video

This 1990 program celebrates archival collections at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Established in 1965, the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives (APRCA) has more than tripled in size over the 30 years since this video was made. APRCA continues to welcome and serve students and researchers from UAF and from around the world. This video highlights and examines one large collection in particular: the Alaska Steamship Company Collection, consisting of the company’s business records, publications, books and photographs. The Alaska Steamship Company plied Alaskan waters for many decades. Beginning in 1895, its ships hauled gold stampeders, supplies, tourists, copper and other goods. In later years the
company’s focus shifted exclusively to shipping freight. In 1971, after 75 years in business, the company ceased operations; it was the longest-running shipping firm in history up to that point. This video program was researched, written and produced by Dan O’Neill, videotaped and edited by Tom Wolf, and narrated by Ann Secrest, with audio by Jack Johnson and Jody Paulson. Interviewees include archivist Gretchen Lake, collector and donor Jack Dillon, and Alaska historian Terrence Cole. Special thanks are given to Paul McCarthy, David Hales, Terrence Cole, Gretchen Lake, Marge Naylor, Mary Goodwin, William Schneider, Rose Speranza, and Kyle O’Neill. The video was produced by the IMPACT department of the UAF Rasmuson Library. This sequence is an excerpt from AAF-3982 from the UAF Marketing and Communications collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives Department in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information please contact the Alaska Film Archives at (907) 474-5357 http://archives.library.uaf.edu/

*Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History*:   https://youtu.be/0QMgDEylNL0

Lecture: Sinking of the Good Ship DORA

Date Posted: January 17, 2021       Categories: News

The 100th Anniversary Lecture: Sinking of the Good Ship DORA

By J. Pennelope Goforth

Cook Inlet Historical Society, 2020-2021 Speaker Series, “Disasters”

Thursday January 21, 2021    7:00PM

Join us online for a free virtual CIHS lecture.

Advance registration is required to receive the link. Please register directly on the Anchorage Museum website:


The staunch little steamer Dora served in Alaskan waters her entire career: delivering the mail, transporting food and goods from Southeast Alaskan ports all the way to Bristol Bay and rescuing hundreds lost at sea. Sold into the cod fishery she made her last voyage to Alaska with a green crew when tragedy struck in the winter of 1920. This talk will be a celebration of her life and a commemoration of her tragic sinking one hundred years ago.

This is the third talk in the Cook Inlet Historical Society’s 2020-2021 Speaker Series, “Disasters.”

J. Pennelope Goforth has been a member of coastal historical societies for many years researching and writing about Alaska history. She has been a member of the Historic Canneries Preservation Initiative and served as editor of the Alaska Historical Society’s cannery blog, and as guest editor for the Puget Sound Historical Maritime Society’s widely-regarded journal, The Sea Chest. She curated and created an online portal for the Port of Alaska’s historic scrapbooks. She is the author of Sailing the Mail in Alaska and has a maritime research website, www.seacatexplorations.com.