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Putting History to Work in Alaska: Public History at UA

Date Posted: December 22, 2018       Categories: News
The UAA History Department is exploring the development of a Public History program that gives University of Alaska graduates a range of tools that make them attractive to potential employers. Across the country, universities have developed graduate programs tailored to their specific geographic needs that put history to work. The purpose of this inquiry is to assess Alaska’s specific needs. Once determined, those needs will serve as a framework for a program proposal. As practitioners of public history and potential employers of our graduates, your input into the development of a Public History program is critical and greatly appreciated. 
Public history is the practical application of history to real-world issues. Public history expertise is utilized by a broad range of professions that share a commitment to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere, such as: historical/cultural consultants, museum professionals, government historians, archivists, oral historians, cultural resource managers, curators, film and media producers, historical interpreters, librarians, historic preservationists, historic architects, policy advisers, local historians, industrial archeologists and community activists.
Although public historians can sometimes be professors, practitioners usually find employment beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. Areas of study that serve the professional community include:
         Interpretation: History consumed by the public.
History interpreted via museums, documentaries, podcasts, historical societies, lecture series, digital publication, storytelling workshops, libraries, national/state/local parks, battlefields and memorials, guided tours.
         Cultural Resources Management: The protection and management of the tangible remains of past human activities.
History associated with buildings, structures, districts, prehistoric sites, historic or prehistoric objects or collection, rock inscription, earthworks or landscapes. Management types include Section 106 compliance, Historic Resource Surveys, Cultural Landscape reports, Ethnographic surveys, oral histories, and Traditional Cultural Places.
         Professional Services: History conducted for clients.
History applied to institutional histories, corporate archives, exhibit curation, legal or legislative histories, educational initiatives, non-profits, grant writing and management, environmental impact statements, public policy, commercial operators, and genealogy.
         Historic Preservation: History to protect and promote place.
History promoted via architectural & historic surveys, heritage tourism, community projects, walking tours, archives and collections, reuse and rehabilitation of sites, historical societies, and land trusts.
While theory and methodology remain firmly in the discipline of history, public history is, by definition, interdisciplinary. Public historians routinely engage in collaborative work with community members, stakeholders, as well as with university and professional colleagues.
Public historians consult/work directly with archeologists, anthropologists, folklorists, archivists, ethnographers, architects, cartographers, museum curators, education specialists, surveyors, natural resource managers, artists, ecologists, linguists, geologists, scientists, attorneys, cultural bearers, military personnel, tribal affiliations, Native corporations, business leaders, board of directors, nonprofits and community advocates. In fact, collaboration is a fundamental and defining characteristic of what public historians do
If you are interested in helping the department develop a practical and appropriate program that would serve Alaska’s needs, please consider writing a letter that incorporates insights based on the following questions. Please address letters to:
Paul Dunscomb, Chair
UAA Department of History
3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
Please describe your work/program/organization and feel free to consider the following questions:
1.      Does your work/program/organization either employ or work in collaboration with public history practitioners? If so, can you share a few examples?
2.      Are public history positions typically filled by in-state (University of Alaska trained) or out-of-state hires? (How many, if any, of the in-state hires are History graduates?)
3.      Does a demand exist for qualified public history practitioners in your work place or field?
4.      What specific skills does your work/program/organization require from public history practitioners?
5.      How might a Public History MA Graduate Program at UAA benefit your work/program/organization?
6.      Would your work/program/organization benefit from UAA Interns? If so, can you provide a few examples?
7.      Would your work/program/organization consider participating in class projects/seminars that teach specific skills while offering students professional experience?
8.      In terms of public history, what is your work/program/organization’s greatest need and how might a Public History program at the University of Alaska fill that need?
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Katherine Ringsmuth at 907-830-2251 or kjringsmuth@alaska.edu. To learn more about the field of Public History, visit the National Council on Public History’s website.


100th Anniversary of the Princess Sophia Tragedy

Date Posted: October 29, 2018       Categories: News

October 25th was the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia in Lynn Canal, Alaska’s worst maritime accident. Go to the podcast “Stuff You Missed in History Class” to learn more about this event.

SS Princess Sophia Memorial, Skagway

Date Posted: October 16, 2018       Categories: News

The public is cordially invited to the SS Princess Sophia Memorial & Storyboard Dedication Saturday, October 20, 2018 • 2 PM
White Pass & Yukon Route Depot & Skagway Centennial Park

Introduction by emcee Jeff Brady, SS Princess Sophia Committee
Welcome by Skagway Mayor Monica Carlson
Welcome by White Pass & Yukon Route – Tyler Rose

Guest Speaker: David Leverton, Maritime Museum of British Columbia
Unveiling of SS Princess Sophia Memorial at Centennial Park with reading of the names of known victims by SS Princess Sophia Committee members
Closing Remarks by SS Princess Sophia Committee Chair Carl Mulvihill
During this special event, the SS Princess Sophia Exhibit from the Skagway Museum will be on display at the WP&YR Depot in front of the ticket office.

Special thanks to Hamilton Construction for donation of the memorial rock, and to the Skagway Public Works crew for installation.

Please join us at 7 PM on the Railroad Dock for a wreath-laying ceremony.

James Dalton Highway Sign Dedication

Date Posted: October 16, 2018       Categories: News

The new James Dalton sign on the Dalton Highway, September 23, 2018. Courtesy of Patricia Peirsol.

On Sunday, September 23, 2018, more than 75 people traveled up the Elliott Highway from Fairbanks to dedicate the James Dalton informational sign at Mile 1.1 of the Dalton Highway. Arriving in a bus and van generously provided by the Northern Alaska Tour Company and many individual vehicles, elected officials, friends and acquaintances of the Dalton family arrived for the unveiling. The overcast weather did not deter the enthusiasm and good company of the brief ceremony.

Dalton Highway sign unveiling ceremony, September 23, 2018. Courtesy Patricia Piersol.

The dedication included: singing of the Alaska Flag Song led by Joy McDougal; a brief presentation about the history of the sign project by Clark Milne; comments by Jeff Russell, Northern Area manager for the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT); and closing remarks by Kathleen “Mike” Dalton about her husband and her efforts to provide information about him, about northern resource development related to the Haul Road, and a tribute to the male and female truckers who logged many miles on the Dalton Highway. A champagne toast followed the unveiling of the sign.

Kathleen “Mike” Dalton with family and friends at the new James Dalton sign on the Dalton Highway, September 23, 2018. Courtesy of Joan Skilbred.

A crowd-funding project that raised $7,500 towards the cost of building the sign and 10 years of maintenance was sponsored by the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society in cooperation with the sign designers and advocates, engineer Clark Milne and local architect Patty Peirsol, and Northern Region DOT.

For more about the James Dalton sign project and the unveiling event, see the article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper published on September 29, 2018.

October is Archives Month

Date Posted: October 16, 2018       Categories: News


JUNEAU – The Alaska State Archives and Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board (ASHRAB) are kicking off October with activities aimed to connect individuals with historic records and learning opportunities, as well as remind government agencies about the importance of managing digital records. October is nationally recognized as Archives Month, a month when archivists make the effort to increase awareness of the value of archives. For Archives Month 2018 the State Archives has produced educational posters, is participating in an educational social media event, is offering a special collections care and research day for the public, and making awards to individuals for educational use of historic records.

In anticipation of Archives Month, the Alaska State Archives has released its Archives Month Poster. The poster features historic photographs of Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier over time and documents the glacier’s steady recession over the last century. October 10 is known nationally as Electronic Records Day, and the State Archives will release an Electronic Records Day poster for government agencies featuring Alaskan animals dialoging about managing electronic records.

On October 4 the State Archives encourages Alaskans to participate in the national #AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter where teachers, students, and the general public can pose questions to Alaskan archivists, librarians, and curators. Alaskans can view past Alaskan discussions under hashtag #AkArchivists.

On October 18, the Alaska Day holiday, the State Archives is participating in the Alaska Day Research Open House. In Juneau from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building (APK), located at 395 Whittier Street in Juneau, 2nd floor Research Center, doors will be open and staff available to demystify the research process and provide tips for caring for your own family archives. Alaskans can learn how to research collections at State Archives and Library, see treasures from the collections, and find out how to care for your family photographs, letters, and other papers.

For Archives Month the ASHRAB has also announced the winners of its Certificate of Archival Excellence Awards. The annual awards are given to individuals or organizations nominated by the public that evidenced excellent work with historic records. This year an Excellence Award has been given to William Schneider of Fairbanks for the publication of his book The Tanana Chiefs: Native Rights and Western Law (2018), which focuses on the 1915 Tanana Chiefs Conference and provides published archival sources and oral history interviews about this significant event in Athabascan history. A second Excellence Award for education with use of historical records was given to Rebecca Poulson of Sitka for her development of a place-based history curriculum for K-12 students that paired historic photographs with present-day images of Sitka.

These efforts to recognize Archives Month have been supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, as well as the labors of the ASHRAB and Alaska State Archives.


Zachary Jones