Monday, December 31, 2007

Processing our media and audio collection

This past month Rick Huteson, who initially served as a Sealaska Intern with SHI this past summer and who is now one of our part time student workers, has been diligently working on our media and audio collection. Huteson has been processing this collection for its first time and preparing it for public use. The collection, to be known as our Media Collection, consists of all types of media and audio materials. Huteson is labeling, storing, and generating an inventory of the collection’s contents. This will soon be posted on the web via our upcoming searchable database.

The collection includes a wide array films about Southeast Alaska Natives, basic recordings of local events about Native life, recordings of the Celebration festivals, oral history interviews (a number in Tlingit, some fairly old), SHI’s educational materials, and additional topics. These items are in the form of DVD, VHS, ¾ inch VHS, Beta recordings, cassette recordings, reel-to-reel recordings, and other more rare and special formats. Huteson’s labors on this collection will provide SHI and the general public with knowledge of our holdings and aid researchers.

As a note, those interested in viewing these materials should contact the archivist prior to arrival. Also, some of our oldest media items cannot be used because of their fragile nature and other concerns, but it’s possible to arrange a duplication of these records at the cost of the patron. SCRC is seeking to collect additional oral history recordings as well as other media and audio items. Those interested in donating items of this nature should contact the archivist. SCRC desires to preserve, protect, and make available to the public all its materials for educational purposes and document all aspects of Native life for generations to come.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Important Artifact Donation!

This December Special Collections received four fantastic stone items via a generous donation from Ronald Haffner of Auke Bay, AK. The items, likely created prior to European settlement of Southeast Alaska, will be cared for and housed by SHI and known as the Ronald Haffner Collection. Haffner is a local businessman and his family roots at Auke Bay go back generations. Haffner’s heritage is of mixed blood, his great-great grandfather being one of the first white settlers to homestead at Auke Bay, and this same great-great grandfather married a local Tlingit woman.

The items donated were found by Haffner’s great grandmother while digging in the garden adjacent to their home. Thus in essence, these items are in part connected to Haffner’s ancestral Native heritage and forefathers. When Haffner was asked why he chose to donate these items, Haffner stated that he wanted to give these items to the public and allow people of all walks of life to study and benefit from them. They were also donated in the name of his grandmother, Edith Trambitas. This donation is truly significant for SCRC and for local Native heritage. The four stone items donated consist of a Grooved Maul, a stone bowl, what appears to be a Hammerstone-Grinder, and a decoratively carved stone item.

Concerning Grooved Mauls, these items were fashioned to a wooden handle and used as a type of sledge hammer. Although used for various jobs, these mauls, for example, were often used with a stone wedge to split and extract long wooden planks from standing trees. In turn, these sturdy planks were then used for home construction. In addition to being functional, this piece is significant because it hosts a carved zoomorphic head and was at one time painted, but some traces of the ancient red paint still remain around the eyes and teeth of the figure. This item documents a degree of carving arts and the functional ingenuity of ancient craftsmen of the Auke Bay area. (for more information about stone tools see Stewart, Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell, pp 31-32)

Another item donated appears to be a Hammerstone-Grinder, a hand-held item with a dual purpose. It shows use from hammering while is also worn flat from grinding on one side. According to scholar Hilary Steward the specific function of this tool is not known for certain, but is believed to have been a wood-working tool used for planing. This tool is also a testament to the carving activities of local Natives of the area during the pre-European contact era. (see Stewart, Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell, p 42)

In addition to a very good stone bowl, the final item donated was a seal-headed stone item. The function or use of this item is presently unknown and under investigation. It appears to be carved out of petrified wood or coral, or a somewhat unusual soft stone, but not soapstone. Decoratively carved as the face of a seal and with groves that denote it was once attached to a staff or some external item, its use doesn’t appears as that of a hand tool, but rather as something that was ornamental. It is clearly a well-crafted piece that a carver spent many hours on, so its function was important. At present we are looking for a specialist to examine it and offer some suggestions on its use.

This generous donation strongly enhances Special Collections’ holdings and provides locals, students, scholars, and people of all walks of life with public access to these cultural treasures. Those would like to view these items firsthand should pre-arrange an appointment with the archivist. If anyone would like to donate similar items please also contact the archivist.

The Juneau Empire recently featured a story on the Haffner donation in their paper (they made a few errors however). To read it click here.

UPDATE: these items are currently on display in the Sealaska Corporation building, main 1st floor lobby.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Processing our Alaska Native Brotherhood Records

This week I’ve been processing (organizing according to archival standards) SHI’s historic Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), Juneau Camp 2 records, which were donated by Walter A. Soboleff, ranking member of Camp 2 and emeritus Grand President of ANB. (Image is a Juneau Camp # 2 meeting minutes ledger, spanning 1939 to 1945.) This collection will be know as Mss 7: The Walter A. Soboleff Papers and we hope to have researchers, students, and anyone interested study this collection.
The Alaska Native Brotherhood was initially organized in 1912 to advocate for the civil rights of Alaska Natives. It unified the Southeast Alaska Natives with the establishments of Camps in all Southeast Alaska communities. ANB, which was later joined by the Alaska Native Sisterhood, became a powerful political force in the Territory of Alaska. While I’m currently still working on the collection, I have thus far finished organizing about ten letter-sized MetalEdge boxes of material, all dating between 1920 and 1995. To be honest, this is a great collection with a lot of research potential. The bulk of the collection consists of meeting minutes and correspondence documenting the Juneau ANB Camp # 2, but there are also additional papers from Southeast Alaska ANB gatherings. There is a consecutive run of handwritten meeting minutes from Juneau Camp # 2 spanning the late 1930s through the 1960s. These records document the behind the scenes work of ANB officials and members in Juneau area during this period. The intellectual handprints of William Paul, Sr., William Paul, Jr., Walter A. Soboleff, and others are highly visible in these records. This collection strongly compliments some of our additional holdings that also concern or contain ANB materials, such as the Curry-Weissbrodt Papers. I hope to have the Walter A. Soboleff Collection ready for researchers within a few weeks. If anyone has additional ANB/ANS papers they would like to donate and add to this collection please contact me.

I am also seeking able volunteers to help out in my department. Volunteers will primarily process collections and I will provide training and a fun learning experience. Volunteers can choose the hours they work, even if it’s only 10 hours a week. Please contact me if you are interested.