Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has built a facility to accommodate its growing collections and to better serve the general public and researchers studying Southeast Alaska Native cultures.

The expanded Special Collections Research Center, located on the third floor of Sealaska Plaza, includes a library that houses books on Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, a reading room with computer access and a storage room for the institute’s historical documents, recordings and cultural objects. The new facility is part of an effort to encourage research of Southeast Alaska Native cultures, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“Very often Native peoples’ voices are absent from history, and if they’re absent from history then they’re absent from educational material and curriculum,” Worl said.

“We’re hopeful we’re going to see some PhD dissertations, and we’re going to have educational material that’s developed from the studies that might be done as a result of our collections.”

The facility houses more than 3,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 300 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items (such as video and audio recordings), and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material (such as personal diaries, correspondence and meeting minutes) that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of Southeast Alaska Native people.

The collections are cataloged in binders, which are available to patrons. SHI also is developing an online searchable database to make it easier to research the holdings. The facility is a closed-stacks research center, meaning the materials cannot be checked out because of their rarity and special nature, a common practice for archival operations. Patrons may request materials and review them onsite.

The center is open 8 am – 4:30 pm weekdays (closed from noon-1 pm) and managed by professional archivist Zachary Jones. The project was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sealaska Corporation and SHI.

SHI is a Native nonprofit established in 1981 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.

Photo: SHI archivist Zachary Jones displays a horned spoon in the institute's new collection storage room.

No comments: