Friday, September 19, 2008

SHI Awarded Grant to Post Catalogs of Holdings Online

[To view SHI's online archival, library, and ethnographic presence, click here.]

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a grant to create an online catalog of its archival and ethnographic collections and to catalog its book holdings in an online library database.

The project is a huge step forward in making the institute’s materials more accessible to the public, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones, noting for the first time a full listing of SHI’s collections will be available via the Internet.

“This is going to transform the way we operate, up our effectiveness and hopefully bring more people in and serve people better,” Jones said.

“It allows us to let people know in a more effective way what we have and to bring them in here. We want people to use our materials. The most important part about having these great collections is getting people to use them,” he said

To get a sense of SHI’s collections, patrons currently must contact Jones directly or go to SHI’s Juneau office to peruse catalogs of the institute’s holdings, which include more than 5,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 1,000 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items, and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska.

The two-year, $148-thousand grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will allow people to search SHI’s archival and ethnographic holdings on the Internet by using keywords or browse searching for authors and subjects. The archival catalog will give descriptions of the materials, but people still will have to go to the institute’s office to view the collections.

SHI’s book holdings will be cataloged in the online Capital Cities Library Information Center, a catalog that is shared by the Juneau Public Library, the Alaska State Library, the University of Alaska/Southeast, and other libraries in the Juneau City and Borough area. The institute eventually will post links to the databases on its website at

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit representing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

A version of this press release was also published in the Juneau Empire, which can be viewed via clicking here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Collecting The Voice of Brotherhood

Last week one of our Board of Trustees, Dr. Walter A. Soboleff, donated some additional Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) papers to SHI Special Collections. (Over the years Dr. Soboleff has donated a large collection of his ANB papers to SHI, some of which can be viewed online by clicking here.) Dr. Soboleff has been involved with the Alaska Native Brotherhood for decades, and even served as its Grand President and in other ranking ANB offices. Of special interest concerning this most recent donation, it contained numerous issues of the ANB & ANS periodical The Voice of Brotherhood. This periodical was produced monthly by ANB and ANS from 1954 to 1976 and is quite rare today. WorldCat, a database of international library holdings, shows that only 12 libraries in the world have partial or complete runs of Voice of Brotherhood (most all of these 12 have incomplete runs). While our collection is not complete either, as we are missing issues from a few years, we are working to collect all the issues produced by ANB & ANS. If you have any copies of Voice of Brotherhood and are interested in donating them to us please contact the archivist.

Regarding the Voice of Brotherhood, this periodical is especially important for researchers because it contains very informative information about historic ANB & ANS activities. The periodical talks about ANB’s efforts to fight for land claims, stop racism, improve conditions for Alaska Natives, and their work on various other important issues. Before 1971 when ANCSA (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) was passed and Native corporations were established, ANB regularly served as the voice of Alaska Native people. ANB first hired the lawyers (like James E. Curry and I. E. Weissbrodt) worked on the judicial settlement of Southeast Alaska Native land claims. ANB and ANS truly worked tirelessly for the betterment of Alaskan communities. SHI Special Collections is proud to make available to the public our historic collections of ANB papers and issues of the Voice of Brotherhood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Curry-Weissbrodt Papers at SHI

For this post I wanted to briefly highlight one of our best and most important collections at SHI Special Collections, the Curry-Weissbrodt Collection. This 50+ transfer case/box collection (boxes are sized 16” long x 13” wide x 10” tall) contains papers gathered and saved by law firms representing the Tlingit and Haida from 1930s to the 1970s. These firms were primarily led by attorneys James E. Curry and I. S. Weissbrodt, who were first hired by the Alaska Native Brotherhood to fight for Native rights and land claims. The collection contains materials relating to the administration of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, lawsuits undertaken by the attorneys on behalf of the Tlingit and Haida, lobbying efforts leading to the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the role of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Native history, general Alaska Native history, and reference materials such as books, clippings, and government reports. The collection documents the high level of interest and participation in the claims movement by tribal members, the growing sophistication and changing activities of various individuals, and political, legal, and legislative tactics indicated or employed by the Tlingit and Haida Indians.

The Curry-Weissbrodt Papers really are one of the most important collections available for studies on Southeast Alaska Natives. The collection contains correspondence and depositions from Native people all across Southeast Alaska and documents their way of life in many aspects. While the collection is available for ILL in microform format from a few libraries, we would love to have people view the collection first hand. We’d really like to see the collection used by scholars, students (one could easily write a thesis or dissertation from these papers), and the general public. SHI is proud to have the papers of the Curry and Weissbrodt firms. The collection was donated to SHI in 1981 by I. S. Weissbrodt. For any additional information or if you have any papers you would like to donate to SHI please contact the archivist.