Monday, August 31, 2009

New Audio Recordings Obtained from Wallace Olson

Last month Wallace Olson, UAS emeritus anthropology instructor and author of numerous books about Alaska, donated three audio recordings documenting Tlingit and Haida history to SHI. The three cassettes were recorded by Olson around 1982, and two cassettes concern stories about Glacier Bay told by Tlingit Walter Williams of Juneau, and the final recording concerns Haida history told by David and Annabell Peele of Ketchikan.

In regards to the recordings of Walter Williams, on these two cassettes Williams reads a story about the history of Glacier Bay, then discusses this story and adds traditional information to the story from his Tlingit perspective. The third cassette by David and Annabell Peele contains stories about how Haida Indians entered Southeast Alaska, various histories of places, people, and clans, as well as a discussion of the Haida language. We at SHI Special Collections are very grateful to have these materials and to make them available to the public for educational purposes. These recordings have now been created and named the Wallace Olson Recordings Collection (MC 4).

Also of importance, upon donation SHI archival staff took steps to help preserve and make these recordings more readily available. The cassettes have been placed in a special archival box in our locked storage facility for care. Additionally, because cassette tapes and the quality of audio captured on cassette tapes can deteriorate over time, Special Collections staff had the audio recording transferred to CD format. To accomplish this we played the cassette’s audio through a special software program, enhanced the recording and eliminated background noise digitally, and then saved the improved recording on a CD. Now patrons can more easily listen to these recordings on CD and we can more readily make copies for interested patrons. We are proud to care for materials of this nature. SHI Special Collections obtains most of its collections through donation.


James Crippen said...

Are there any efforts underway to make audio recordings available online? I understand that some may need to be somewhat restricted, but I am hoping that the public will be able to access audio materials on the Internet rather than needing to show up in person.

SHI Archivist said...


Great hearing from you again. We are working to make them very available to distance researchers, but we are also working to address issues of clan owned stories (we follow traditional practices for our archival materials). At this point when clan ownership of a story is not an issue, if researchers want copies, we can make copies on a CD and mail them. We currently also have someone transcribing them, and a transcription could also be disseminated to distance researchers in the near future. In the future we may put them on Alaska's Digital Archives, but that is still in the planning stage. However, at this point we are looking to address some of the issues of restrictions in case some of the recordings contain clan owned stories or songs. We are transcribing them to determine what exactly is on the tapes so we can make a sound judgment on how they should be administered based on clan protocols and based on the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. Thanks for your comments.

Zach Jones
Head of SHI Special Collections