This post comes from Gwen Higgins, Archivist, at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
As archivists, we often don’t have exactly what a researcher is looking for, but we think another institution in Alaska might. We like to be able to point researchers in the right direction when we can, but we often don’t know for sure what other archives in Alaska have. We know that from the researcher’s point of view, trying to search for materials across different archives that have different websites and search mechanisms can be a barrier to access. With these challenges in mind, the UAA/APU Consortium Library Archives and Special Collections, along with the Alaska Library Network, received an Interlibrary Cooperation Grant to create a series of guides to collections of primary sources on selected topics at archives, libraries, and museums across Alaska. Our hope is that librarians and archivists in Alaska and elsewhere can use the guides to direct researchers to other archives when they don’t have what the researcher wants, and to make it easier for researchers to find collections at multiple institutions. The guides are available on Alaska’s Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED).
What topics were included in the project?
We initially identified 20 topics for which we wanted to create guides. The topics were selected based on our observations about what our researchers were looking for, as well as our conversations with other archivists in the state. We then prioritized the topics based on anticipated demand, knowing that we would probably not be able to create guides for all of the topics we had identified. After months of work, we are excited to share the 12 guides we completed:
- Anthropology and archaeology in Alaska primary sources
- Alaska Highway construction
- Alaska Native organizations
- Alaskan legislators’ papers
- Fishing, fisheries, and canneries primary sources
- Military in Alaska
- Mining in Alaska
- Mountaineering in Alaska
- Performing arts
- Petroleum and natural gas related collections
- Railroads in Alaska
The guides are not completely comprehensive. For example, if a collection only had one document relating to a topic, we did not include it. We would still encourage researchers to search the institutions’ websites, especially if they are looking for a specific document.
We could not have done this alone.
While the three of us at the Consortium Library took the lead on this project, we could not have produced as many guides as we have without help at every step of the way. Steve Rollins, as Executive Director of the Alaska Library Network, helped us apply for and administer the grant funding. Our counterparts at the other archives in Alaska provided valuable input on the lists of collections we found by searching their websites, especially Chris Hieb at the Alaska State Archives, Sara Piasecki at the Anchorage Museum, Angela Schmidt at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Film Archives, and Becky Butler at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Archives.
Freya Anderson and Amy Carney at the Alaska State Library helped us navigate the process of adding the guides to the SLED website. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous support of the Alaska State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Studies.