History of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives

  • In 1922, the first University of Alaska (then Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines) president Charles Bunnell wrote and traveled, attempting to assemble a collection for the fledgling university. His focus was to find as much published material on Alaska by Alaskans as possible.
  • In 1929, Mrs. Alfred H. Brooks donated her recently deceased husband’s collection of books, pamphlets, and maps. This was a significant donation.
  • In 1935 the library moved into a new space above the gymnasium and contained only 12,000 volumes across all fields.
  • In 1951, Gilbert Skinner of the Alaska Steamship Company, bought and donated the William Erskine collection.
  • In the 1960s the library made a decision to actively build a stellar collection of Alaska and Polar Regions materials.
  • In 1965, Paul McCarthy helped officially establish the archives at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library.
  • The University Archives has been permanently staffed since 1965.
  • In 1971 a full-time faculty member was appointed to to supervise the acquisition of material for the Alaska and Polar Regions Collection.
  • Several times in the mid to late 1970s the state of Alaska allocated money to the library specifically for historic material.
  • Between 1991 and 1998:
    • The Rasmuson Library participated in the Alaska Newspaper Project, part of a nationwide initiative called the United States Newspaper Project to find and preserve newspapers across the country. Led by the Alaska State Library in Juneau, the culmination of this project is an excellent collection of microfilm of many of Alaska’s newspapers and newsletters, copies of which are located in various libraries around the state. At the Rasmuson Library, this collection of microfilm is located on Level 2 just outside the Research Room.
    • The oral history program was established in 1981.
    • The first Project Jukebox was created in 1988.
    • The Alaska Film Archives was founded in 1993.
  • Alaska’s Digital Archives began in 2003, when the archives put up the Cecil H. Kornegay Collection.
  • The Alaska Native Language Archive (ANLA) moved to the Library as an affiliate in 2013 and joined APRCA in Fall 2014. ANLA collections include both published and unpublished materials. Original records include linguistic field notes and audio and video recordings. Published materials include books, reprints, copies of materials held in other archives and copies of Alaska Native Language Center publications.
  • The Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2015.

For more information on the history of the Alaska and Polar Regions Special Collections & Archives see:

Falk, M. (1979). The Alaska and Polar Regions Collection at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. The Alaska Journal, Winter(1979), 65-70.

Koroktova, U. (2016). Rare Books as Historical Objects: A Case Study of the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library Rare Books Collection. Retrieved from ScholarWorks@UA. https://scholarworks.alaska.edu/handle/11122/6625

Both of these are available in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library or online.

This page was last modified on April 12, 2017