Researching Alaska Topics

Researching Alaska-related topics can be fun and challenging. Although most Alaska sources are available in books, a lot of information is buried in primary source materials available only in archives, newspapers or special collections. Before undertaking an in-depth Alaska related research project, plan ahead and be prepared to spend more time and effort locating and analyzing the sources that you may need.

Researchers should have a basic understanding of Alaska history before undertaking any research. A timeline of Alaska history is helpful because it helps to identify trends in Alaska history. For example,prior to Alaska becoming a Territory in 1912, basic record keeping was extremely limited and early vital records such as marriage, birth, death and divorce certificates are almost impossible to find. Sources such as Alaska newspapers are a wealth of information for early Alaska research while personal papers (manuscripts, corporate records and diaries) are often the only known source or historical record for a particular region or topic.

Let's navigate through the Alaska resources at the UAF Rasmuson Library

The Alaska and Polar Regions Department

Located on Level 2, the Alaska and Polar Regions Department (APR) is the world'slargest Alaska collection. The APR department acquires, preserves and provides access to materials that document the past and present of Alaska and the Polar Regions. This material includes books about Alaska and the Polar Regions, Alaska Periodicals and special collections such as manuscripts, photographs, rare books and maps, oral histories and films. APR holds most of the Rasmuson Library's special collections.

Alaska-related books and periodicals are in "open stacks" and accessible during regular library hours. The archival materials must be requested and viewed in the APR Research Room.

  • Alaska Reference Collection: Located at the entrance to Level 2, the Alaska Reference section is a good place to start your Alaska research. This collection contains dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, indexes, bibliographies of Alaskana, Arctic and Antarctic regions, and current phone books for most Alaska towns and cities, that provide answers to quick questions and facts. The spectrum of authoritative works in the Alaska Reference collection includes the Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Alaska Trees and Common Shrubs, Guide to the Birds of Alaska, Russian America: A Biographical Dictionary; A Guide to Historical Photographs in the Alaska and Polar Regions Department, Handbook of North American Indians, The Alaska Almanac, Alaska Historical Documents Since 1867; Yupik Eskimo Dictionary; Shipwrecks on the Alaskan Shelf, Whaling Logbooks & Journals, 1613-1927, and more.

    Reference books do not circulate.

  • Alaska Book Collection: Located on the East wall, the Alaska book collection is one of the largest of its kind and covers all aspects of Alaska and the Polar Regions. These books are cataloged in the Library Catalog , and are an excellent place to find secondary source materials on Alaska.

    The Alaska book collection circulates.

  • Alaska Newspapers: Alaska's newspapers contain a wealth of Alaska information. Current Alaska newspapers are located in hanging files near the Level 2 entrance. Back issues of the newspapers are on microfilm and stored in cabinets located on the North wall, near the entrance to APR's Research Room. Although the Rasmuson Library collects Alaska newspapers, the online guide, Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm, 1866-1998, is helpful for finding Alaska newspapers by title or city. Note that not all newspapers listed in the guide are held at the Library and may require interlibrary loan.

    Microfilmed newspapers require a microfilm reader/printer. Machines are readily available on Level 3 and accommodate printing.

  • Alaska/Polar Periodicals: APR holds paper copies of most Alaska Periodicals, which are located on level 2. In particular, articles have been indexed into the Alaska/Polar Periodical Index, which covers articles on Alaska and Polar subjects from over 500 magazines and journals received by the Library.

    The Alaska/Polar Periodicals Index only provides citations to journal articles.

Using the Special Collections at the APR Research Room

Using the special collections at APR requires special protocols. Be prepared to sign a register and follow the Rules for Using the Research Room.

APR is located on the West wall of level 2 and hours the APR Research Room is open are available online.

The Special Collections include the following materials that are available at the APR Research Room only:

  • Historical Photograph Collections: The Historical Photograph Collections contain over one million images from the 1870s forward. Reproduction services for historical prints, slides and digital images are available from our photo lab. Over one million photographs are available with more added each week. Except for the Butler Brothers' Collections, the historical images are only available for viewing in the Research Room.
  • Oral History Program: Located in the Alaska and Polar Regions Department Research Room, the Oral History Program has over 8,000 hours of recordings with Alaskans of different cultures and experiences from the 1940s to the present. The Oral History Program also produces Project Jukebox, an online multi-media oral history database providing access to oral histories and their related photographs, maps and text.

    Taped copies are available for checkout and interlibrary loan. Staff is available to assist with searches.

  • Rare Books and Maps: The Rare Book Collectionhas over 5,000 volumes of early exploration accounts and studies of Alaska and the Polar Regions from the 15th to early 20th centuries. It is one of the world's leading collections on Russian America.

    Most of the Alaska rare books are on microfilm.

    The Rare Map collection is especially strong in maps of Alaska from 16th century speculative cartography to the gold rush era. 200 of the rarest items are available on the WWW at Collections from the University of Alaska : Maps.

    The Manuscript Map Collection consists of more than 18,000 maps, plats, and charts emphasizing 20th century Alaskan development. Topics include mining claims, cannery sites, and land use planning.

Film Archives: The Film Archives has moving images on film or videotape detailing many aspects of life in the North dating from 1925, including both amateur and professional footage. Copies are available for checkout and interlibrary loan.

UAF Archives: The University Archives contain historically significant administrative records that date from the beginning of the University as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1917.

Alaska's Digital Archives provides unparalleled online access to thousands of historical items located in museums, archives, and libraries across the state. You can find more than 20,600 items, including photos, film clips, oral histories, documents, rare maps, and images of museum objects that relate to Alaska.

Wenger Eskimo Database This electronic, full-text database contains 260 books and articles pertaining to the first contacts and first observations of Inuit/Eskimo groups in Chukotka, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. The database can be searched by keyword or subject, and includes images. The database is available at a CD-ROM workstation near the Rasmuson Library Reference Desk on Level 4 or online. Note, when accessing the Wenger database online you must use Internet Explorer-- it will not work in other browsers (e.g., Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape, Safari, etc.)

This page was last modified on November 10, 2014