Petersburg Public Library is looking to archive photos and other records of Native culture in the community. The grant-funded effort can help preserve images of local events and people through the state’s digital archive.

The library received a grant of just under $17,000 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The grant is for archiving photos, recordings, video or any evidence of Native Alaskan culture in Petersburg.

Librarian Tara Alcock said they’re looking for anything historical or present-day. “It doesn’t even have to be specific to cultural events. It could be any tribal member’s photos that they feel are important and they wanted preserved. Another thing I think that’s interesting about this project, for a short time we’ll have those items and scan them but then we’ll give them back to the families. So we only create a digital image which goes into the Alaska Digital Archives for preservation but the families retain the original.”

Leilani Kito photo from the Alaska Digital Archives

Leilani Kito photo from the Alaska Digital Archives

The University, libraries and museums around the state have partnered to compile historical and cultural resources on the Alaska Digital Archive website. Once a photo is up there it’s available for the world to see. Alcock said the Petersburg collection there is just beginning. “But I would encourage people who are interested in the project to go to the Alaska Digital Archive and look and see what other communities have done. I think it’s a pretty impressive archive and we’re really excited to have this opportunity to start to be a part of it.”

The recording of Native culture locally got started in January. Jessica Ieremia has been coordinating the project. “It’s really great because once we get to digitally archive these it allows access to a wide range of people in our community and also outside our community. So it’s a way for our library to become more culturally responsive to our community. And so it’s been a really fun project to be a part of.”

Ieremia said she’s had some fun conversations with people about their photos. “Where they get to really reminisce about family members that are no longer here or just events they got to take a part of. And it can be like catching their first fish, building a boat, having a birthday party, camping, or even going to fish camp with their family members when they were kids. And so we’ve got to have just really neat conversations about that. And I’ve just loved this project and going to people’s homes and talking with them and helping them to gather up photographs and come in here and scan them and get ‘em right back to em.”

Ieremia’s taken on a new role at the library so she’s handing over the project this summer to Mary Ellen Anderson. And Anderson is hoping more local people and families will consider submitting photos or recordings. “So I thought anyone who hasn’t had a chance or hasn’t already talked to Jess that we can’t think of, there might be people in the community who have things that we haven’t found yet.”

The archiving effort will continue through the end of August. If you’re interested in participating contact Mary Ellen at 518-0951