Alaska Newspaper Project

General Description

Between 1991 and 1998, the Alaska Newspaper Project was a participant in the United States Newspaper Project (USNP), a collaborative program between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, underway in all fifty states and the territories to locate, identify, preserve and provide researchers access to our nation's newspapers. The Alaska Newspaper Project was supported primarily by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Alaska State Library, Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, Alaska Department of Education in Juneau, Alaska, which sponsored and directed the Project. The Rasmuson Library of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Consortium Library of the University of Alaska Anchorage provided additional support.

Planning Phase (1991-1992)

During the planning phase of the Project, newspaper repositories throughout the state were surveyed to identify newspapers held, their location and their condition. The survey identified 972 titles. While many of these titles had been microfilmed in an extensive statewide microfilming project in the late 1960s, it was clear from the survey response that some runs and individual issues had never been filmed and were in danger of being lost. Only a full inventory of the existing microfilm, which would happen in a later phase, would identify the individual missing issues. A second survey focused on the condition of Alaska newspaper microfilm master negatives that were held by the Alaska State Library and concluded that while there was some film that was problematic, most of it met national standards for preservation microfilming.

Implementation Phase (1993-1998)

The implementation phase of the Project involved the careful inventorying of nearly 2,000 reels of newspaper microfilm, issue-by-issue, to identify missing issues and unreadable text. Title changes, changes in place of publication, frequency, and links to other titles were also noted. This information was used to create “chronologies”, or timelines of each community’s newspaper history and a statewide newspaper database with detailed holdings. Cataloging records were created or modified on the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), the national bibliographic network used by the USNP, and Alaska State Library holdings entered into the USNP Union List. The Project cataloged 902 titles, prepared 114 chronologies and input 994 entries into the newspaper database. The implementation phase overlapped with the microfilming phase during the last two years of the Project.

Microfilming Phase (1996-1998)

The final microfilming phase of the Project included several components in addition to the actual microfilming. With many of Alaska’s newspapers already on microfilm, the Project knew that it mainly would be trying to locate missing single issues and short runs from hundreds of Alaskan newspaper titles as opposed to long runs of a few core titles. To locate those additional missing issues, an extensive publicity campaign was conducted. As a result of responses received from this campaign and from earlier survey information, contacts were made with potential lenders. By the time filming began, 79 individual donation or loan agreements had been negotiated. Over 4,000 issues needed for microfilming (single pages or entire issues) were borrowed for filming, and the Alaska Newspaper database was updated for publication of a printed guide entitled ALASKA NEWSPAPERS ON MICROFILM, 1866-1998. Though not reflected in the title, some Canadian newspaper titles, especially those published during the Gold Rush era, were listed in the newspaper database, and if previously unfilmed issues were located, they were filmed as well.

Before the borrowed issues were filmed, the issues were carefully organized, collated with appropriate targets (descriptive information to be filmed with the issues), and physically prepared for filming (disbinding, humidification and flattening, mending and ironing when necessary).

Preservation quality microfilm was then produced to meet current American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) standards. At the end of the Project, 100,140 pages of microfilm had been produced from 357 different newspaper titles. Of the 357 different titles, 168 titles had never had any issues preserved on microfilm.

In total, 488 microfilm reels were produced. Copies were provided to four libraries in different regions of the state for a total of 1,952 copies produced, boxed, labeled, and distributed.

Access to Newspaper Microfilm

The Project’s publication, Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm, 1866-1998, is a 301-page guide with 994 entries with holdings information and chronologies for Alaskan newspaper locations. Copies were distributed to libraries and museums throughout Alaska, to other state libraries and to the Library of Congress. Most of the microfilm listed in the publication is available for use through Interlibrary Loan. Contact your local library to initiate a request.

Alaska Cooperative Statewide Newspaper Microfilming Program

Since the late 1960s, all currently published Alaskan newspapers, with the exception of those few newspapers that are microfilmed by commercial out-of-state microfilming agents, are filmed through the Alaska Cooperative Statewide Newspaper Microfilming Program. The microfilm is produced at one of two labs -- Central Microfilm Services, associated with the Alaska State Library in Juneau, or the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Central Microfilm Services, a unit of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums within the State Department of Education, stores the Master negatives, produces and distributes duplicate microfilm reels to the following four libraries: the Alaska State Library (Juneau), the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks), the Consortium Library at the University of Alaska Anchorage (Anchorage) and the Loussac (Public) Library (Anchorage). By placing copies in four libraries in different regions of the state for “on site” use and making them available through Interlibrary Loan, the Alaska Cooperative Statewide Newspaper Microfilming Program ensures that the general public has wide access to these valuable resources.

Additional Information

For more information, contact the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, P.O. Box 110571, Juneau, AK 99811, voice 907.465.2926, facsimile 907.465.2990, or asl.historical@alaska.gov.

Did you Know That...?

  • Three of Alaska's early governors started out as Alaskan newspaper editors. Alfred P. Swineford (District Governor, 1885-89), edited the Mining Journal (Ketchikan, 1902-05) and the Ketchikan Miner (1907-08). J. F. A. Strong (Territorial Governor, 1913-18), edited papers in Nome, Katalla, Iditarod, Juneau, 1899-1913. John W. Troy (Territorial Governor, 1933-39), edited the Daily Alaskan (Skagway, 1902-1907) and the Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau, 1913-33).
  • Author Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man) and former NBC correspondent Bernard Kalb served as editor and writer, respectively, of the Adakian, a WW II Army paper on Adak Island in the Aleutians.
  • The Tundra Times, Alaska's oldest Native issue-oriented statewide newspaper, edited by Howard Rock, Inupiat Eskimo of Point Hope, Alaska, began in Fairbanks in 1962.
  • The three editors of the Weekly Herald (Chitina), 1931-33, started the paper when they were 9, 11 and 12 years old.
  • Lena Morrow Lewis, national suffragette and outspoken Socialist, edited the Alaska Sunday Morning Post (Juneau), 1914-15.
  • The Hell Whooper (Nome), the Eagle Buzz Saw and Bladder (Eagle), the Southeastern Sun and Salmon Wrapper (Juneau), the Kodiak Fish Wrapper and Litter Box Liner (Kodiak) are actual titles of Alaskan newspapers.
  • Over 4,000 issues of the Skagway/Dyea newspapers published during the Gold Rush era were identified as missing.
  • No newspapers in Russian from Russian -America (pre-1867) are known to have been published. The following are the earliest papers found:
    • The Esquimaux
      Libbysville, Port Clarence, Russian America; Camp Libby, Plover Bay, North East Siberia, Oct. 14, 1866-Sept. 1, 1867.
      Published by Captain Daniel B. Libby’s section of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition. Editor J.J. Harrington, in the Introduction to his publication of the issues stated: “Here, amid the Arctic snows, when daylight was only visible for an hour or two, and it was therefore almost impossible to prosecute our labors, to while away some tedious hours, this little paper was produced.” The Esquimaux was hand-written and bound together with bent pins. Upon the abandonment of the enterprise and the subsequent return of the Expedition parties to the United States, the Editor republished the issues for the general public. This paper’s dates are before the purchase of Russian -America by the United States.
    • The Sitka Times
      Sitka, Sept. 19, 1868-November 7, 1868
      Volume 1, number 1 of the Sitka Times, the first newspaper published after Alaska was purchased from Russia, was published on Sept. 19, 1868. The editor and publisher were Barney O. Ragan. Just four issues of this manuscript paper were published. Publication suspended with the November 7th issue until they could get a press since "copyists were not to be had in Sitka for money". Once the printing press was acquired, the newspaper resurfaced in May of 1869, under the title of the Alaska Times.
    • The Alaska Times
      Sitka, Apr. 23, 1868
      Began on Apr 23, 1869, stating that "We throw to the breeze of public patronage today, the Alaska Times, it being the first newspaper ever printed in Alaska. On the 19th of Sept. 1868, we started a manuscript paper called 'The Sitka Times', but the demand for it being so numerous, and the limited number of copyists we could find in our City, compelled us to suspend its publication until we could get a press". The Alaska Times was published through May 14, 1871, first in Sitka and then in Seattle, beginning with the Oct 23, 1870 issue. As stated above, it continued the Sitka Times, begun on Sep 19, 1868 and ceasing with the Nov 7, 1868 issue.


Page last updated 10/21/2014

Division of Libraries, Archives & Museums
Department of Education & Early Development

Alaska State Library
& Historical Collections

Information Services: 907.465.2920
Historical Collections: 465-2925
Email: asl@alaska.gov
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