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Alaska Historical Collections History

The U. S. Congress created the Alaska Historical Library and Museum on June 6, 1900, directing the Secretary of the District of Alaska to utilize certain fees for the district's historical library fund. It instructed the governor to collect laws, papers and periodicals of the district (and later territory), as well as other related materials of historical interest.

An Act of Congress in 1905 declared that all fees received by the Secretary from all sources be set apart and used specifically for the benefit of the Alaska Historical Library and Museum. Under the Organic Act of 1912, the District of Alaska became a territory of the United States with the majority of revenue fees diverted to the general fund.

A U. S. Attorney General's opinion in 1922 declared the Alaska Historical Library and Museum a territorial (not a federal) institution. Following this decision, the Alaska Territorial Legislature created the Territorial Historical Library and Museum Commission. The Legislature appropriated money for its operation in an act approved in 1923. In 1940, the territory purchased Judge James Wickersham's Alaska collection, which significantly enriched and supplemented the Library's holdings. In 1966, the Alaska Historical Library was separated from the Alaska State Museum and became a part of the new Division of State Libraries. At this time, all photographs, maps, and diaries were permanently transferred to the Library.

When the Alaska State Archives was established in 1970, public state records were transferred to it from the Historical Library, which retained all manuscript and photograph records and papers produced by the private sector. In 1975, the Alaska Legislature placed the Alaska State Library in charge of the distribution of state publications to libraries. Historical Collections receives the first copy of any state publication deposited under this program.

In 1992, in order to clarify that the Historical Library is an integral part of the Alaska State Library, this section was designated the Alaska Historical Collections.

Page last updated 04/05/2019