Museum Brings Oral Histoy of the Alutiiq People to the World Wide Web

michael_bach.jpgMichael Bach (far left) with two members of the Alutiiq language club. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

When it comes to learning about the past, there are few sources as direct and unfiltered as the people who lived it. And the Alutiiq Museum has plenty of voices on tape. It’s in its second year of digitizing audio which was formerly stored on cassette tape, reel to reel tapes, and mini-discs, and preparing it for an online database. Next week, that database will be available from any computer with an internet connection.

Michael Bach is the Alutiiq Museum’s Language Program Manager and says he’s been very involved with the project.

“I’m really excited about it. I mean, I think that this community has such a wealth of resources and a lot of them are very difficult to access, and so the museum I feel is so fortunate to have gotten this funding from the National Science Foundation to process the collection in this way and to make it accessible in a way that the majority of people do have access to.”

Bach says one of his favorite stories in the museum’s oral history collection is about a whaler and says he’d encountered several different fuzzy versions of the same tape. He says he couldn’t find better quality copies, and explains they were difficult to listen to.  

“Because you knew that there was pieces that you were missing and as I was going through the collections and reviewing the digitized copies of them, I heard it again, and it was this really crystal-clear recording, and this was the first recording that you could sit down and look at the transcript and correct errors that were made in the past and really hear exactly what he was saying.”

Bach says soon the public will be able to access that audio and others online. The Alutiiq Museum will introduce the database at an event coming up next week. But Bach says while they’re unveiling the archive, it’s still a work in progress.

“That’s part of the joy of opening it up to the public – is obviously, everything won’t be ironed out. There’s no way that I could go through and fix every little issue within that whole database. And so, I’m hoping that this will be an opportunity for community dialogue as well. People who are accessing it can say, hey, why isn’t this working? Can you help me with this?”

If you want to be there for the launch and listening party, it’ll be happening on Tuesday, November 3 starting at 7 p.m. at the Alutiiq Museum.

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