Kodiak Historical Society Welcomes New Archivist, Says Farewell to 40-Year Veteran

alice.jpgPicture of Alice Ryser. Via Kodiak Historical Society

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

If there’s one thing that long-term Kodiak Historical Society archivist Alice Ryser and her successor have in common, it’s a passion for the job. The Kodiak Historical Society operates the Baranov Museum in the Erskine House.

Now, Ryser is passing her job along to another person who considers cataloging the past both a profession and a hobby. KMXT invited the history buffs into the studio to talk more.

Alice Ryser has been at the Baranov Museum for 40 years, and she says it’s never felt like work.

She started volunteering at the store in 1975 and became an archivist in the early 80s.

“I have learned so much history. From people and photographs and articles, I mean, it’s just overwhelming what I’ve learned. You know, it never was like a job because I love doing it, but I suppose I will miss working with photographs.”

But when asked what she might do when she retires…

“I have a lot of photographs in my collection at home that need to be archived and scanned and put on CDs. They’re personal photos. I have some negatives that go back from 1919. Pictures of my mother.”

You just can’t separate an archivist from her archive. New recruit Daria Safronova-Simeonoff joined the staff last week. She says documenting history through objects, from photographs to furniture, is less of a job and more of a calling. When she stopped by KMXT last week, she said it was her first day in her new position.

“I think that somehow life leads us through different circles and then brings us to where we should be. Today is actually a very special day for me, because I have worked a whole day where I wanted to work.”

Safronova-Simeonoff is originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, and currently works part time as an archivist at the Saint Herman Theological Seminary, and she’s not about to give that up.

She said not only will she fill both positions, but she also lives at the seminary, which means she can hit the books at all hours of the night. But Safronova-Simeonoff doesn’t mind. In fact, it’s the opposite. Her goals require a lot of hard work.

“[An] archivist is the one who just catalogs things, but an archivarius is the one who takes care of the collection of the knowledge and passes it on, so I do have an ambition and I can only hope that I can achieve that, to grow from an archivist at the Baranov Museum and also at the Seminary to an archivarius.”

She said she’s especially interested in the late 19th century to the turn of the 20th century and feels a connection to that time period here in Kodiak.

“There is this special vibe of history in Kodiak, and the moment you get off the ferry, maybe not as much at the airport, but I first appeared in Kodiak on the ferry, and immediately you see the museum and you see the church, and I was hooked right there.”

She said the history of the Erskine House and the objects inside fascinate her. If you want to drop by with a question or just to meet her, her hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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