Alitak purse seine fleet in the 1970s. Courtesy of the Kodiak Historical Society & Baranov Museum
The history of the seafood industry will receive more study statewide thanks to a series of Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative grants, some of which will go towards Kodiak-based groups and individuals. Others will go towards efforts like a preservation assessment of the Diamond NN cannery in South Naknek and a series of radio segments about Sitka’s cannery history that the Sitka History Museum will produce.
The Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative is an Alaska Historical Society project, and project director, Anjuli Grantham, launched the initiative in 2015 as a way to give more exposure to cannery history through documentation, preservation, and education.
Grantham says they’ve been fundraising for two years to support what they see as an understudied aspect of the fishing industry’s past.
“As it is right now, there’s not really any organization that focuses specifically on seafood industry history. It’s something that’s been really neglected. People always are talking about the economics of the fisheries, they’re talking about the biology of the fisheries, but when you talk about the history or the culture of the industry, there’s really very little that’s talked about or is funded.”
She says the Canneries Initiative received 17 grant applications and each grant winner will get $1,000 dollars.
“And these grants are for organizations, businesses, or individuals. We wanted to make it really open so that we could support really a gamut of cannery history projects around the state, and we have awarded seven of the grants to really all the major fishing regions of Alaska. We have some that are going to Bristol Bay, we have a couple in the Kodiak region and some in southeast as well.”
Grantham says three institutions and individuals won grants to research in Kodiak.
“One of the grants is going to Rick Metzger and Woody Knebel. They are doing research about the history of the Alitak cannery on the south end of Kodiak. In 2017, it’s going to be 100 years old, and so in preparation for the anniversary, they’re doing all they can to gather photographs and archival materials with the intention of creating a publication to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the plant.”
One of the grants will go to a person who’s studying another Kodiak site.
“A woman named Susan Morgan. She’s a journalist, and she’s going to be doing interviews and research and writing about the Glacier Bay Seafoods shrimp processing plant in Ouzinkie, which operated back in the ‘70s.”
And the final Kodiak grant will go towards the Kodiak Historical Society and the Baranov Museum, where Grantham is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits. She says she was not part of the grant review and selection process. The money will allow the Kodiak Historical Society and Baranov Museum to publish oral histories as part of the West Side Stories Project, a series of segments which focuses on cannery history and has aired on KMXT. The money will also go to helping the museum set up their West Side Stories exhibit, which opens in May.
Other grant recipients are based in Dillingham and Tenakee Springs.