Talk of the Rock — Kodiak History Museum talks about the meticulous processing of acquisition and archiving

Kodiak History Museum has an ongoing mission to archive and care for objects and stories that make up Kodiak’s rich past and present. Collections curator Margaret Greutert and executive director Sarah Harrington were guests on this week’s Talk of the Rock program to discuss the acquisition and archive process, and to talk about what’s new at the museum.

Listen to the full interview here:

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Kodiak History Museum executive director Sarah Harrington and collections curator Margaret Greutert pose with a new addition to the museum’s collection, “It’s All Love Now” by local artist Lena Amason-Berns. (Photo courtesy Sarah Harrington)
Lena Amason-Berns’ painting, “It’s All Love Now,” a recent addition to the Kodiak History Museum collection. (Photo courtesy Sarah Harrington)

 

Kodiak History Museum holds over 2,300 objects and over 1,300 archive collections — everything from local art, to centuries-old newspapers, to pieces of wood found buried on the beach. Collections curator Margaret Greutert says they will collect anything that tells the history and story of Kodiak.

“We really see ourselves as caretakers of all of these objects that tell our history,” she said. “All of the objects that are cared for by the museum are held in public trust. So they aren’t actually owned by their museum. They’re owned by our community and everyone in Kodiak.”

With the help of a committee of community members, the museum decides which objects to adopt into the permanent collection. Greutert says they’re always trying to represent all of Kodiak’s communities. But the basic criteria they’re looking for when considering adding a new piece is, does it help to tell Kodiak’s story in some way?

“Really, it’s mostly just saying, is it related to the people, work and life of Kodiak?” she said.

Preserving those objects for years to come involves a lot of meticulous record-keeping. Greutert documents everything she can find about the newly acquired photograph or letter or artifact, to provide context for researchers and future generations.

And while cataloging is a never-ending process, executive director Sarah Harrington says its important to make Kodiak’s history accessible to everyone.

“We’re really lucky in a lot of ways and that, you know, our history here, something we’re still really engaged with as a community and we still have access to a lot of elders who have intimate knowledge and experience with artifacts or photographs and the collection and things like that,” Harrington said. “But we’re kind of moving into a new era where we’re losing a lot of those connections.”

Greutert added, “Most of my job is creating systems so that we are able to preserve this information and retrieve it for generations to come. You know, how do we capture those stories and save them in a sustainable way. And how do I search for those stories 60 years later?

To that end, Greutert is also working on an Archives Access Project to get the museum’s vast collection of photographs and history accessible and easily searchable online. After doing an inventory of every archive collection, she said they’re now getting that inventory into a database.

That ways, she said “if anyone is interested, they’re like, ‘hey, do you have any information on the old Agricultural Experiment Station,’ I’m able to just search our database really quickly, and give them an answer.”

(In case you weren’t aware, the Agricultural Experiment Station was an early 1900’s data-gathering site located right where KMXT currently sits on Signal Hill.)

If archiving Kodiak’s history sounds interesting to you, the museum is looking for volunteers to help with the Archives Access Project. Visit kodiakhistorymuseum.org or call (907) 486-5920.

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