Even though Alaska is a relatively young state, it has a fascinating history and rich cultural heritage that reaches back to long before statehood.
That history is stored in the memories of Alaska’s Native elders, pioneers, and many other old timers; and through the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (UAF) Oral History Program, their voices will be forever preserved for posterity.
Established by UAF in 1981 in cooperation with the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library in Fairbanks, the Oral History Program (of which, Project Jukebox is the digital branch) has collected more than 11,000 recordings of pioneer Alaskans.
In addition, through Project Jukebox, more than 50 projects have been developed across Alaska that include audio and video recordings, transcripts, slide shows, maps, historic photographs and films. Among a broad range of projects, some focus on the history of the Alaska and Dalton Highways; Katmai National Park, Kiana Village history, pioneer miners of Alaska and climate change.
About half of the Oral History collection is archived in the UAF Library catalog, but many of the interviews can be accessed online at:
For example, here is a link to an interview with Yule Kilcher, a Kenai Peninsula pioneer who was a member of a team which made the first known crossing of the Harding Ice Field.
Other interviews can be found by following this link:
Individuals are listed alphabetically.
Leslie McCartney, curator of oral history at UAF, says that Project Jukebox is entirely grant-‐funded and that they always welcome donations from across the state.
“In addition to digital information, we take historical material in the form of cassettes, tape recordings and even wire recordings,” she says. “We’re the only facility in the state with the capability to convert these formats.
“It’s an ongoing effort,” she adds. “We’re always adding to the collection and upgrading our technology for data archiving and retrieval.”
Others at UAF directly involved in the project are Robyn Russell, collection manager; Karen Brewster, research associate; Joann Henszey, library technician, Varpu Lotvonen, library technician and William Schneider, professor emeritus.
Alaska will face untold challenges in the years ahead, but the state’s colorful history, as told through the voices of those early pioneers and others who built their lives here – will never be lost – thanks to the efforts of Leslie McCartney and a small team at UAF who are preserving this valuable repository.