The Introduction to Alaska Digital Resources: Opening Your Info Conduit program developed by members of AkASL and the Juneau chapter of AkLA to introduce you to the statewide electronic resources available through SLED and the Digital Pipeline.

This is your chance to Explore...Discover...Play!...and Learn about the statewide information and research tools and how they can be useful to you both personally and in your library or classroom.

To get started, see the lesson list on the right of this screen.

Need an an id/password for the Digital Pipeline? Call 1-800-440-2919.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lesson 8: Alaskana

4/29/2012 - UPDATE: Alaska's Digital Archives got a facelift since this post was originally written. Although the screens look a little different than described below, the functionality is the same. Contact Daniel if you run into problems.

Alaskana is any material specifically related to Alaska. It can include any item in any field or media. This lesson will help you locate materials about Alaska, its history, communities, peoples and cultures.

While you can get Alaska-specific information out of the Digital Pipeline in most of its databases simply by adding "Alaska" to your search terms, it will be SLED that points you towards the most Alaska specific resources.


SLED can be found at http://sled.alaska.edu. Technically it stands for "Statewide Library Electronic Doorway," but everyone who knows about it refers to it as SLED. SLED's technical infrastructure and webmaster are funded by the Alaska State Library and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. It has been in operation since 1994.

SLED can best be described as a directory of Alaska-focused resources for Alaskans, chosen by Alaskans. The Alaskans choosing sites for SLED are a committee consisting of a member of the general public plus librarians from around the state who work for different kinds of libraries. A listing of current and past committee members can be found at http://sled.alaska.edu/staff.

The bulk of SLED consists of category pages. Each category page starts with Alaska-specific links and ends with general links in that category. There is a search for SLED on the front page. Be aware that it only searches materials housed at sled.alaska.edu.

The FAQ section of SLED at http://sled.alaska.edu/faq is a great ready reference resource. Whether you're looking for who was Territorial Governor in 1925 (Scott C. Bone) or how old a "diamond willow" can get (150 years plus), the FAQ will likely have something for you.

Alaskana Beyond SLED

The sites below are linked from SLED, but are separate websites in their own right.

Alaska Community Profiles (http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CF_COMDB.htm) - This is a key resource for finding and comparing information about communities. There are several ways to search the Alaska Community Profiles. Today we will focus on two options: Community Information Summaries and Custom Data Queries.

Community Information Summaries - These are one page fact sheets for each community. They can be very useful to send to people who are thinking about relocating to your community or patrons in your community interested in other Alaskan towns. Each Community Information Summary (CIS) has a map showing the community's location within the state along with the following sections:

  • Map Section including current population and type of community government.
  • Location and Climate
  • History, Culture and Demographics
  • Facilities, Utilities, Schools and Health Care
  • Economy
  • Transportation
  • Organizations with Local Offices
  • Regional Organizations
Getting a CIS is as simple as clicking on "Community Information Summaries", then on the name of a community then on the "get summary" button.

Not documented anywhere on the site is the ability to create a persistent URL that can be used to link to a specific community profile from your web page or e-mailed to a patron. The general format for a link is http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CIS.cfm?Comm_Boro_Name=[Community+Name]. The community name is case-sensitive and if there is more than one word in the community name, the words must be connected with a plus sign. Here are two examples of direct links to profiles:

Custom Data Queries - This feature allows you to select specific types of information for as many Alaska communities as you desire. The resulting information can be viewed online or downloaded into a spreadsheet program such as Excel or OpenOffice Calc.
Custom data queries offers over 90 different data points, including local taxation, land areas, population (1880-2010), etc.
Questions that can be meaningfully answered with Custom Data Queries and some spreadsheet manipulation include:
  • Which community(ies) in Alaska have the highest sales tax?
  • How many communities in Alaska don’t have a sales tax?
  • Which town had the highest population in 1920? 1980?
  • Which community is largest in terms of land area?
This function seems ideal for school projects or for researchers comparing communities.
To get a custom data query, click on "Custom Data Queries", then on the desired community(ies) and then on the desired data items. Before you start selecting multiple communities or data items, read the database's instructions for selecting multiple items. Click on "View Data" if you want to see the results in your browser or on "Download Data" if you want the data in a spreadsheet. Unlike the Community Information Summaries, there is no way to create a persistent URL to your custom data query results.

Alaska's Digital Archives (http://vilda.alaska.edu) - From the website: "Alaska's Digital Archives presents a wealth of historical photographs, albums, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents, physical objects, and other materials from libraries, museums and archives throughout our state."

The content in Alaska's Digital Archives represents holdings from these Alaska institutions:

  • Alaska State Library Historical Collections
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Anchorage Museum of History and Art
  • Seward Community Library Association
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Sitka Tribal Library

Alaska's Digital Archives may be browsed by format, partner institution, Alaska Native History & Cultures or Movement to Statehood. It may also be searched by keyword or searched by 43 different fields in "advanced search."

Search results will include image, title, subject, description and identifier. Click on either the image or the title to be taken to the record. In addition to an image (when available), a record may include the following fields:

  • Collection Name
  • Identifier
  • Title
  • Description
  • Creator
  • Subject.TGM
  • Location
  • Region
  • Type
  • Related Materials
  • Ordering & Use
  • Holding Institution

The exact fields will vary by type of item being displayed.

Anything in blue text is hyperlinked to other records in Alaska's Digital Archives. Using the photograph The old "Glory Hole", Treadwell, Alaska as an example, we see it has the fields show below:

Clicking on "Waterfronts" within the record will bring up photos of other waterfront scenes, clicking on "Southeast Alaska" will bring up other places from Southeast Alaska and so on.

Records within Alaska's Digital Archives have persistent URLs. Click on "Reference URL" at the top or bottom of a record to get a URL that you can e-mail to a patron or link from your website.  

Paul Adasiak of UAF has posted some instructional videos related to Alaska's Digital Archives that offer detailed information on specific features. Not all material may be applicable as the underlying ContentDM software that powers Alaska's Digital Archives has undergone several upgrades since these videos were posted.

Alaska & Polar Periodical Index (http://goldmine.uaf.edu/aprindex) - From the website:

"The Alaska & Polar Periodical Index cites articles in English about Alaska, northern Canada, northern Scandinavia, the Russian Far East, and Antarctica. It does not contain the text of those articles, but all are received by the UAF Rasmuson Library. More than 200,000 articles are covered, with 5,000 added each year; most articles are not in any other index. Coverage is strong from the 1980s to the present. There are articles from key periodicals such as "National Geographic" (1890 to present), "Alaska Life: the Territorial Magazine" (1938-1946), the UA student newspaper "Farthest North Collegian" (1923-1958), etc. "

The actual database is searched like many library catalogs - keyword, author, [article] title, subject, series and source journal. Results can be limited by date and a number of sorting options are available.

Once you get into an individual record, click on "catalog record" to see where your search term appears and to get a full citation to your item. There is no full text in this index. If you live within driving distance of Fairbanks, you should be able to find any item in this index at the UAF Rasmuson Library. Otherwise, if the item isn't in your library you will need to request it through interlibrary loan.
Alaska State Museums Collection Search (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/collections/) - This can be a useful database if you or your patrons need to see what some type of object looks like. The collections can be searched by keyword or browsed. I'd recommend the keyword search. Whether you search or browse, you will see a results list with images (when available) on the left and some brief text on the right like this:

The resulting record will have something like these fields:
  • Object ID
  • Object Name
  • Description
  • Descriptive Narrative
  • Collection Name
Other information may be available, depending on the record. The exact fields vary based on type of collection (art, history, natural history, Alaska Native, etc).

Project Jukebox (http://jukebox.uaf.edu/site/) - From the website, "Project Jukebox is the digital branch of the Oral History Program and provides access to audio and video recordings, transcripts, maps, historic photographs and films from across Alaska."  Projects can be browsed  by name by clicking on "projects" in the left hand column or searched by keyword by clicking on the "search all projects" button in the upper right hand corner.

Once you locate a project, there will be a number of different informational sections along with a group of interviews that have the name and photograph of each interviewee. Some of the interviews are video files and some are audio files. The interviews are presented in Quicktime and MP3 format and may take some time to download to your browser.

Discovery Exercises

1. Name two categories in SLED and provide one website from each. Does anything in SLED surprise you?

2. Using the Alaska FAQ in SLED, answer ONE of the following:
  • When did the Pope meet President Reagan in Alaska?
  • What was the official breakup date and time in the Nenana Ice Classic in 1942?
  • When were Alaska Native people given US citizenship?
  • What are the words for the Alaska Flag Song?
  • What percentage of the United States' volcanoes can be found in Alaska?

3. Using the Alaska Community Profiles, please provide one fact about the community of Eek, Alaska and how that compares to your own community.

4. Search Alaska's Digital Archives using your community's name. How many items did you find? Give the "reference URL" and title for one item. Did you have a favorite?

5. In the Alaska & Polar Periodical Index, do a search for Will Rogers. What's one of the items? Bonus - Do a search for an Alaska related interest of your own. What did you search for and did the results look useful?

6. Using the Alaska State Museums Collection Search, can you locate a halibut hook? What's the object id? Did you find anything else of interest?

7. Name two projects from Project Jukebox. Who is a person interviewed in each? Try a search for an Alaska related project. Did you get any results? If any interested you, describe what interested you.


  1. Finished. Now on to the tutorial.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed these exercises and had used many of the resources for a Alaska History for Educators course I taught Spring 2012. I had hoped the students would take advantage of this powerful research tool, but only a few chose photographs from the Digtial Archive. I think if I teach it again, I will direct the students to go through a similar type of "pathfinder" so that they find value in their searches and use the resources in their final projects. See my lengthy results on by blog...http://geotech-librarian.blogspot.com/