Intern Helps Enhance the Museum’s Archives for Black Alaskans and Other Communities of Color
February 09, 2022
by Julie Varee, Community Outreach Archivist; and Heather McClain, Archivist, Atwood Research Center
Museum Studies postgraduate Elizabeth (Izzy) Sikora is interested in the hidden histories of Alaska’s marginalized communities. She recently completed a four-month paid internship with the Anchorage Museum’s Atwood Resource Center, which gave her the chance to blend her academic interest and education with real-world experience, while helping the museum ensure its collections include materials that help tell stories of Alaska from multiple perspectives.
Sikora helped organize and expand the museum’s Archives subject guides for Black Alaskans and other communities of color, a document that makes it easier for community members, museum archivists and researchers to access collection materials about these marginalized communities. It is a document that will be updated as archivists continue to learn more about cultural and historical materials, implement reparative descriptions, and add new stories from community members as collections are generously donated.
“Through archival research, I learned more information about the histories of Alaska’s Black communities,” says Sikora. “There were many Black individuals and people of color who moved to Alaska for various reasons – to seek new job opportunities, escape from racism in the continental U.S., pursue new adventures, or to create their own Alaska dream.”
Her work researching photographs and documents about the lives and experiences of Alaska’s Black community members helps advance the museum’s ongoing efforts to add to its archives more collections from individuals and groups from historically marginalized communities.
In addition to researching and writing about archival materials, she also helped process and rehouse four existing collections, wrote and updated three finding aids, scanned 707 images to be uploaded to the online database image search tool, helped to pull and reshelve library publications, and worked collaboratively with
Atwood Research Center staff on seven research requests. She also learned about archival appraisal and arrangement and visited with archivists at the UAA/APU Consortium Library.
Like museum staff and interns around the globe, Sikora learned to navigate working at a public institution during a pandemic. “I gained insight into how to research archival photos and documents,” she says. “This internship gave me a well-rounded experience. I got to work with a variety of objects and materials, which I think is important for work in the museum field.”
Sikora’s internship was made possible by Cook Inlet Historical Society (CIHS), the Gilbert Family, and Anchorage Museum Association. CIHS is a long-time Anchorage Museum partner and archives internship sponsor. The CIHS internship provides training experience in library and archival work to graduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in library science, archives, and history.