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Grant number: PG-252861-17

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Robert Aqqaluk Newlin, Sr. Memorial Trust (Kotzebue, AK 99752-0509)
Hans Bernhardt Nelson (Project Director: May 2016 to present)

General Preservation Assessment of Aqqaluk Memorial Trust Iñupiaq Collections

The hiring of an audiovisual preservation consultant to conduct an assessment of, and draft a disaster preparedness plan for, 4,000 items including audiocassettes, photographs, videos, hard copy transcriptions, translations, and other materials documenting the history of the Iñupiat people.  Over 500 recordings made during the Elders Conference movement between 1965 and the 1980s are in the native language, Iñupiaq, and cover the social and economic changes that were taking place among the northwest Iñupiat.  Highlights of the tapes include recordings of elders and other leaders such as Robert Newlin Sr., Frank Ferguson, Willie Hensley, and John Schaeffer, who became Alaska senators and first board Chairs and Presidents of the NANA Regional Corporation.  Among the highlights of the video collection is “Caribou Crisis, An Eskimo Perspective 1977,” which documents the “hunting restrictions, subsistence living, and the struggle to find a balance between the old ways and new corporate realities.”

Aqqaluk Memorial Trust collections are exceedingly rare and unique recordings of Iñupiat people of northwest Arctic Alaska. Elders speaking in their native tongue address topics from traditional subsistence practices to personal life stories above the Arctic Circle, against the backdrop of historical U.S. legislation that changed their world forever. Aging audio and videotapes begin to fail on playback, causing irreparable damage. The assessment will identify practical improvements to current environmental storage practices and enhance methods for handling, cataloging and digitization. A disaster plan for the collection will also result. Outcomes will ensure the magnetic tape recordings are safely copied, cataloged, and made broadly accessible in digital form. Preserving these recordings is a race against time. President Obama, addressing climate change in Kotzebue in 2015, noted the way of life practiced for thousands of years by Alaska Natives "is in danger of slipping away."

Project fields:
Cultural Anthropology; Cultural History; Linguistic Anthropology

Preservation Assistance Grants

Preservation and Access

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
2/1/2017 – 7/31/2018