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Oral historians to document Barrow sea ice observations


The oral history program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Elmer E. Rasmuson Library will work with the community of Barrow to record and preserve traditional knowledge of sea ice in the Barrow area, thanks to a recent grant from the North Pacific Research Board.

The $61,205 grant will allow library staff members to record traditional knowledge of sea ice in Barrow as well as acquire, digitize and transcribe interviews conducted by other researchers on the same topic from 1978 and from 2007-2011.

The information will be used to create a new "Sea Ice in Barrow" Project Jukebox using the older and new recordings, along with accompanying historic film and photographs already in the archives.

This collection documenting this traditional knowledge over time will allow community members and researchers to gain a new understanding of marine resources, and to document how climate change is affecting subsistence and marine resources and how the community is adapting to these changes.

“This is the kind of project that demonstrates the breadth and depth of the Rasmuson Library collections,” said Bella Karr Gerlich, dean of libraries. “There is so much material in the archives that can enrich our knowledge of the Arctic.”

In funding the proposal, the review panel particularly noted the value of using historical data such as oral history recordings and maps in the project.

“There is so much important historical information in the earlier recordings and we are so pleased to be able to bring these into our collection at the library and build upon them with new interviews,” said Leslie McCartney, oral history curator. “And we are really pleased to capture the knowledge of elders still living in Barrow.”

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