Monday, November 25, 2013

Canned at Karluk

It is remarkable that the artist more-
or-less depicts Kodiak Alutiiq in
this label. Note the bifurcated bow of
the kayak, the gutskin kamleikas, and
the conical-shaped hats.
Kodiak Historical Society. 
I admit it. I have lusted over this Alaska Improvement Company can from the moment I read that Kodiak resident Nick Troxell had purchased it on e-bay. In fact, I went so far as to save a place for it in the fisheries exhibit that we are putting together as part of the museum's exhibit redesign project.

Now, I am overjoyed to report that I can replace the words on the exhibit object list, "Nick T.'s salmon can: procure," with "Alaska Improvement Company salmon can from Nick T." Thanks to him, the Baranov Museum has the first historic Kodiak salmon can in our collection. It joins a box end from an Alaska Packers Association cannery at Karluk and a handful of other objects related to the early history of salmon fishing and processing in the region, and helps us to document and interpret Kodiak's incredible maritime heritage.

The story of canning salmon at Karluk ranks as one of the more important stories in the history of Kodiak, if not Alaska. For fisheries biologists, the story of Karluk's fishery is important on a worldwide scale, as the prodigious historic salmon runs boggle the mind and have inspired generations of research. In fact, speaking of science, one can trace the
A bit crushed, but in remarkable
condition considering it could be
120 years old.
Kodiak Historical Society.
history of salmon biology to the Karluk River. It so happens that a team of fisheries biologists are in the final stages of creating a book that focuses on the history of science in the Karluk River system. A History of Sockeye Salmon Research, Karluk River System, Alaska, 1880-2010 will be published in 2014. I interviewed one of the authors, Dr. Richard Bortoff, for the most recent episode of Way Back in Kodiak, "Canned at Karluk."

Of course, it wasn't just scientists who were interested in the Karluk red salmon runs. Thousands of fishermen and cannery workers joined the hundreds of Karluk villagers on the Karluk Spit, beginning in the 1880s. The first cannery to open on Kodiak Island opened on the Karluk Spit in 1882. The Karluk Packing Co. was financed by the Alaska Commercial Company and founded by two former AC employees, Oliver Smith and Charles Hirsch. These gentlemen salted salmon on the Karluk Spit prior to opening what was one of the earliest canneries in Alaska. Yet, word quickly got out about the massive salmon runs within the Karluk River. This is not hyperbole- it wasn't rare to catch 40,000 sockeye in a single beach seine set at Karluk in the 1880s and 1890s.

The Alaska Improvement Company cannery is at the mouth of the
Karluk River, opposite the Karluk Spit. This photo was taken
during the first year that the cannery operated.
NARA, Kodiak Historical Society P 356-22.
Our salmon can dates from somewhere between 1889 and 1911. It was in 1889 that the Alaska Improvement Company began canning at Karluk. They built a cannery on the south side of the Karluk River, across from the Karluk Spit. Long after canning operations were transferred to Larsen Bay, the beach was referred to as "the Improvement side." In 1898, the Alaska Improvement Company joined the Alaska Packers Association (APA). That was the end of the Alaska Improvement Company, but not of its labels. For brand affiliation, the APA continued to can under the Canoe brand. Further research is required to determine when the APA added its own insignia to the can. However, in 1911 all canning operations were moved to Larsen Bay. As a result, that was the last year that cans were made and filled on the Karluk Spit, though much of the salmon canned at Larsen Bay still was beach seined from the Karluk Spit.
Fishermen mending the beach seine at Karluk.
Kodiak Historical Society, P 325-1-a. 

To discover more about the journey of our salmon can, including information on the Chinese cannery workers who packed it, the crude tools that formed it, and the fishermen that caught the sockeye within it, please listen to "Canned at Karluk." Also, if you have historic salmon cans, salmon labels, or historic salmon canning equipment from the Kodiak region that you are willing to part with, please be in touch with the museum.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kashevaroffs Coming Home

This gravestone was found buried in Sargent Park.
Kodiak's cemeteries have been moved repeatedly.
Did it belong to Artamon Kashevaroff? 75-9-1
John and Diane Lovejoy had never been to Kodiak before, but when they visited this August, they were coming home. John's mother is Natalya Kashevaroff, daughter of Father Andrew Kashevaroff. If you have lived in Kodiak, the last name is likely familiar. Kashevaroff Mountain, Kashevaroff Road, Kashevaroff Villa, monuments behind the Holy Resurrection Cathedral-- the family was prominent enough to warrant such a liberal sprinkling of their last name around town.

John and Diane came to Kodiak specifically to learn more about their family history. During their visit, I accompanied them as they sought out Kashevaroff clues. Their journey to Kodiak resulted in the radio program "Kashevaroffs Coming Home," the first installment of the museum's new radio show, Way Back in Kodiak. This blog post isn't meant to rehash the information contained within the radio program, but rather to share photographs and supplementary information.

John's great great great grandfather, Artamon Kashevaroff, and great great grandfather, Filipp Kashevaroff, came to Kodiak from Russia on the famous vessel, the Three Saints. Also on board the Three Saints were Saint Herman and the first Russian Orthodox missionaries to come to Alaska.

Chris Barreto, John and Diane Lovejoy, and Anjuli Grantham
in the Diocesan Archive in Kodiak. The documents in hand
include Saint Innocent's journals, in which he writes about
the scholastic progress of some early Kashevaroffs.

Recently, historian Dawn Lea Black determined that a slate gravestone within the Baranov Museum's collection could have belonged to the grave of Artamon. Frustratingly, the most critical information for determining the owner of the gravestone chipped away long ago. Yet, we can see that the person arrived in September of 1794. The only vessel to arrive that month was the Three Saints. Moreover, the gravestone indicates that the person departed from St. Petersburg and was "... of Golikov." Artamon and Filipp were Golikov's serfs, or "serfs of Golikov." We know that Filipp died in Sitka, and he is likely buried there. We also know that the other settlers who arrived on the Three Saints were killed in Yakutat. So, through some serious research on the part of Ms. Black, we have come closer than ever to being able to prove that this gravestone belonged to the founder of one of Alaska's most historically significant families, Artamon Kashevaroff.

Peter and Mary Kashevaroff- or Petr and Mariia
Kashevaroff- have a monument behind Holy
Resurrection Cathedral. 
Filipp Kashevaroff was an apprentice to James Shields, Russian-American Company shipwright. He also worked as a storekeeper and a teacher. He married Alexandra Petrovna, an Alutiiq woman. Their children became recognized as Creoles in 1821. The Creole estate was created within the Russian social and political system to accommodate the children that resulted from Russian/ Alutiiq and Russian/Aleut marriages. They were granted special economic privileges, including being exempt from state taxes, and were educated at the expense of the Russian-American Company.

Filipp and Alexandra's son, Alexander Kashevaroff, was the most famous Alaskan Creole. He became a Russian explorer, the head of the Russian Navy's Hydrographic Department, and managed Russian-American Company outposts in Siberia. His brother, Peter Kashevaroff, became a priest. Peter stayed in Kodiak after the 1867 sale of Alaska to the US. He married Mariia Arkhimandritov, sister of Ilarion Arkhimandritov, captain of the bark Kad'yak. This was the same Kad'yak that was used to ship ice from Woody Island to San Francisco. It sunk in front of Spruce Island. Mariia and Ilarion's sister, Pariscovia, married the Lieutenant Governor of Russian-America, Vasilii Pavloff. He was in charge of the Kodiak District when Kodiak became American. In this one generation, three powerful Russian American families were united in marriage: the Kashevaroffs, the Arkhimandritovs, and the Pavloffs.
This photo is a gem. Here is the family of Nicolai Kashevaroff, taken in Afognak. Included in the photo are Juliana (Mrs. Joe Heitman), Nick Kashevaroff, Jr., Alexandra, Julia (Mrs. Charles Skinner) and Zinnia. The elder is their grandmother, Feokla Panamaroff. One thing that makes this photo exciting is the recently discovered stamp on the back, showing that it was made in "Emil Christensen's Photograph Studio/ Afognak, Alaska." We had no idea that there was a photography studio in Afognak at such an early date.
Kodiak Historical Society, P-68.

Father Nicolai Kashevaroff's tomstone,
Holy Resurrection Cathedral. 
Peter and Mariia (or in American Alaska, Mary) had several sons who became Russian Orthodox priests. One of them, Nicolai Kashevaroff, was the priest in Afognak and Kodiak for many years. It was Father Nikolai who penned a recently discovered letter held in the Russian Orthodox Diocesan Archive. This letter was written in 1931, and is written in three languages: English, Russian, and Alutiiq. It shows that people in Kodiak were both speaking, reading and writing in these three languages well into the 20th century. It also hints at the educational attainment of the Kashevaroff family. Also held within the archive are the school records for Kashevaroff boys that date to the early 1820s, records kept by their teacher, Saint Innocent.

Father Nicolai's brother, Andrew (or Andrei), became founder of the Alaska State Museum. It was Father Andrew that collected the spruce root hat that is jointly owned by the Alutiiq Museum and the Anchorage Museum.
John Lovejoy, with the spruce root hat that his grandfather
Andrew Kashevaroff collected in the Prince William Sound.
The hat is jointly owned by the Alutiiq Museum and the
Anchorage Museum.

Father Andrei was a teetotaler, yet his daughters veered in the opposite direction. Xenia, Sasha, and Natalya became flappers, intimately involved in an avant-guard circle that included the likes of John Cage, Ed Ricketts, Jack Calvin, John Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange, Joseph Campbell, and others. Much more can be said about Father Andrew, Father Nicolai, and the Kashevaroff family. For more information, please listen to "Kashevaroff's Coming Home," or contact the Baranov Museum.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Students Find Art in Found Objects

Courtney Mims' painting
of the pocket knife.

At the Baranov Museum, we strive to engage youth in Kodiak history in ways that go beyond the ordinary. For example, Curator of Education Sarah Short reaches out to village students through virtual tours of the museum. This last fall, we worked with 8th grade multi-media students to make advertisements and printed materials for our antique auction. This summer, we will again teach a history and film intensive for middle school and high school students, during which the students will make short films about Kodiak history.

Art Alejandro's painting of a
hunting hat decorated with
blue beads.
But today, I would like to acknowledge the work of art students in Bonnie Dillard's Art Survey class. These high school students collaborated with the museum on our newest exhibit, "Found on Site: Objects from Within the Magazin." As the name implies, this exhibit highlights objects that have been found in the floorboards, windows, and walls of the museum and objects that belonged to those that lived or worked in the magazin in the past. The budding artists in Mrs. Dillard's introductory art class were tasked with a challenging activity: not only paint the objects that were found on site, but also place the objects in their historic contexts.

To get students thinking about these objects as they could have been used, I spoke with the students about the history of the magazin and what we know about the objects. I left them with photos of the objects, photos of the museum over time, and some historic images of Kodiak.

Cindy Limchantha's painting includes three
objects found on site: a bead, a pocket knife,
and a model kayak.

How did the paintings come out? Incredible! Students imagined a variety of scenes and uses for the objects. For example, one of the objects found in the floorboards was a pocket knife. Students studied images of the knife and imagined historic scenes in which the knife could have been used. One student, Cindy Lamchantha, drew an Alutiiq man carving a kayak with a pocket knife. Another student, Courtney Mims, imagined someone using it to fillet a salmon. A blue bead was found in an archaeological excavation within the museum's grounds. Art Alejandro imagined the bead as once gracing an Alutiiq hunting visor. 
A wooden needle used to mend fishing nets was found in the attic floorboards back in 1979. Kiva McCarthy painted this familiar Kodiak object entangled within a net, as if someone dropped it after hanging the web.

79-101-11: A wooden net mending needle, found in the attic.

Kiva McCarthy imagined the net needle enmeshed in the net
 it was used to make.

The museum, Mrs. Dillard, and the students are excited to share these paintings with visitors. Fifty of the original paintings will be exhibited in the museum during Crab Festival weekend (Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26). After Crab Fest, reproductions of the paintings will be available for viewing within the "Found on Site" exhibit. A huge thank you and congratulations, goes to Kodiak's young artists!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Update: Exhibit Renovation Planning

The Baranov Museum is planning to renovate our permanent exhibits in order to better preserve our collections and to improve our telling of Kodiak's history. Please note that we are currently planning, and changes will not be implemented for several years. This means that if you come to the museum, you won't see us in the middle of a construction project quite yet.

Our exhibit designer, Sarah Asper-Smith of Exhibit AK, has recently submitted the first exhibit design documents. Exhibit AK is responsible for turning the content that we develop into construction documents.
This concept map encompasses the exhibit themes and the major exhibit sections. It serves as a guide to our exhibit topics and the themes that unite them.

Environmental Displays/ Historic Recreations will provide a glimpse into the past of the magazin, highlighting different eras and the building's use over time. For example, the fur store will be a small section showing the inside of the magazin when it was used to hold furs for the Russian-American Company. The Alaska Commercial Company dining room will tell the story of the murder of Benjamin McIntyre and depict the magazin as it appeared in the 1880s. The 1940s living room will show a vignette representing the Eskine family's living room, on the eve of hosting a party for WWII servicemen. Finally, the Governor's Mansion Rooming House display will depict the Fields family kitchen in 1964, following the Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami.

Cases are just that- museum cabinets specifically designed to fit the character of the magazin and the preservation requirements of our objects. Again, this is a conceptual document, so there will likely be more than the 7 cases depicted above when we are finished.

Exhibit Sections are the main exhibition topics. Note that "Boarding House" refers to a period in the building's history- the topics will relate to the more recent past.
Above you will see the initial concept sketches, showing both cases and the historic recreation of the Fields family kitchen. The "Cabinet of Personalities," to the left, will contain objects, photos, and stories related to specific individuals in Kodiak's past. Is there some Kodiak character that you think should be included in the cabinet? Please let us know.

Would you like to see the conceptual design packet? Please stop by the museum to pick up a copy, or contact us and we will send you a copy. What are your observations, concerns and questions about the process or these initial concept documents? Please leave comments below or contact the museum to share your thoughts with us. Thanks to all of you who have already provided feedback!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kodiak Experiences Katmai: A Student Film

One hundred years ago today, Kodiak was covered in white, and it wasn't just the snow of January. The town was still recovering from the volcanic eruption at Katmai, which choked wells, suffocated vegetation, and caved in the roofs of Kodiak homes.

Marina edits her film during last summer's film intensive with
the assistance of Heather Craig from Media Action.
Marina Cummiskey, a 12 year old Kodiak homeschool student, just put the finishing touches on her film about the Katmai eruption as experienced in Kodiak. Marina interspersed photographs from the Kodiak Historical Society's extensive photo archive with audio clips, recorded by KMXT. She has worked with museum staff over the course of several months to complete this digital story, which she did as a project for her technology class.

Marina is no stranger to directing her own films. Last year, she created a movie about her family's road trip. Last summer, amidst the centennial celebration of the eruption, she participated in the Kodiak's Filipino Community Stories history and film intensive at the museum. Her resulting film, "The J-1 Visa Controversy," included interviews with a cannery worker, a J-1 visa holding student, the president of FilAm Kodiak, and Senator Mark Begich, to show the multiple perspectives surrounding this controversial visa.

Congratulations, Marina, on crafting a beautiful picture of Kodiak in 1912!

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Want Kodiak History Exhibits to Include...

At the end of 2012, the Baranov Museum asked you to complete an exhibit survey so that museum staff could confidently move forward in planning for the renovation of the museum's permanent exhibits. Your answers were analyzed and seriously mulled over, and while there were many interesting tidbits that emerged, here is the response to one of the most important questions:

Question: What aspects of Kodiak history and culture do you think it important to see in new exhibits in the museum?

Topic /  % that agree and strongly agree
Russians in Alaska  91.1%
Natural Disasters  87.5%
Immigration and Cultural Diversity  80.9%
Commercial Fisheries  78.8%
Recent Past  77.9%
Alutiiq History and Culture  73%
Business and Industry  66.6%
Military  65.2%
Fine Arts  60.9%
Community Development  56.3%

Note: Bold indicates most common answer was "strongly agree."

From this information and other data gathered through the survey and conversations, museum staff came up with the two "big ideas" that will guide the new exhibitions:
  1. Kodiak is an international crossroads/ Kodiak is a crossroads of diversity
  2. The Russian American Magazin has witnessed 200 years of Kodiak history
But before we were certain to move forward with these major themes, we wanted to make sure that the survey results really reflected the feelings of the community. As a result, we held a series of four community conversations, during which we shared the survey results over lunch with Kodiakans. During the conversations, we also asked everyone what they thought about the "big ideas" listed above. The results? Yes, the survey does accurately portray what Kodiak citizens think is important about our history. And yes, Kodiakans really do see our island home as a crossroads of diversity, and are interested in learning more about Kodiak history through the eyes of the oldest building in Alaska.

So, where are we now? While we still have lots of work to do, thanks to the participation of the Kodiak community, we have determined that the exhibits will discuss the following aspects of Kodiak history, and whenever possible, examine the history through the eyes of the building:

A Russian Colony in an Alutiiq Land: We will show Kodiak in the international realm of the 18th/ 19th centuries and show the connections that existed on the ground between Russian and Alutiiq peoples. The Russian-American Company was completely dependent on Kodiak Alutiit.  As a result, we propose to look at the Russian era with an eye towards the czar and an eye towards the sea otter hunter.

From Eastern Frontier to "Out the Westward": Kodiak Becomes American: What happened when Russia left, and U.S. officials rarely showed their faces?

Local Resources in an International Market: The fur trade (from the Russian fur trade to fox farms in the 1930s) and commercial fishing have attracted diverse individuals to Kodiak, and the commodities were/ are important to international markets.

Forces of Change: The Katmai eruption in 1912, World War Two, and the 1964 earthquake and tsunami profoundly changed Kodiak.

What do you think about these ideas? Please call (486-5920) or e-mail (, or leave a comment below to share your thoughts. We will be hosting other community conversations in the near future, so please keep your eyes open for announcements.