Sealaska posts collections database online

Holdings include about 25,000 photos, 1,000 cultural objects

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sealaska Heritage Institute is hoping a newly posted searchable catalog on its Web site will help spur more research on the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

SHI, a Native nonprofit that administers educational and cultural programs for Sealaska Corp., says it is a "major breakthrough" that will give researchers a better understanding of the many thousands of objects the institute houses.

"It really puts our information about what we have online," SHI Archivist Zachary Jones said. "It's more accessible and it reaches to a broader audience, and that's really our goal. We want to be involved with greater education throughout the entire area."

The catalog runs much like that at a library, where people can do searches by keywords, subjects, genres, or in alphabetical lists.

"Essentially this database, it doesn't actually contain PDFs or scans of all the diaries and correspondence that we have, but it has information about those that helps people know what we have which facilitates research," Jones said.

The institute functions like a special collections department, similar to the Historical Division at the Alaska State Library, where items are not in circulation but people can come to the downtown location to look through the material.

SHI's holdings include around 25,000 photographs, about 1,000 cultural objects, approximately 2,500 media items, thousands of books and more than 1,000 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage and language of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. The items span from the late 1800s to the present.

SHI has also begun adding its book collection to the Capital Cities Library Information Center, the first private library to do so, letting people search the institute's collection at the local, university and state library.

"We do make efforts to accommodate distance researchers because not everyone can come to our facility because they may work during our hours of operations, and many of our researches may be based throughout Southeast Alaska or the United States," Jones said. "So we can make copies and disseminate information to researches through a variety of means."

The project is made possible through a two-year grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Jones said the institute is about midway though getting all the information online.

To view the searchable catalog, visit

Jones said SHI hopes that by posting this information online it will give researchers more access to information on the Southeast Alaska Native cultures and help further studies on Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.

"We really want to reach students, especially, university or high school, whatever," he said. "We really want to encourage studies. We have lots of our collections that we think would make great master's theses, Ph.D. dissertations, as well as for various other publications and undertakings. We really want to reach the student population."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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