UAF adds 1970s audio reels of Aleutian history to digital catalog
A collection of 50-year-old audio recordings from the Aleutians have been digitized and are now accessible online.
The recordings were part of an Unalaska school project from the ‘70s. A group of students and their teacher recorded various Elders in hopes of documenting the language, culture and history of the Unangax̂ community and the Aleutian region.
There’s about 60 reel-to-reel audio tapes that make up the collection. They include topics from day-to-day activities to historic events, fishing stories and recipes, to accounts from Makushin and the other lost villages that were forcibly evacuated during World War II.
The students put together six volumes of written and illustrated accounts based on the recordings. They called themselves the “Cuttlefish Class,” and the volumes became known as the “Cuttlefish Series.”
The recordings sat for about two decades at the Unalaska City School District and were eventually given to the University of Alaska Fairbanks where they were shelved — again — for about another twenty years.
But in late 2020, Leslie McCartney, associate professor and curator of the oral history collection at UAF, got a grant to digitize them.
And now, about two years later, all of those recordings are online and available to the public.
There’s not a lot of information online right now about each of the recordings. But McCartney and her small team are adding more and more as it’s reviewed, she said.
The recordings can be accessed through UAF’s library catalog or through the university’s digital repository.