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AkLA 2017: Finding and Enhancing Alaskana in the National Archives Catalog: Home

Companion guide to a session given on 2/25/2017 to the Alaska Library Association Annual Conference. Shows where to locate digitized Alaskana in the NARA catalog and explores options to add value.

Finding Alaskana

The US National Archives is the custodian of virtually all federal records pertaining to Alaska. This includes all archived records of federal agencies that have operated in Alaska since Statehood was achieved in 1959. It also includes, with the exception of records from the Alaska Railroad and some territorial courts, all archived records related to activities in Alaska from the time that Russian interests in Alaska were purchased by the United States in 1867. 

The National Archives has been somewhat active in digitizing federal records related to Alaska. As of February 2017, 30,284 items have been digitized and are available through the National Archives Catalog at

To find digitized Alaskana in the National Archives (NARA) catalog, you need to enter a search in the Google style box on the front page. Once your search results appear, click on "Available Online" near the top of the screen to limit your results to digitized items. You may also refine your results by:

  • Type of Materials (photographs, textual records, data files, moving images, maps and charts, architectural and engineering drawings)
  • File Format
  • Location (where the original records are stored)
  • Date (by decade)

Here are links to sample searches in the NARA catalog:

Examples of Digitized Alaskana

Photograph - NARA ID 25341571, No Caption, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief of Engineers. 9/18/1947-6/16/1979  (Most Recent)

1964 Army photograph of Anchorage Earthquake Damage.

Map - NARA ID, 5822494, 1940 Census Enumeration District Maps - Alaska - Second Judicial Division - Nome, Creator(s):    Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. Office of the Associate Director for Decennial Census. Geography Division. 1/1987-  (Most Recent)

1940 Census Enumeration District Maps - Alaska - Second Judicial Division - Nome,

Textual Record - NARA ID 297166,  Lifesaving Service Logbook, Coast Guard Station 305, 13th District, NomeAlaska., Department of the Treasury. U.S. Coast Guard. Thirteenth Coast Guard District. Nome Lifesaving Station ?- ?  (Most Recent) [Page below is from May 26, 1919)

Lifesaving Service Logbook, Coast Guard Station 305, 13th District, Nome, Alaska.,


Enhancing Alaskana

The National Archives (NARA) catalog invites user input. If you register for a free account, you can tag, comment on or transcribe any catalog record. Register with a username, full name, e-mail address and a password at Be sure to log in before adding content to a record. 

Tags and comments can be added at a record screen. Click on "View/Edit Contributions" to transcribe words or sentences on a record. That screen is another place to add tags and comments.

What you write may be edited by others. Once a page has user content, it may look something like this:

Example of record with user generated content.


Example Comment:

Example of comment in a NARA catalog record


Example Transcription:

Example of transcription in a National Archives Catalog record.

Tags and transcriptions are almost immediately searchable in the catalog. As of 2/21/2017, NARA catalog searches of [budweiser alaska] (from transcript) and [alaska pawn shops] (from tags) brought up our "No Caption" photo in our search results.

The National Archives does monitor tags, comments and transcriptions and moderators them with a clear Citizen Contribution Policy.

More Questions?

If you have questions about this guide, or if an Alaskan, would like a one on one demo of searching and annotating records in the National Archives catalog, use the "Email Me" button in the Guide Author box below to contact me. 

Internet and Technology Consultant

Daniel Cornwall's picture
Daniel Cornwall