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Mug Up: The Language of Work

April 1 – October 8, 2022

About the Exhibit

Titled Mug Up after the cannery term for a coffee break, the exhibit shares stories of Alaska’s cannery crews and showcases artifacts from the canned salmon industry through the lens of the Alaska Packers Association’s <NN> (Diamond NN) Cannery, located on the Naknek River in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  

Underpinning the Mug Up exhibition is the larger theme that Alaska canneries’ 15-minute ‘mug ups’ brought together a diverse group of cannery workers who provided essential labor and created a unique social milieu within the cannery workscape.

Mug Up is a journey through a typical salmon cannery, building by building, using each space to spotlight the labor and social history behind one of Alaska’s most significant industries. Rather than machines, Mug Up is about people whose stories, until now, were sheltered in the shadows of history.

The Mug Up exhibition is presented in three sections: Storied Salmon, Working Waterfront, and Cannery Community. From the slime-liners (slimers) to the superintendent, these stories collectively represent the workforce that brought the Industrial Revolution to the North.

Matthew Burtner composed the soundscape. Filmmakers include Jensen Hall Creative, Anna Hoover, and Sharon Thompson. Both the soundscape and exhibit films were produced by the NN Cannery History Project.

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Opening Lecture with Katie Ringsmuth

State Historian and Mug Up curator Katie Ringsmuth discusses the history of the Alaska Packers Association's (Diamond NN) Cannery, located on the Naknek River in Bristol Bay, and the stories featured in Mug Up.

Bob King: Sailboats in the Bristol Bay Fishery

Historian Bob King discusses the use of sailboats in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery until 1951. It was one of the last sailboat fisheries in the United States despite its status as a major fishery. King has a background in journalism and extensive knowledge of Alaska fisheries issues and is a project historian on the NN Cannery History Project.

The Cannery Caretakers (40 minutes)

Filmed by Jensen Hall Creative and produced by Katherine Ringsmuth, this film tells the story of cannery life from the perspective of the village residents. Narrated by Sonya Zimin Stewart, daughter of Carvel Jr. and Shirley Zimin, South Naknek, Alaska. 

Support for this film came from The Rasmuson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, and individual donors.

The Rock: Superintendent Norm Rockness (7 minutes)

Renowned Alaska filmmaker Anna Hoover produced this story about her grandfather, Norm Rockness, a longtime APA superintendent of the NN Cannery. The film includes original footage of Bristol Bay shot by former superintendent J.F. Heinbockel and California historian and captain of the boat f/v The Rock, Scott Carter.

Interviewees: Vickie Alto, Irene Rockness Day, Pete Rockness, Orin Seybert, and George G. Tibbets. Norman Rockness interview by Ann S. Laguerquist  -  Approx. 1975.

Support for this film came from the Bristol Bay Borough.

The Art of Hanging Nets (3 minutes)

Famed Naknek net hanger, Marcia Dale, reflects on the art of hanging Bristol Bay gillnets. Filmed by Jensen Hall Creative, edited by Sharon Thomspon of Steelbird Productions.

Support for this film came from the Bristol Bay Borough and the Rasmuson Foundation.

The Diamond NN Cannery and the Great Flu of 1919 (8 minutes)

Excerpts from 1919 APA Influenza Reports, read by the descendants of the longtime Diamond NN Cannery superintendent, and author of the report from the Naknek Station, J.F. Heinbockel. Original score by Matthew Burtner, composer, former Naknek resident, and Bristol Bay fisherman. Edited by Elliot Lockwood, Dylan DeBuse, and Jensen Hall Creative, narrated by Warren Payne, John Payne, Scott Jensen, Tim Troll, and Katherine Ringsmuth.

Support for this film came from the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and individual donors.

Aerial Footage of NN Cannery

Courtesy of filmmaker, fisherman, and South Naknek resident, Bruce Anderson, this film includes aerial views of the historic Diamond NN Cannery, the South Naknek Village, the Naknek River, Beach, Setnetters, and Pulling Boats at Diamond O.

Mug Up (Historic Cannery Footage)

A series of historic footage from film archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Washington. Edited by Naknek filmmaker Sharon Thompson of Steelbird Productions. 

Support for this film came from the Bristol Bay Borough.

Oscar Peñaranda: Stories and poems from a former -NN- Cannery worker

Filipino educator, poet, activist and former NN Cannery worker, Oscar Peñaranda gave a lecture on the 15 seasons he worked in Alaska canneries. He recited his stories, poems, and essays, which have been published nationally and internationally.

Katie Ringsmuth: NN Cannery and the Influenza Pandemic of 1919

Mug Up project leader and Alaska’s state historian, Katie Ringsmuth gives a lecture titled NN Cannery and the Influenza Pandemic of 1919. Ringsmuth recounts the role of the canneries during the influenza pandemic and how the outbreak impacted rural Alaska.

The Alaska State Museum partnered with NN Cannery History Project on this project that celebrates the history and people involved in Alaska’s canned salmon industry. 

  • NN Cannery History Project

    Documenting cannery work, the people, and the place, this project highlights the NN Cannery at South Naknek, Alaska which began operation in 1890.

  • NN Cannery History Project Jukebox

    This oral history project highlights stories of people associated with the NN Cannery in South Naknek, Alaska.

Generous Support Comes from the Following Individuals and Institutions

Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust

Trident Seafoods

National Endowment for Humanities

National Park Service Alaska Regional Office

San Franscico Maritime National Historic Park

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Alaska Historical Society

Alaska Office of History and Archaeology

Alaska Association for Historic Preservation

Bristol Bay Borough Assembly

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation

Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation

Bristol Bay M. Monsen Library

Alaska Commercial Company

Alaska Humanities Forum

Bristol Bay Borough Chamber of Commerce

Rasmuson Foundation

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

Bristol Bay Historical Society Museum

Jensen Hall Creative

Heinbockel-Payne Family

Scott Carter Family

Zimin Family

Angasan Family

Mike Rann

Andy Marie

Kevin Adams

Anne Pollnow

Emily Meuller

Ava Martin

Dylan DeBuse

Derrick Howard

Andrew Abyo

Theodore “Teddy” Malgenak 

John Wachtel

Sharon Thompson

Marjorie Dunaway

Tim Troll

LaRece Egli

Bob King

The people of Bristol Bay

Teen Film Workshop with Marie Acemah of See Stories

The following films were created at a film intensive for teens at the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum in May/June 2022 led by Marie Acemah of See Stories. Students explored the Mug Up exhibit and selected fishing and cannery topics that interested them. In just four days, they learned to use video equipment, researched their topics, interviewed community members, shot b-roll, and edited their films.

This youth activity program was partially funded by the citizens of the City and Borough of Juneau through sales tax revenues and was sponsored by the Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum.

Anika: Famous Alaskan Shipwrecks & Stories

Asher: Crabbing in Alaska

Ethan: The Life of a Salmon

Hunter: Fishing in Alaska

James: Fish Wheels, A History

Luke: Problems for the Salmon Industry

Tchabo: Mug-Up

Caleb: Climate Change

Alanna: Salmon Can Labels

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