Collections and Archives

Overview of Collections

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Bear Tooth Necklaces, 2012.63.1 & 2

The Sitka History Museum’s unique mission to tell the human history of Sitka and the surrounding area is reflected by the breadth and variety of its collection and archives. The historical society’s collection was initially developed in the 1950s when a group of dedicated volunteers founded the society. Isabel Miller, Joe Ashby, and other founding members worked to collect items of historical interest, met regularly, and organized to secure a formal museum space in Centennial Harrigan Hall in downtown Sitka in 1967. Continuing to build upon their pioneering work, the Sitka History Museum has amassed one of the most diverse and largest collections in Sitka comprised of over 8,000 three-dimensional artifacts, several hundred paintings, prints, and examples of fine art, a spectacular collection of nearly 25,000 historic photographs, and more than 100,000 archival documents, all ranging from the 1740s until the present day.

Highlights of the Collection

  • Archaeological fragments from Vitus Bering’s ship Saint Peter
  • Russian trade beads, trade goods, and material used in daily living by Russian American colonizers in Sitka in the early and mid-1800s
  • Russian Orthodox icons and vestments
  • The original journal from the U.S.S. Ossippee, a U.S. sloop of war present for the official 1867 transfer ceremony when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia
  • An 1879 painting of the U.S.S. Jamestown, a U.S. sloop of war present in Sitka at the time of the transfer, and purportedly done by the ship’s painter, R.P. Smith.
  • Letters written by Emily McCorkle Fitzgerald, an army doctor’s wife who lived in Sitka for a two year period after the Transfer
  • Photographs by Sitka’s most renown photographer of the early 20th century, E.W. Merrill
  • Mining tools and household items from Chichagof Mine, operational from 1905 until 1942
  • Fine examples of Tlingit spruce root basketry and regalia,including a Chilkat blanket woven by Mary Willard
  • Tlingit handicrafts made for the curios trade in the early 1900s, including halibut hooks, bentwood boxes, carvings, and spoons made of animal horn
  • Paintings by William Stewart,
  • Works of art by Theodore J. Richardson and self-taught artists, such as Paulina Cohen
  • Firsthand accounts of early 19th century steamship travel up the Inside Passage
  • The Photo Shop Studio Collection of photographs of downtown Sitka and local landscapes dating from 1927 until 1974
  • World War II era uniforms, medals, cutlery, scrapbooks, correspondence, and photographs
  • A collection of wood blocks, wood engravings, and prints, including fifty prints of the Raven Series by master Southeast artist Dale DeArmond
  • Early and first edition books including U.S. Coastal Pilots and publications by ethnographers such as George T. Emmons and R.J. Swanton
  • Alaskan newspapers and publications dating from the late 1800s until the present day
  • Numerous architectural plans, blue prints, structural reports, and maps
  • Fishing gear, nautical instruments, and maritime-history related artifacts
  • 20th century items related to pulp mill production, logging, and other industries in Sitka and Southeast Alaska

Digitizing the Collection

The list above represents only a fraction of our rich holdings. The Sitka History Museum is committed to making its collections accessible to as wide an audience as possible and is currently cataloging its collection to launch an online database of the Museum’s holdings. Until this online resource is made public, we encourage you to contact the curator with any research requests or inquiries about particular topics, artifacts, photographs or archival material. Appointments may also made to view specific collections not currently on exhibit. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook where we post photographs of our collections and holdings on a regular basis.

Gaps in the Collection

Despite its extraordinary holdings, the Sitka History Museum, continues to expand its collection to better promote the events, stories, and artifacts of Sitka’s human history.

Currently, the museum is seeking the following material:

  • Tlingit button blanket
  • Herring rake
  • Tlingit pipe bowl
  • Box drum
  • Halibut hooks
  • Stone tools including adze, mauls, and chisels
  • A model Unangan (Aleut) bidarka
  • Seal skin money from the Russian American Company
  • Any items bearing the double-headed eagle crest, the symbol of the Russian American Company
  • Podstakanniki, the glass holders for glasses used in Russian teas
  • Objects related to the Northwest Coast fur trade
  • Early daguerreotypes and tintypes of Sitka
  • Fox pelt
  • Brown bear pelt

If you are interested in donating any of the above, please Click Here.