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Preserving the Legacy of Cannery Life in Bristol Bay

  • University of Alaska Anchorage Bea McDonald Hall Anchorage, AK (map)

1:30 PM to 2:45 PM

Friday’s April 5,12,19,26 2019

Bea McDonald Hall #117

UAA Campus Anchorage, AK

This course will focus on the salmon canning industry in Bristol Bay and the transformative influence of this industry on life in Bristol Bay and Alaska.  The course is organized around a unique project initiated by historians, residents and former cannery workers to preserve that history through the story of the Diamond <NN> cannery in South Naknek.  The <NN> cannery is the oldest intact cannery in Bristol Bay.  After more that 125 years in operation, the <NN> cannery was recently closed, and its closure is the motive to preserve this history. The <NN> Cannery History Project involves a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, building a model of the cannery, collecting the stories of cannery workers, engaging Bristol Bay youth, and an exhibit under development for the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.  The course will be lead by Tim Troll and Professor Katie Ringsmuth.

First Class (April 5):  Overview of Bristol Bay and its salmon resource, the beginning of the canning industry in Bristol Bay, the formation of the Alaska Packer’s Association (APA) and the film: Sockeye and the Age of Sail.

Second Class (April 12):  Overview of the key elements of The Diamond <NN> Cannery History Project, historic and contemporary photographs of the cannery, recorded interviews with Professor Ringsmuth’s father, Gary Johnson, the last APA superintendent of the cannery, Carvel Zimin the cannery caretaker, and much more. 

Third Class (April 19): Cannery people and cannery life.  The story of the variety of people and ethnic groups who operated a Bristol Bay cannery and how their contributions are reflected in the building and architecture of the <NN> cannery.   Also, the response of the canning industry and the hospital at <NN> to the decimation wrought on the Alaska Native population of Bristol Bay one hundred years ago by the Spanish Flu.

Fourth Class (April 26):  The Graveyard Cannery.  Special guest John Branson, Historian for the Lake Clark National Park & Preserve will present photographs and video from his archival research into the now derelict Libby, McNeil and Libby “Graveyard” cannery on the Kvichak River. Mr. Branson led the restoration of a Bristol Bay sailboat from the Graveyard cannery that is on permanent display at park headquarters in Port Alsworth.

Class participants will be treated to a cannery style “Mug Up” in the break room after the last class.