Katherine Ringsmuth, PhD
Tundra Vision | Public History Consultants | Project Director and Lead Historian
Dr. Ringsmuth received her doctorate at Washington State University with concentrations in American, environmental and public history. She teaches U.S. Alaska and World history at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is sole proprietor of Tundra Vision, a public history consulting business that focuses on history exhibits and curation, Section 106 application, and education support. Dr. Ringsmuth has written five books for the National Park Service, including two on canneries: Beacon of the Forgotten Shore: Snug Harbor Cannery, 1919-1980 and Buried Dreams: the Rise and Fall of a Clam Cannery on the Katmai Coast. Her recent book, Alaska’s Skyboys: Cowboy Pilots and the Myth of the Last Frontier (2015), was published through the University of Washington Press. Dr. Ringsmuth has authored multiple National Register nominations, including the Kukak Cannery Historical Archeological District nomination that was listed in the National Register in 2003 and is only one of two canneries listed in the National Register. She has curated several history exhibitions, including Home Field Advantage: Baseball in the Far North, which appeared at the Anchorage Museum during summer 2015, and has experience managing grants. She served as project director of the Alaska Humanities Forum/Anchorage Centennial Community Grant which supported the completion of the project, From Tents to Towers: A Century of Maps of Alaska’s Largest City. The 10-panel project is currently on display at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Ringsmuth is the former president of the Alaska Historical Society. She works with the Alaska School District to provide Alaska Studies teachers with fresh content, and partners with local libraries to bring history-focused events to the general public.
Besides professional experience, Dr. Ringsmuth brings a personal association to the project. Upriver from the Naknek is Katmai National Park and Preserve, where Ringsmuth worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger and honed a keen interest in the region ecological, geological and cultural history. Her Katmai experience, however was part of much deeper connection to the Naknek River. Ringsmuth’s father, Gary Johnson, started as the bookkeeper at the NN Cannery at South Naknek in 1975, and worked his way up to superintendent, a position he held from 1979 to 1997. His tenure marked the last of a long reign of Alaska Packers Association superintendents. Ringsmuth, herself, spent her childhood years befriending local kids and exploring the landscape. She labored for many years as a cannery worker to earn money for college. She gained invaluable life experience interacting with people from numerous backgrounds in workplaces that include the Mess Hall, the Egg House, the Laundry, and the Slime Line and intimately understands this project from an academic and first hand perspective.