Videos tell of Seward’s history
'Bits of History'
Annette Shacklett | The Seward Phoenix LOG
Amy Carney reads the script for the Obihiro episode of “Bits of History,” while Lee Poleske monitors the camera.
In a quiet section of the Seward Museum on Friday night a video was filmed about Seward’s sister city connection with Obihiro, Japan, and the student and adult exchanges with the sister city.
Resurrection Bay Historical Society volunteer Lee Poleske and Seward Community Library/Museum Collections Coordinator Amy Carney collaborate about once a month to create a short video, called “Bits of History,” on a topic from Seward’s past.
Thus far they’ve produced 40 episodes on subjects like the Mount Marathon Race, the Iditarod Trail and Race, the Phoenix ship built on Resurrection Bay’s shore by Russians in the late 1700s, a photographer from the early 1900s and Seward’s first hospital.
The videos are a combination of a spoken narrative by Poleske (until the Obihiro episode) and still images — photos, newspaper clippings and original documents. The videos run from 2.5 to 9 minutes, and are all available for viewing on the web at youtube.com/BitsofHistory and on a computer at the museum.
After Carney was selected for this year’s adult exchange to Obihiro, she was curious about the history of the sister city program and the exchanges. (There’s an adult exchange and a student exchange.)
It seemed like a good topic for the “Bits of History” series, so she and Poleske set out to produce the episode.
Up until this episode, Poleske read the scripts in the videos. This time, though, Poleske felt it was time to switch roles — Carney would research, write and read the script, and he’d step behind the camera.
Carney, who has worked at the library since 2007, set out to research the topic, and though she’s familiar with the library’s and the museum’s resources, it took persistent patience to dig out information on the subject.
“It took a lot of sifting,” said Carney of the research. “Some of the timelines were incorrect and not at all inclusive.” Undaunted, she combed through the information for the video’s script.
Much of what she was looking for was in documents held by the Seward City Clerk’s office because the city clerk coordinates the exchanges along with Seward International Friendship Association. She also found information in the library’s archives of The Seward Phoenix LOG and other documents.
Information about the beginning of the sister city relationship was scarce. But she tracked down the Seward City Council resolution that initiated the Seward side of the sister city relationship by using the extensive records that are available on the city’s website. (Records of city council agendas, ordinances, resolutions and minutes are digitized on the publicly available website and go back to 1912 when the city incorporated.)
She found that the sister city relationship started with council’s 1967 Resolution 666. The following year, Obihiro passed a similar resolution and the two officially became sister cities.
Carney determined that the first student exchange was in 1973 and first adult exchange in 2004. Plus many more fascinating facts that are in the video.
Another aspect of research was selecting the photographs and images to incorporate in the video. By filming time, Carney had selected and digitized the images of the Obihiro topic.
“This one was fun to research,” said Carney.
Carney and Poleske invited The LOG to the Friday night filming at the museum.
It was after hours and quiet. The video camera sat on its tripod aimed at the Obihiro exhibit. Carney and The LOG chatted while Poleske reviewed the script. He said it was good to go and stepped behind the camera. A calm Carney took her seat in front of the camera and read the script — all in one take.
When the camera stopped, she grinned and said, “All that time doing Story Hour (at the library) paid off!”
Carney said that on Saturday she would edit the introduction, end and images into the video. The final video was then uploaded to youtube.com and made available on the museum’s public computer. “I want to have it done before I leave for Obihiro on Friday,” she said.
(We won’t spoil the telling the story, and instead direct readers to youtube.com/BitsofHistory or the museum at 336 Third to watch the video.)
Challenges and rewards
When asked what the challenges in producing the “Bits of History” are, both Carney and Poleske replied, “Besides the weather?” They have filmed a few of the episodes outdoors, but found that the audio recording picks up the sound of Seward’s ever-blowing wind and makes some portions difficult to hear. There are also problems with background noise like land and water traffic. For the Obihiro episode Poleske scoped out doing the filming at Obihiro Park on the waterfront. However, as he sat quietly and listened, the background sounds were from the wind, charter boats chugging into shore and camper generators.
They’ve also found that the productions are easier to pull together in the winter when the museum is closed.
Photographs and images can also be challenging. They’ve found photos scarce on some topics like the “Cruisers” episode about the naval ships that visited Resurrection Bay in 1935. For other topics they find too many photos and have to sort through them for the most appropriate.
When asked about the rewards are for producing “Bits of History,” each producer said without hesitation, “It’s fun!”
Carney finds that getting to know the local history is rewarding. As is the appreciation of viewers. “It’s great to hear that people watch and learn,” she said. She also likes working with the software. “I’m a tech geek. It’s fun to play with the video.”
Poleske said he enjoys, “Getting information about Seward events out to folks who don’t come to the museum. Reminding them of what’s happened here.”
He also likes hearing people saying that they enjoyed watching a “Bits of History.” And then suggesting a topic that they’d like to see on video.
The series was started in 2008 by Paul Tougas for placement on his sewardcitynews.com website. Tougas made a few episodes and then Ryan Reynolds, who was working part time at Seward Museum and Poleske, who taught at Seward High School from 1964 to 1990, produced the episodes.
With a state grant in 2009 the museum purchased a Sony HD HandiCam and Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum software for video and audio editing. The equipment and software is still in use.
When Reynolds left the library/museum employ in 2010, library employee Carney began working a couple afternoon shifts a week at the museum and also began producing the series with Poleske, who earned a master’s degree in media technology 1976. Carney now works 20 hours a week at the museum.
The next “Bits of History” episode is the story of the Alaska flag. Poleske plans to tell the story using landmarks in the Jesse Lee Home neighborhood where many of the streets are named for players in the flag story. He’s taken the photos and is working on the script.
Bits of History Episodes
William H Seward
A Research Guide
William H. Seward School
Mountains Behind Seward
Diversion Tunnel Project
Founding of Seward
1928 Marathon Race
Naval Radio Station
Naming of Seward
First Seward Newspaper
'Bits of History' — Obirhiro
Bank of Seward
Jesse Lee Home Farm
Seward the Capital
Engine No. 1
First Race in Iditarod
Half ton Gold
Iditarod (3 parts)