The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Bev Dunham
For The LOG 

Seward called 'hostess with the mostess'


Basking in the warmth of comments such as, Seward is the “hostess with the mostest,” members of Resurrection Bay Historical Society are flush with the success of the 2014 annual joint conference of Museums Alaska and the Alaska Historical Society held here last week. Participants came from all over the state; some from Southeast even took the long way, combining the conference with some sightseeing by driving the Haines Highway instead of flying. Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson welcomed the conferees and presenters the first day, and Borough Mayor Mike Navarre did the same the second day.

Registrants had plenty of opportunities to attend workshops, sometimes having to choose among as many as four running concurrently. Other times there were sessions featuring keynote speakers. The theme for Museums Alaska was “Milestones: Interpreting Events That Change the Course of Communities.” The Alaska Historical Society theme was “Gateways: Past, Present and Future.” This last was apt to the local experience as Seward was known as the “Gateway City” for passengers and freight almost from its beginning. Gold from the Iditarod came through Seward. Many pregnant women and the ill from Westward Alaska came here for treatment.

In his keynote speech Paul Hirt, professor at Arizona State University, concentrated on the timely topic of sustainability of natural resources and sustainable development. He talked of the importance of planning and acting now so that generations to come will be able to thrive in a world of with more people and less resources.

Jan Ramiraz, chief curator and vice president of collections for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, also spoke on the lessons her staff learned while creating a museum of history and memory at Ground Zero.

The four-day event required the tireless work of more than 50 volunteers, many of whom worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., setting things up, taking them down and setting up again for the next presentation. Others prepared the continental breakfasts and cleaned up afterwards. Furniture was brought to one venue and transferred to another as needed. Teams of volunteers handled the registration, gave out materials while still others served as greeters and answered questions.

At the awards banquet on Saturday evening, eight Alaskans who passed since the last conference were honored: Doug Beckstead, (1958-2014), Alaska military historian; Richard L. Dauenhauer, PhD (1942-2014), an authority on Tlingit culture; Ellen Hope Hayes (1927-2013), first woman to apply and become a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood; John Arthur Miscovich (1918-2014), invented and improved the hydraulic “giants” used in placer mining; Claude M. Naske, PhD (1935-2014), historian, researcher, author and teacher; Roberta Bille Reeve Sheldon (1940-2014), born into famous Reeve aviation family, wife of Don Sheldon of McKinley rescue fame, involved in aviation history projects; Beatrice L. Shephard (1919-2013), botanist, wrote “Wild and Edible Plants of Alaska; and finally, our own Patricia Ray Williams (1909-2014), businesswoman, historian, charter member of the Resurrection Bay Historical Society.

Special awards were given to the RBHS volunteers of the year: Colleen Kelly, Shannon Kodak and Jean Schwafel for service as chairpersons for the conference; Alaska Historical Society award and plaque for the RBHS, new museum, newsletter and history programs that enrich the community.

RBHS president Willard Dunham closed the banquet with praise for the volunteers and an invitation to all the visitors to make Seward a regular spot to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and make themselves at home. Cordova will be hosting the conference next year.

Sponsors for the conference were the City of Seward and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Seward Chamber of Commerce, First National Bank Alaska, Kenai Peninsula Historical Association, GCI, Petro Marine Services, Territory Heritage Consulting, Jaffa Construction, Work Pointe, Conoco Phillips, Cook Inlet Region, Inc., and Sanna LeVan, “conference angel.”

In-kind donations were given by the Breeze Inn, Alaska Railroad Corp., Hertz of Seward, Securities Services and Major Marine Tours. Venues included the K.M. Rae Building, Alaska SeaLife Center, Qutekcak Native tribal office, Breeze Inn conference room, Dale Lindsey ARR Terminal, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and the Seward Library Museum.

Post-conference tours were provided by Seavey’s Ididaride, Seward Walking Tour and a boat tour of WWII military sites in Resurrection Bay. Sponsors of the conference booklet included Igloo No. 9, Seward Pioneers of Alaska, Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, Kenai Mountains-Turnigan Arm National Heritage Area and Edward Jones.


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