Communities of Memory was a project funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum in the mid-1990s to collect stories from Alaskans that represent the meaning of community. Storytelling sessions were held in Nome, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Homer, Kotzebue, Juneau, Unalaska, Bethel, and Kenai/Soldotna. Dr. Pat Partnow was the co-designer and Statewide Project Director, and Cynthea Ainsworth was an advisor for some of the communities. All the sessions were videotaped by Jim Sykes and Western Media Concepts and these recordings are stored at the Oral History Office in the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).
The Kotzebue Communities of Memory event was held from February 29 to March 2, 1996, and the local organizing committee included Martha Siikauraq Whiting and Linda Joule. Walter Sampson served as host for each day's activities.
In 2017, the Kotzebue Communities of Memory Project Jukebox was created by Karen Brewster and Leslie McCartney of UAF's Oral History Program/Project Jukebox office and was funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum. Given the sensitive nature of the issues discussed in the original storytelling event, which focused on experiences with war, Leslie McCartney, Curator of Oral History at Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks traveled to Kotzebue in November 2016 to show portions of the video tapes (now copied to DVD) to local residents. The goal was to have a conversation about the emotional nature of the presentations, decide on specific segments to be featured in the Jukebox, identify speakers by name, and seek out release agreements. The segments included in the Jukebox are the result of these discussions and successes in obtaining signed release agreements from narrators or their next of kin.
Many thanks go to the Kotzebue review committee of Martha Siikauraq Whiting, Chester Ballot, Walter Sampson, and Linda Joule for their honest discussions of sensitive and emotional topics, their efforts in reviewing the video material, making decisions on content, and tracking down release agreements. We also wish to thank all those who attended the public video showings in Kotzebue and provided input: Pierre Lonewolf, Daphne Wallace (on behalf of her parents, Delbert and Daisy Walton), Taylene Sampson, Maggie Sampson, Rosie Hensley, Lennie Lane, Michelle Gallahorn, Bradley Gallahorn, Vivian Lane, Victor Karmun, and Clarissa Ballot.
This project is supported in part by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.