PIPING POINTERS – Bagpiper Adam Smith, with the Seattle Fire Fighters Pipes and Drums, gets an assist from Baranof Elementary School first-grader Eleanor Ebanks this afternoon at the covered area on the school playground. The Seattle band has become an integral part of the Alaska Day festival, performing at schools and in the parade during the day and at downtown venues at night. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Historical Society Notes Sitka’s Past and Present

By Sentinel Staff

Recent research on the 1813 wreck of the colonial Russian ship Neva and the re-creation of Princess Maksoutoff’s 1860s ball gown were subjects of presentations at the annual meeting of the Sitka Historical Society Wednesday evening at ANB Founders Hall.

In the business part of the meeting, Pat Alexander was honored with the Isabel Miller service award for her contributions to the society, including pushing for fund drives at her first board meeting in 2008.

Alexander, Jack Ozment and Ernestine Massey were re-elected to the board, and Barbara DeLong was elected as a new member.

Historical Society director Hal Spackman showed slides of this summer’s archaeological dig on Kruzof Island at the site believed to be where the 26 survivors of the Russian-America Company frigate Neva’s sinking made camp and awaited rescue.

Spackman introduced archaeologist Dave McMahan, who was the principal investigator in the search. McMahan, who for many years was the head archaeologist with the Alaska Division of History and Archaeology, had been in a dig at the site in 2012 and returned there last summer, finding musket balls, gun flints and copper. The items are being studied for their association with the ship and the survivors.

The project has been funded through a $440,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and is run through the Sitka Historical Society. Since results of the latest dig were published, there has been worldwide interest, Spackman said. 

Carol Hughey presented another society project – an historically accurate re-production of a gown worn by Princess Maksoutoff, the wife of the last Russian-America Company manager. Janelle Lass modeled the elegant gown, hoop and undergarments, all of which Hughey, who has a degree in historical costuming, had made.

Along with the items from the past, Spackman showed plans for the new museum, which will be in a wing of Harrigan Centennial Hall, now under construction and due to be finished in 2017.

While work is under way, the Sitka Historical Society is at 210 Seward St., with artifacts and exhibits stored at the Sealing Cove Industrial Center on Alice Island.

The new museum project is being funded through a grant, Spackman said.

Also in the future is the sesquicentennial in 2017 of the purchase of Alaska. Linda Williams, who is coordinating activities through a grant, spoke briefly about plans for the anniversary celebration.

Another special for the evening was singing by Zlata Lund, of Klondike Travel in Anchorage, who is serving as Sitka Historical Society’s liaison for Russian visitors over the Alaska Day Festival.


During the business part of the meeting, both Spackman and Kristy Griffin, curator of museum collections and exhibits, gave reports on the society’s other activities, including special exhibits on the Coast Guard, “Honoring Our Heroes”; “The Past Inspiring the Present” featuring local art; “Life from the Land: Honoring the Art of Hunting and Conservation”; and “The Sitka Photo Shop Studio: Picturing Our Past.”

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