Archivist returns to Haines Sheldon Museum to assist with collections

Sara Delengova in the archives room of the Haines Sheldon Museum. (Photo by Henry Leasia/KHNS)

An archivist will be working at the Haines Sheldon Museum this winter to inventory thousands of historical documents.

Sara Delengova cranks a lever, parting a wall of gray metal shelves in the basement of the Haines Sheldon Museum. 

“This is known as the archives room down here,” Delengova said.

The archives are stacked with boxes of old newspapers, pamphlets, maps, photographs and other materials from Haines. People have perused these shelves to create exhibits and write books about local history. Right now it can be difficult for researchers to find the information they are looking for. 

“As you can see here we’ve got a lot of stuff that’s not processed yet. There’s 87 linear feet which is the term we use for how much shelf space a box will take up,” Delengova said.

The materials are part of collections that were donated over the years by various residents and groups in Haines. 

With help from a grant from Museums Alaska, the Haines Sheldon Museum was able to hire Delengova to organize the inventory for a few months. She worked as an intern for the museum a few years ago while completing her masters. This time around her job is to sift through unprocessed materials and categorize them so researchers can navigate the archives. 

“The end product of an archival collection being processed is a finding aid, and part of a finding aid is basically a little history project that will give a researcher who maybe thinks they have some interest in it an idea of what’s in there, how it’s made, why it’s relevant, anything like that,” she said.

Most recently Delengova processed a collection containing materials from Disney’s “White Fang,” which was filmed in Haines. The scripts, crew lists, notes and memos were donated by Rebecca Redwine who worked as a production assistant for the film. 

Delengova says she is drawn to archival work because it allows her to dive into subjects she never would have thought to research herself. 

“I was working down in Claremont at the Claremont Colleges. We got a collection that was entirely about orange cultivation in Southern California. I knew nothing about it. By the time I was done I knew enough to put together a couple exhibits,” Delengova said. “It’s really cool what you get to find out, working in archives.”

People donate artifacts and documents to the Haines Sheldon Museum regularly, and it can be hard to find enough space for the collections. 

Delengova says it is nice to see people willing to share their history.

“I think it’s great that so many people want to donate their stuff too, that there are so many things from different people,” she said. “In my experience, people are always a little possessive of their stuff, but everyone really trusts the museum and it’s wonderful to see.”

Delengova will continue her archives project until the end of February.