Team examines a collection of historic plats and charts found in the carpenter shop at the NN Cannery at South Naknek. A reporter from KDLG records the historians in action. (Photo courtesy of Katie Ringsmuth)
It takes a wide net to save a rich salmon story. At least 16 public entities and individuals are working to gather and document the rich history of the Naknek Cannery in South Naknek, Bristol Bay. They intend to place it into context with the global maritime world.
You could call Katie Ringsmuth a ringleader for the Naknek Cannery History Project. She’s a public historian who happened to grow up as the daughter of the superintendent at this very cannery, and she’s motivated to save the multicultural history of the cannery workers and record the influence of the Alaska Packers Association in territorial and early-statehood Alaska.
Luckily, she has help. Bob King, a longtime Alaska journalist specializing in fisheries, will join her as an historian andNaknek Cannery dock. Photo courtesy Katie Ringsmuth.
communications liaison. Other team members include additional public historians from the National Park Service and a cultural advisor in longtime South Naknek resident, Shirley Zimin. Tim Troll, author of two Bristol Bay history books and executive director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, is also part of the effort.
What shape will this history project take? That’s the subject of our next Hometown Alaska. Ultimate goals include an exhibition at the Alaska State Museum, called “Mug Up,” listing the cannery’s historic maritime district in the National Register of Historic Places, and developing a digital storytelling workshop for local youth.
Bring your questions and curiosity about Bristol Bay history and the role canneries played in reacting to the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza epidemic when it hit Western Alaska, and many other facets.