History & Culture
Who Are We?
The Alaska Regional Cultural Resources Team consists of professional specialists who assist a wide variety of parks, partners, and the public in the preservation and protection of cultural resources. Areas of specialty include: Museum Curation; Archaeology; Ethnography; History; and Historic Architecture and Cultural Landscapes. Some of the staff is dedicated to the National Register Programs with its emphasis on historic preservation technical assistance and education outreach. The team is charged with the multi-faceted mission of helping the parks, other Federal agencies, the state, local communities, Native groups, and the public to preserve and understand the physical remnants of Alaska's prehistoric and historic legacy.
Why Preserve the Physical Legacy of the Past?
Buildings, structures, archaeological sites, and objects are tangible links to our past that we can directly learn from and experience. While books, pamphlets, photos and other media can enhance this experience they cannot replace these links to our past. They serve as anchors to our past and reference points to our future that cannot be easily erased or eliminated. We can see them, touch them, and connect with them in such a way that we can know the past actually happened. Each generation can learn from the ruins, the buildings, and the objects of the past; these are the landmarks that link us over time and space and give meaning and orientation to our lives.
Assistance to Parks
The team's service to the Alaska parks is guided primarily by the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA). The State of Alaska contains 15 national parks and preserves, plus the Alagnak Wild River and two Affiliated Areas; the Inupiat Heritage Center and the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area. Overall, Alaska's parks enclose 85,000 acres of land (219,000 square kilometers); a number that represents two-thirds of the entire land holdings of the National Park Service. And contrary to popular myth, humans have occupied a prominent and integral place in the Alaskan environment for at least 14,000 years. Successive waves of people, beginning with the first Native Americans and ending with the “Oil Boom” have been attracted to the rich natural resources of Alaska. The ancient Paleo-Indians came after the mammoth; the Russians in pursuit of fur, and the more recent Klondikers sought the state's wealth in gold. The long and extensive record of the lives and doings of these peoples over time resides in the numerous cultural resources that dot the state's varied landscapes.
In Alaska, as in the rest of the United States, the National Park Service recognizes and manages five basic types of cultural resources. These five fundamental categories are listed and defined as follows:
Archaeological Site: Physical evidence of past human occupation or activity (the National Park Service recognizes two basic subcategories; prehistoric and historic archeological sites).
Cultural Landscape: A geographic area associated with a historic event, activity, or person; or that exhibits other cultural or aesthetic values (this category includes designed, vernacular, and ethnographic landscapes). Cultural landscapes encompass both cultural and natural resources as well as any wildlife or domestic animals that have historic associations with the landscapes.
Ethnographic Resource: A site, structure, object, landscape, or natural feature of traditional importance to a contemporary cultural group.
Museum Object: A material thing possessing scientific, historical, cultural or aesthetic values (usually movable by nature or design).
Structure: A constructed work created to serve some human activity (usually immovable by nature or design [buildings, bridges, earthworks, roads, rock cairns, etc.]; prehistoric or historic).
The Cultural Resources Team works on various projects and programs relating to Alaska's history and prehistory. Follow the links below for a summary of projects or programs that may interest you.
The Cultural Resources program is guided by specific laws and regulations in its management of cultural resources. Follow the links below will to learn about these laws and regulations.