NPS Voices

In Their Own Voice

Listen to this variety of women’s experiences who have worked for the National Park Service in Alaska, via the website links to the *Project Jukebox

two women
Jean Rodeck (Swearingen), the first Alaska Regional Curator, with interviewer Eileen Devinney, Cultural Anthropologist, September 2015.

NPS Photo

Jean Rodeck - Curator

When Jean retired in 2002, after 42 years with the National Park Service (NPS), she stated ”I will never really leave the NPS; it is in my blood, my green blood!”

Jean launched into her NPS career as a receptionist at the Rocky Mountain National Park visitor center in 1955 and never looked back. She combined her family’s experience and love for museums and visiting National Parks with college degrees in art and anthropology. Perhaps with her mother’s prophetic statement to her at an early age that she would “go to work for museums in the National Park Service”, spurring her on, Jean soon was sharing her skills and talents as curator in the NPS southwest and then as an interpretive planner all over the country.

Jean became the first Alaska Regional Curator in 1984, just a few years after the Regional Office was established. She spent the next eleven years in the position laying the foundation for the Alaska National parks collections and management guidance. Jean’s vibrant personality, passion for the resources, and dedication to NPS, is captured in the following interview which took place in September 2015, as conducted by Eileen Devinney, Cultural Anthropologist, who worked for Jean during her tenure in Alaska.

Listen to:

Judy Alderson, Ranger and Wilderness Coordinator
Listen to an interview with Judy

The subject of Judy Alderson’s interview was her time as a ranger in the Gates of the Arctic National Park in the early 1980's. She talked about coming to work for the Park Service, and the natural resource issues they identified as important at the time. She also talked about her definition and concept of "wilderness," and how the Park Service has interpreted what wilderness means.

Judy retired from the Alaska Region National Park Service in 2011.

Ellen Hope (Lang) Hays, First Woman Superintendent in Alaska
Listen to an interview with Ellen

In this interview, Ellen discusses her childhood growing up in the Cottages Community that neighbored the park, using the park as her playground, and her role in the Alaska Native Brotherhood. She discusses how she got involved with National Park Service work, her Park Service jobs as Superintendent at Sitka and Native Liaison in Anchorage, her role as a founding member of the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center at the Park, and the relationship between the Park and the community of Sitka. She also looks at some historic photographs during the interview and talks about them.

Ellen worked for the National Park Service from the 1970s-1983. She passed away on October 8, 2013.

Page Spencer, Ecologist
Listen to an interview with Page

Page Spencer was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1950 and grew up on the Kenai Peninsula. Page has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and spent her career doing scientific research and mapping work for various federal agencies in Alaska. In this 2011 interview, Page talks about working on the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) for Kenai Fjords National Park. She talks about changes in Seward, impacts from the oil spill, the stranded bulldozer up Resurrection River, her father’s traverse of the Harding Ice field, skiing, hiking, and snow machining in the Exit Glacier area, the road to the glacier, changes to the glacier and wildlife, scientific issues, and thoughts about management practices for access to Exit Glacier.

Page retired from the Alaska Region National Park Service in 2011.

Melody Webb, Historian
Listen to an interview with Melody

Dan O'Neill and William Schneider interviewed Melody Webb in Vail, Colorado, on October 7, 1991. Schneider worked with Melody in the early 1970s in Fairbanks on the National Park Service's Native Historic and Cemetery Sites studies. Ms. Webb has published a number of works on Alaska, including her book, The Last Frontier: A History of the Yukon Basin of Alaska and Canada.

At the time of this interview, Ms. Webb was the Superintendent at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park in Texas. In this interview, she speaks about her historical research in the Yukon-Charley area and in the Wrangell-Saint Elias area. She speaks of personal experiences doing the Yukon-Charley study with Dave Evans, and the historical themes which are the basis for preservation going on in Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve. Melody retired from the National Park Service in 1996.

Her book “A Woman in the Great Outdoors: Adventures in the National Park Service” are reflections on her 25 year career including her time spent in Alaska.

*Project Jukebox is the digital branch of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Oral History Program and provides access to audio and video recordings, maps, historic photographs and films from across Alaska. Unless otherwise credited, photographs are from the Project Jukebox website.

Last updated: February 17, 2016


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