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Images of The Last Frontier

In case you hadn’t noticed… The Legal Genealogist heads off — today! — to board the Jewel of the Seas for the Federation of Genealogical Society cruise to Alaska.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a good trip, off to distant climes, without at least considering what resources might exist there that we can all use without major concerns about copyright and terms of use, right?


Two really major options.

First, Alaska’s Digital Archives.

Housed on servers at the University of Alaska, this is “a single easy to use location for institutions across this state to share their historical resources” with the goal of “support(ing) the instructional and research needs of Alaskans and others interested in Alaska history and culture.”1

And what will you find there? A wealth of historical photographs, albums, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents, physical objects, and other materials from libraries, museums and archives throughout Alaska. Including, just as a couple of examples, these images:


Skagway District Recorder’s office2


First church and school building at Juneau, Alaska; Built by the Presbyterians in 1881.3

Collections in the Digital Archives are drawn from a number of partner institutions, identified on the Archives’ website as the Alaska State Library-Historical Collections, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Alaska State LAM Interactive Exhibits, Alaska State Museum – Sheldon Jackson Museum – Sitka, Seward Community Library Museum, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association, Sitka Tribe of Alaska & Sitka Historical Society, NARA–Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage, Alaska),4 Alaska State Archives, Igiugig, and Petersburg Public Library.5

There are terms of use on the website, linking primarily back to the websites of the contributing partners. So make sure to check out any restrictions on the use of the images. For those from the Alaska State Library, for example, images may be used “by individuals, schools or libraries for personal use, study, research or classroom teaching without permission. Any fair use, as defined by copyright law, is acceptable.”6

Second, the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. Which has a simply amazing collection of images of early Alaska, including, just as one example:


Frank H. Nowell, “Miners and Merchants Bank of Alaska,” 19057

In all, there are 6,728 results for Alaska in the Prints & Photographs catalog, including but not limited to:

• 705 images of the Aleutians.

• 646 images of the Yukon.

• 321 images of Skagway.

• 325 images of Denali.

• 549 images of Fairbanks.

• 426 images of Nome.

Not every image in the Library of Congress collections is completely free of copyright restrictions. Just because the Library of Congress has something and makes it available, doesn’t mean you don’t still have to look at whether the item is in copyright:

As a publicly supported institution, the Library generally does not own rights in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and generally does not grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute material in its collections. Permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the Library. It is the researcher’s obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Library’s collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Researchers must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.8

Its Prints and Photographs Division has an entire webpage, “Copyright and Other Restrictions That Apply to Publication/Distribution of Images: Assessing the Risk of Using a P&P Image,” to help guide users through the ins and outs of deciding whether an image is fair game for our use.

However, any image that doesn’t have copyright restrictions is free for us to use, since the terms of use of the Library of Congress are pretty simple: (1) don’t violate anybody’s copyright; (2) don’t invade the privacy of individuals whose information might be found in the Library materials; and (3) don’t mess with the Library’s website itself.9


Image: Frank H. Nowell, “Miners and Merchants Bank of Alaska, Nome, Alaska, Sept. 23rd – 1905,” Frank and Frances Carpenter collection, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

  1. About the Archives,” Alaska’s Digital Archives ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  2. Skagway District Recorder’s office,” Case & Draper Collection, Photographs, 1898-1920, ASL-PCA-39; Alaska Digital Archives ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  3. First church and school building at Juneau, Alaska; Built by the Presbyterians in 1881.,” Case & Draper Collection, Photographs, 1898-1920, ASL-PCA-39; Alaska Digital Archives ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  4. Now in Seattle: “The research room at the National Archives at Anchorage was permanently closed June 21, 2014, and the records were transferred to the National Archives at Seattle.” “Anchorage, Alaska,” ( : accessed 25 Aug 20915).
  5. See “Collections,” Alaska’s Digital Archives ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  6. Rights Statement, Copyright Notice & Disclaimer Only for the Alaska State Library,” Alaska Digital Archives ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  7. Frank H. Nowell, “Miners and Merchants Bank of Alaska,” 1905; Carpenter Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  8. Library of Congress, “About this Site,” Legal ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
  9. See Judy G. Russell, “Library of Congress terms of use,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 Jul 2012 ( : accessed 25 Aug 2015).
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