The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded the Kodiak History Museum $36,879 in NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations grant funding to realize the Erskine House Storytelling Project.
The project centers on republishing “Faraway Island: Childhood in Kodiak,” a memoir written by Carolyn Erskine Andrews.
Andrews was the daughter of W.J. and Nellie Erskine, and lived with her family in the Russian American Magazin (now the home of the Kodiak History Museum) during the 1920s and 1930s. Her memoir, originally self-published in a small print run in 2000, is a charming look at life in Kodiak during time through the eyes of the daughter of a privileged family.
While Andrews' description of her time in Kodiak brings her world vividly alive, the scope of her story is limited to the people her parents allowed through the Magazin door.
In the foreword to the new edition, former Kodiak Historical Society employee and respected author and historian Anjuli Grantham writes that “this depiction of Kodiak is an incomplete portrayal of life in the village, as it is the story by an outlier. The typical Kodiak child was Sugpiaq/Alutiiq … Carolyn, on the other hand, was a white Protestant child from the wealthiest family in town.”
The republication offers a new beginning, one that acknowledges that Andrews’ tale unfolds on Sugpiaq land and makes room for the Kodiak stories that Andrews did not tell.
In addition to Grantham’s foreword, the new edition will contain more than 20 new photographs from the Kodiak History Museum’s collection.
Sarah Asper-Smith, the owner and operator of ExhibitAK who played a key role in the museum’s recently completed renovation project, is designing the interior and exterior of the book. The new edition is currently scheduled to be released in late October 2020.
The republication will be a jumping off point for associated programming and community discussion, leading to a deeper understanding of Kodiak in the early 20th century. Virtual and in-person programming will include a republication celebration featuring Grantham and Asper-Smith, public readings, a community discussion and more.
The NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations program provided grants of up to $300,000 aimed at nonprofit humanities and cultural organizations struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds helped organizations retain staff, complete short-term projects or adapt essential programming. Alaska museums collectively received more than $700,000 in NEH CARES grant funds.