Point of View: History conference seeking input from peninsula people

Living on the Kenai Peninsula, we are blessed with not only natural grandeur but also unique communities created by generations of hard-working, quirky (and sometimes questionable) people who preceded us.

Unfortunately, many younger people and recent arrivals from elsewhere seldom encounter the true stories of Natives and pioneers whose legacies shape our current lives here. Despite the efforts of many authors and a legislative mandate for public schools to teach Alaska history, it remains difficult to access books or teaching material about Alaska in general and the Kenai Peninsula specifically.

Fortunately, in 2023 stars are aligning to give Kenai Peninsula residents a great opportunity to learn more about the area or to share what they already know.

The Alaska Historical Society will hold its annual conference on the central peninsula this fall. The AHS is a venerable professional organization counting many of the state’s leading modern historians among its members. This four-day event, scheduled for Oct. 5-8, will be at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus off Kalifornsky Beach Road. If you prefer, you can attend virtually instead of in person.

In addition, area historical societies are partnering with AHS to host a special Kenai Peninsula Day that Saturday, open to locals at a discounted, one-day pass rate (details to be decided later). The schedule that day will include a public meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association (an umbrella organization for area societies), talks relating to the Kenai Peninsula, and presentations by at least six active peninsula historical societies. These will include information about free public talks, area history books, volunteer or membership opportunities, and local museums that welcome both neighbors and out-of-town visitors.

If you or someone you know already has a handle on Kenai Peninsula history (or one part of it), the fall conference is a great chance to share those stories with audiences and helpful colleagues. At conferences held around the state over the last 50 years, AHS members have repeatedly said how much they enjoyed hearing about the history of the local area where they are meeting from residents who have lived there or who have researched its places, events and people. Options include talking to the conference audience, participating in panel discussions, or sharing videos, maps, and historic photographs.

The organizing committee asks people interested in presenting to submit a title and abstract on or before May 31, so they can move forward with creating the schedule, logistics and registration information. For more about the conference, including how to submit a proposed talk (under the “call for papers”) check out https://alaskahistoricalsociety.org/2023-conference-information/.

Shana Loshbaugh has lived on the Kenai Peninsula off and on since 1981. She organized the 2017 local history conference in Soldotna that marked the 150th anniversary of the U.S. purchase of Alaska. She is a member of the Alaska Historical Society and five of the local historical societies on the Kenai Peninsula.