This photograph collection documents the activities of Drs. George Dale and Evelyn Butler as they traveled and worked in Alaska from 1934-1950. The majority of the photos cover the time period from 1939-1942. The collection, which includes several home movies, is stored as PCA 306.
In 1934, upon finishing their doctoral studies at the University of Iowa, husband and wife, George Dale and Evelyn Butler came to Alaska to work for the Alaska Native Service. As educational supervisors, they traveled extensively throughout Alaska, sometimes together and sometimes alone, to check on teachers and school activities in the remote Alaskan villages.
The Butler/Dale collection provides a superb insight into the Alaskan Native cultures in pre-World War II Alaska. Although the photographic subjects cover all of Alaska, most of the views are concentrated in the northern, southwestern and Yukon River regions. As the principal photographer, George Dale combined his interests in both the native culture and photography to produce this unique documentary on Alaska. Primary subjects include subsistence activities, handicraft demonstrations, village scenes, social functions, town meetings, potlatches, ceremonial dances, school activities and sweat lodges. The portraits of the village residents are particularly interesting as some of the individuals are identified.
The first 940 photographs are listed according to George Dale's description and numbering system. They have two numbers: the photographer number and the negative number. Provided by George Dale, the photographer number is written on the photo envelope. The negative number (PCA 306), which is penciled in the upper right-hand front corner, was provided by the Alaska State Library and should be used when ordering duplicate photographs. The first 940 photographs were selected and organized by both Evelyn Butler and George Dale, probably for their exceptional quality. The Alaska State Library organized the remaining 1,900 views into broad subject categories and series groupings. The series list that follows this introduction also serves as a table of contents.
In 1942, George Dale coordinated the Aleut evacuation from Atka. During this transition, he photographed the evacuees leaving Atka and arriving in various southeast Alaska relocation camps. The 90 photos that comprise the Aleut evacuation provide a rare insight into the relocation process and the daily lives of the Aleut refugees.
The approximately 2,900 images are organized by photographer, type and location or, if not known, subject. Captions by George Dale and notes provided by other authorities are labelled with their initials. Peter Corey, curator of Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, and anthropologist Frederica de Laguna, surveyed all or part of the collection in early 1993. Additional identification was supplied at the May 1993 Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans in Klukwan. For more information about the collection, please see Curator of Collections.
- Majority of material found within 1939-1942
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is available for viewing; however, because of its fragile condition, the photographs may not be photocopied. Two photo exhibits involving a case study of child abuse and neglect are altered in accordance with the Right of Privacy, Constitutional Provisions, Constitution of Alaska, Article 1, Section 22.
Language of Materials
From the Collection: English