2017 Kenai Peninsula History Conference releases book with presentations, stories, pictures and more

Last spring, local historians organized a history conference to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia. Conference speakers and panelists included journalists, historians, archaeologists, linguists, and members of the peninsula community and beyond.

Now, the conference lives on in a 317-page book, “150 Years: Proceedings of the 2017 Kenai Peninsula History Conference.” The book contains transcriptions of conference presentations that have been updated and added to by their authors, a series of historical articles written by conference director and conference book editor, Shana Loshbaugh, that were published in the Peninsula Clarion and a series of articles about Old Town Kenai written by Tom Kizzia in 1991 and published in the Anchorage Daily News. The book also contains photos, maps and illustrations.

Loshbaugh moved to the Kenai Peninsula in 1981 and was living in Anchor Point when she started to organize the conference. She said there was a gap in public knowledge about the area’s history, and she wanted to raise awareness.

“I found that the Kenai Peninsula was a lot more than a pretty face,” Loshbaugh said. “It has fascinating stories to go along with it. People watch ‘Game of Thrones’ and all those shows, but if you look at the history of the Kenai Peninsula it’s just as exciting and swashbuckling. Throw in some active volcanoes and earthquakes and you’ve got quite the saga.”

Robert Pearson helped organize the conference and said the event and book are important for the people of the peninsula and the large Russian population that resides in the region.

“We felt that hearing [the conference] and then everyone goes and disappears wasn’t good enough,” Pearson said. “It’s important to have a takeaway.”

Loshbaugh said she had planned for a book all along. After reaching out to see if anyone was interested in doing a conference, Loshbaugh said she was overwhelmed with support.

The conference, which was the first local history conference held on the peninsula since 1974, focused on the region in the 1800s where Dena’ina, Sugpiat, Russian and U.S. forces all played a role. The conference was held at Kenai Peninsula College and was made possible by a state grant that supported projects in regards to the historic event, as well as a grant from the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association.

Copies of the book are available at River City Books in Soldotna, The Homer Bookstore in Homer and in Kasilof at the Kasilof Museum and Historical Park for $29.95 each.

Reach Victoria Petersen at vpetersen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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