Through a cooperative agreement between the National Park Service and the Drachman Institute of the University of Arizona's College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, the Sitka National Historical Park and the Alaska Regional Support Office gained a broader understanding of how the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska functioned in its relationships with the church hierarchy in Russia and its parishes and missions in Alaska during the Russian colonial period and the transitional American period. These relationships were illuminated through the development of a historic context and by landscape analyses at scales ranging from state-wide to individual clusters and properties, among them the Bishop’s House in Sitka.
The Drachman Institute of the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of the University of Arizona, undertook this study in August 2014. The project was administered through a Cooperative Agreement with the Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit of the University of Arizona (Cooperative Agreement Number H1200-10-001). Professor R. Brooks Jeffery served as Principal Investigator, with Helen Erickson as Project Director and John H. Erickson as Researcher and Historian. Nina Bogdan served as Russian translator for essential documents, and Nevenka Kitanovski, MLA, assisted with documentation of sites in the Anchorage area. Brinnen Carter, Ph.D., Chief of Resources at Sitka National Historical Park, served as Park Project Coordinator.
In order to provide an appropriate interpretive context, the chosen study area was both extensive and intensive. Beginning with a general analysis of the geographic spread of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska and its links to Russia and, later, the lower United States, a number of specific sites were chosen for closer evaluation. These ecclesiastical locations were selected on the basis of historic importance, association with major figures, community size, ethnic background, and accessibility. To provide an expanded interpretive context for the Bishop’s House as part of the Sitka National Historical Park, a subsection of the project focused on the Russian Bishop’s House, as well as on other ecclesiastical resources and their relationships in Sitka.
As both a metaphorical and a physical landscape study, the primary objective was to provide contextual materials for a greater understanding of the intellectual and geographic impact of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Alaskan landscape. Recognizing the enormous scope of the project, this report is intended to serve as a point of departure for future work as well as to provide useful and immediate interpretive guidance for the Russian Bishop’s House, linking it to the wider ecclesiastical landscape of Sitka and of the larger Alaskan ecclesiastical landscape.
A secondary goal was to involve students and members of the public in this project. With directed reading, the University of Arizona graduate student translator became aware of a whole new area of Russian studies. As an NPS volunteer, Nevenka Kitanovski, MLA, assisted with documentation of sites in the Anchorage area. Students from St. Herman’s Seminary, Alaska, and Orthodox clergy and their families were involved in the planning of a tool to document important but relatively inaccessible historic ecclesiastic landscapes. This led to the development of a video model to implement such work. Two model projects were created with the assistance of Bob Demers, Manager of Video Communications at the University of Arizona. The two videos were submitted with the report.
A third objective was to acquaint park interpretive staff with currently available private and ecclesiastical resources in Alaska. Among these resources are the contemporary Diocese of Sitka and Alaska (Orthodox Church in America), individual historic ecclesiastical sites having active interpretive programs (Kenai and Kodiak parishes), and non-profits such as ROSSIA (Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska).
This project was carried out between the National Park Service (NPS) and the University of Arizona (UA) through a Joint Ventures Agreement administered by the Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (DS-CESU).
Principal Investigator: R. Brooks Jeffery
Drachman Institute | Heritage Conservation
College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture