In the mid-1940’s and 1950’s, massive amounts of King Crabs suddenly appeared in the waters off Kodiak Island, prompting the once sleepy fishing town of Kodiak, Alaska to grow in to a bustling fishing port. Twenty-five years later the supplies disappeared just as suddenly, impacting the town of Kodiak in profound ways.
“When Crab Was King: Faces of the Kodiak King Crab Fishery 1950 – 1982” is a newly opened exhibit at the Alaska Humanities Forum featuring 24 large format portraits of Kodiak fisherman, processing workers, coast guardsmen, bartenders, and others, who were part of the heyday of the storied Kodiak King Crab fishery. The exhibit was named after a radio series started in 2007 by the Kodiak Maritime Museum as an oral history effort to record the voices of people who lived through the King Crab years in Kodiak. A complete digital archive of the interviews is available online. The Baranov Museum in Kodiak, a history museum focused on southwest Alaska's Russian and early American eras, was the first site to host the portraits. The exhibit at the Baranov opened in May 2011, scheduled to coincide with Kodiak's annual Crab Festival. All 24 portraits, and their subject's oral history recordings, are available in an online exhibition run by the Kodiak Maritime Museum.
When Crab Was King begins a month long run at the Alaska Humanities Forum on Friday, September 7, 2012 with a First Friday opening from 5:30 – 8:00 pm. Kodiak Maritime Museum Director and exhibit curator Toby Sullivan will host a discussion about the exhibit at 6:45 pm. A specially designed audio cell phone tour is available that features 24 of the more than 50 three-minute King Crab oral history radio shows produced by the Kodiak Maritime Museum. Visitors will be able to dial a number, enter a code correlating to a specific portrait, and hear the photo subject talking about their memories of the Kodiak crab fishing boom. The exhibit runs through September 28, 2012 at the Alaska Humanities Forum.