Home sought for congressional 'junk'

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) There's the leg-hold trap he snapped on his fingers. And the oosik a walrus penis bone he waved at a bureaucrat.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has displayed a knack for memorable props as he has argued his vision of Alaska's good in the hearing rooms of Congress during the past 30 years. Now, some of those props are likely to come to rest in Fairbanks.

Just where and how to display them, though, is still being worked out.

Young and former Sen. Frank Murkowski, now the Republican governor, have been talking with University of Alaska officials about how to preserve their legacies.

Not the bills they wrote, the letters they wrote, the speeches they gave. By tradition, those documents and tapes will likely land at the Rasmuson Library on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

No, the legacy they are now contemplating has a less academic bent. As Murkowski said in a recent news conference, it's their ''junk.''

''Like the trap that Congressman Young used on the floor of the House,'' said Joe Beedle, vice president of finance for the university statewide.

Young, during an early-1980s House floor speech defending trappers, snapped the jawed device on his fingers to demonstrate that it wasn't all that cruel.

In 1994, he waved an oosik at an Interior Department official while arguing that such items should not have to be carved before Alaska Natives are allowed to sell them.

He still has both items.

The university, however, considers the preservation of such material a bit beyond its job description.

Archiving official documents and correspondence is a customary and routine function of the university library, Beedle said.

Paul McCarthy, the Rasmuson's director, said 1,800 cubic feet of Murkowski papers are locked up in a Fairbanks warehouse awaiting final disposition. ''We don't have legal title to it, while he's considering his options,'' McCarthy said.

Young also has sent some material over the years, McCarthy said.

However, memorabilia, gifts, pictures, awards, certificates and other such material present a different issue, Beedle said. It's hard to argue that the state should spend money on keeping such things, and they don't fit at the University of Alaska Museum on the West Ridge of campus, he said.

However, the university hasn't flat turned down Murkowski and Young.

Instead, it has offered three options. All three would have to be paid for by private funds, Beedle said.

A rented display space in the UA political science department. This would be the most expensive option, Beedle said.

An area in a proposed university visitor center at the new entrance to campus. ''If they chose to help fund that, then it would be very appropriate to have them there,'' Beedle said.

A leased piece of land off campus where they could put up a building.

Terrence Cole, a UAF history professor, said he was glad that people were pondering the issues, but thought the university and its museum could make a case for preserving some of the material.

''That doesn't mean you save every bowling trophy,'' Cole said. ''This is a case where they'd have to judge it on an artifact-by-artifact basis. Imagine if this was Judge Wickersham's gavel. That would be the kind of thing in the history collection that you'd want.''

Wickersham was the first federal district court judge based in Alaska's Interior, from 1900 to 1907, and went on to become the territory's delegate to Congress.

A display case or two doesn't seem to be what the governor and congressman have in mind, though. Murkowski, who served from 1981 through 2002, said last month that he was even thinking about recreating his Washington, D.C., office.

He said he might use leftover funds from his U.S. Senate campaigns to pay for the work. He had about $210,000 in the account as of June 30.

If an office replica is Murkowski's final choice, it probably won't feature one unusual item: his standup desk.

Murkowski had the desk installed in Washington because he prefers to be on his feet even his news conferences as senator were almost always standup affairs outside his office.

But Murkowski declined his option to buy the desk when he left the Senate to become governor.

''They wanted too much money for it,'' said Chuck Kleeschulte, Murkowski's former press secretary. That, and shipping it to Alaska wouldn't have been cheap either, he said. So for now, the desk remains in the D.C. office, where the governor's daughter, Lisa, has worked since he appointed her to fill out his term last year.

Meanwhile, a group of Sen. Ted Stevens' friends and family have been working on raising money for a facility in Anchorage for his combined papers and memorabilia. Stevens, R-Alaska, has served since 1968.

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