While working in the Alaskan salmon cannery, I would always look forward to the several “mug-ups” we had throughout the day. These mug-ups were what we called our coffee breaks. The morning break at 9am served fresh baked pastries and cakes and then again after lunch at 3pm. Then there was one last break at 8 or 9pm which offered leftovers from the meals that day. I remember all those delicious blueberry doughnuts and coffee cake! These breaks were a way for us to recharge for another busy shift and to socialize with our fellow co-workers. Working here showed me that we are truly a global society, where people of different ethnicities (including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Hispanics) came to work in the canneries for well over a century to process salmon for worldwide distribution.
The Alaska State Museum has a new exhibit that runs from April 1 to October 8, 2022 titled Mug Up: The Language of Work. The NN Cannery History Project collaborated with the museum to feature the Alaska Packers Association’s Naknek <NN> (Diamond NN) Cannery, which is located in Bristol Bay. They shine the light on the stories of these essential cannery workers who came together in Alaska and created this unique workforce.
In the exhibit, you’ll journey through the salmon cannery which spotlights the diversified workforce and the challenges that laborers faced through artifacts, photos, and videos. If you happen to be in Juneau, be sure to stop by the Alaska State Museum to experience an important part of the state’s history.