Meet our Social Media Manager, Leanna Williams

1.  What’s your background?

I spent my childhood summers on the East ramp of Fairbanks International, helping my dad get his plane ready for our summer adventures. Although, as an aspiring ballerina, it’s hard to say how much help I really was. Something must have stuck, however, because even today the smells of a hangar hold the same sort of nostalgic sense memory that others associate with freshly cut grass and baking chocolate chip cookies.

I have my bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Linfield College, in McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and the Spruce Goose). After college, I worked for several years in advertising before the opportunity arose to work for a local air carrier. There, I witnessed firsthand how integral aviation was to life in rural and urban Alaska alike.  I grew more and more fascinated by not only how aviation had transformed the economic and cultural landscape of the state; but how Alaska’s aviation industry itself had developed since its arrival in the territory.
I am currently a graduate student in the UAF Arctic and Northern Studies program, focusing on Alaskan and circumpolar Arctic aviation history.  My husband and I run a local marketing and advertising agency, so volunteering to help with Pioneer Air Museum’s social media is an ideal combination of my academic and professional interests. 
2. What brought you to Pioneer Air Museum?

About a year ago, I attended a lecture that Pete, Pioneer Air Museum’s curator, gave on early polar exploration.  In typical Fairbanks fashion, at the lecture I ended up reconnecting with a friend from graduate school who I hadn’t seen in several years, who put me in touch with Pete, who put me in contact with Della, the collections manager at the time.  I had a few hours open in my schedule and was looking for a volunteer project, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. 
3. What projects are you working on?

I’m currently working on a couple different projects for the museum: a series of book reviews on various Alaska aviation titles; compiling information for an ongoing “this day in Alaska/Arctic aviation history” feature; and regular content like “What’s that Wednesday” on our various social media channels – Facebook, Instagram and here on the blog.
4. Favorite Object in the Museum

My favorite object is probably an old survey map depicting the Koyukuk-Chandalar region.  It was glued to a fabric backing so it would hold up in an open cockpit plane.  The most fascinating part of this map is that large portions of it are essentially blank, with topographic lines missing and rivers and streams sketched in based on prospectors’ sketches.  To me, this map speaks to the challenges and demands on the earliest pilots in Alaska – the maps were primitive, at best, the working conditions required innovation and customization, because no one had ever faced the particular set of challenges that they did on those early flights.
​The 2017 equivalent would be an IPad loaded up with sectional maps and WAC charts, tethered to a GPS. I love that map for showing just how much things have changed in Alaska aviation, even though the land hasn’t changed since Eielson, Wien, Crosson et al. made those first pioneering flights.  

One response to “Meet our Social Media Manager, Leanna Williams”

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