In 1899, railroad tycoon, Edward H. Harriman, organized a most unusual cruise from Alaska's panhandle to the Bering Strait. The trip was not just for pleasure, but to increase scientific understanding and general knowledge of the mostly unexplored area. Harriman brought together the day's leading scientists, artists, writers, photographers and naturalists for a two-month study of the Alaska coastline.

One hundred years later, The Clark Science Center at Smith College gathered another group of experts from varied backgrounds to undertake THE HARRIMAN ALASKA EXPEDITION RETRACED. By examining the original expedition's journals, artwork, photographs, recordings, and correspondence, this new team of experts had a baseline against which to compare their own findings and experiences after a century of change.

The film uses both expeditions as a vehicle for understanding subtle as well as dramatic changes in Alaska's environment, economy, and society. While thoroughly researching very specific and specialized issues that surface in Alaska's history - such as the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the separation of kinfolk during the Cold War, the prosperity of Alaskan natives, and the repatriation of indigenous artifacts - the film also addresses the boom and bust of industry, global warming, endangered species, the state of natural resources, and the influx of tourism to the pristine edges of the world.

The original expedition included men such as John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, and Edward S. Curtis, the famous photographer of North American Indians. The Smith College expedition included men and women such as Harriman biographer Maury Klein, historian William Cronon, and poet Sheila Nickerson.

It was produced by the award-winning team of Larry Hott and Diane Garey of Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., producers of "The Boyhood of John Muir", "The Wilderness Idea", "The Adirondacks", and "Wild by Law". It presents a unique look at 100 years of change in the Alaskan environment, and in American attitudes towards the environment.

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