Smithsonian awards outgoing Anchorage Museum director Patricia B. Wolf with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal
October 16, 2007
The Smithsonian Institution recently awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to Patricia B. Wolf, outgoing director of the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Established in 1965 in honor of the 200th anniversary of founder James Smithson's birth, the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal is given to persons who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of areas of interest to the Smithsonian.
Acting secretary of the Smithsonian, Cristián Samper, and acting director of the National Museum of Natural History, Paul Risser, presented Wolf with the award Sept. 18 in Washington, D.C., in recognition of her long-standing efforts to create a venue for the Smithsonian in Alaska through the development of the Anchorage office of the Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum.
Through Pat Wolf's leadership, the Anchorage Museum has assisted the Smithsonian Institution in its commitment to increasing knowledge and understanding of Alaska Native peoples, cultures, languages and art and has provided new opportunities for Smithsonian collections, scholars and public programs. The Alaska exhibits of the Arctic Studies Center will be a centerpiece for the expanded Anchorage Museum. More than 600 Alaska Native objects from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) will be sent to Anchorage on long-term loan for the study and enjoyment of Alaskans and visitors to the state.
"The partnership between the Anchorage Museum and the Smithsonian is unprecedented in terms of the significance of the collection, the duration of the loan, and the collaboration with Alaska Native advisors who selected and interpreted the objects. More than 40 elders have traveled to Washington, D.C., to work with objects, and 17 members of the project's advisory committee have been guiding the project for more than three years," said Aron Crowell, Alaska director of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.
Wolf's involvement in cooperative activities between the Smithsonian Institution and Anchorage Museum dates back to 1973, when the museum exhibited "The Far North: Alaska Native Collections from the Smithsonian Institution" and Wolf helped to organize its accompanying public education programs. In 1983, the museum hosted "Inua, Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo," curated by William Fitzhugh, director of the Arctic Studies Center, NMNH, and Susan Kaplan. In 1991, the museum exhibited "Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska," co-curated by Fitzhugh and Crowell.
The Anchorage office of the Arctic Studies Center was initiated with a five-year agreement in 1993. In 1998 a 20-year extension was signed by NMNH Director Robert Fri, Wolf, and Mayor Rick Mystrom.
Present at the ceremony were Risser; Crowell; Fitzhugh; Igor Krupnik, NMNH anthropologist; Daniel Rogers, chair of the NMNH Anthropology Department; and Ruth Selig, special assistant to Cristián Samper. A representative from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's office read a proclamation on her behalf to honor the occasion.
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