Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Opens in Alaska
July 13, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sarah Henning, (907) 929-9231, firstname.lastname@example.org
Images: Download high-res jpegs at www.anchoragemuseum.org/media.
SMITHSONIAN ARCTIC STUDIES CENTER OPENS IN ALASKA: Exhibit features more than 600 artifacts hand-picked by Alaska Native advisers
In the first arrangement of its kind, the Smithsonian Institution is loaning hundreds of Alaska artifacts to their place of origin and allowing access for hands-on study by Alaska Native people. These cultural and historical treasures are exhibited in the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, which just opened at the Anchorage Museum as part of a $106 million expansion project.
The 10,000-square-foot center houses more than 600 artifacts from the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of Natural History. Most of these objects have never been displayed before or seen by Alaska Native people. These objects were selected and interpreted with help from more than 40 Alaska Native advisers.
The center is unique, in part, because:
• Alaska Native elders, artists and scholars have been working on this endeavor since 2001, helping select artifacts for display and interpreting them.
• These artifact cases were custom designed, and are unlike any in the United States today. They aren’t sealed, and the mounts are removable, which means Alaska Native artists, elders and scholars working with the Smithsonian can get up-close access to these heritage objects. This feature, along with the center’s archaeology lab, will help Alaskans build knowledge of Alaska Native culture.
• The center is extremely high tech, employing giant, iPod-like touch screens so visitors can find more detailed information, like oral histories from elders.
The center’s main exhibition “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska” demonstrates how each Alaska Native nation is unique — and how all are connected. Visitors to this exhibition will see many objects never displayed before, including an 1880s Tlingit warrior’s helmet carved from a spruce burl and an 1880s Yup’ik parka sewn from 93 Arctic ground squirrel skins.
Objects and information represent the history and culture of Alaska Native peoples including Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Athabascan, Eyak, Unangax, Sugpiaq, Yup’ik, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Iñupiaq. Siberian groups are also represented. The exhibition explores three universal themes: Living from the Sea, Land and Rivers; Ceremony and Celebration; and Community and Family.
The exhibition was curated by Smithsonian anthropologist Aron L. Crowell and assistant curator Dawn Biddison. Exhibits were designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc., New York, whose client list includes The Newseum, Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, established in 1988, is a federal research and education program focusing on peoples, history, archaeology and cultures across the circumpolar North. The center is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. In 1994, the center partnered with the Anchorage Museum to open a local location.
For more information, visit the exhibit Web site at http://alaska.si.edu/ or contact Sarah Henning at (907) 929-9231 or email@example.com.