Representatives from the Alaska State Museum are in town this week to gather community input on the new museum being built in Juneau. Steve Henrikson is the curator of collections for the state museum and said construction isn’t expected to wrap up for another two years, but he and other museum staff and collaborators have been traveling the state to ask folks what they think should be a part of the new exhibits.
“It’s a difficult task to take so many millions of items, whether they’re artifacts or photographs or papers, and decide what of that we’re going to be able to put on exhibit. Obviously we’re not going to have enough room, even though we have a huge new building, it’s still a limited amount of space. So in the process of consulting we’re working with local experts, elders, cultural leaders and the general public all around the state to figure out exactly what is of interest to people and what do they think is important to let the world know about Alaska, why is it special and why is it significant.”
Henrikson said he and Sarah Asper-Smith, an exhibit designer and developer for Exhibit AK, will present current plans for the new museum with the Kodiak community tonight at 7 p.m. in the public library.
“We’re going to throw out there what sorts of ideas and what options are available and then ask the community what the community feels is important if we have to focus in on one area verses another because of space, what is it we should be doing. And just to get a sense of what people think is unique about Alaska.”
Even though the museum is in Juneau, Henrikson said it is meant to represent the whole state, so it’s important to make sure Kodiak’s history and voices are a part of the process and exhibits.
Henrikson said he’s been working with staff at the Baranov and Alutiiq Museums, and while the Russian period has been well represented in the state’s collection, they are finding challenges in fairly representing the Alutiiq people.
“Because our collection there is relatively small but we are trying to develop it by adding a lot more material by contemporary Alutiiq people. Things like masks, skin-sewing basketry and other art objects and material culture that help fill in the gaps because we don’t have very much older material from that culture. So that’s an area that we’ll be consulting with the Alutiiq Museum about – how to face this challenge of not having a very big collection but still wanting to fairly represent the culture in the museum."
The Alaska State Museum is expected to be complete in spring 2016. He said folks can learn more about the construction and exhibit planning process by searching for Juneau SLAM, which stands for state libraries, archives and museums.