Museums Alaska is a nonprofit that advocates for museums and cultural centers across the state – each year, it recognizes artists and institutions for their work. And this year’s Excellence in the Field award from the the organization went to the Kodiak History Museum.
“Museums have for so long been seen as a temple rather than a forum,” said Sarah Harrington, the executive director at the Kodiak History Museum.
She said the museum has gone through some big changes over the last five years to make it more inclusive – first, by changing its name from the Baranov Museum, which is rooted in Russia’s colonization of Alaska, to the Kodiak History Museum.
The museum also started crowdsourcing exhibition ideas from community members. It just wrapped up a temporary curation of stories and photos submitted by Kodiak residents from the pandemic, for example. Another to-be-announced exhibition also developed from public feedback is set to open next month.
Harrington said the collaborative process makes for a more comprehensive representation of local history.
“People who live in Kodiak are the ones who can tell you about what matters to our community,” said Harrington. “And so we really just want to leverage that expertise out in the community and offer our resources so that that way not only can their experience be validated, but the museum can do its job to preserve those stories.”
Other changes at the Kodiak History Museum include a 23% pay bump for all employees, which was passed by the museum’s board of directors this summer. Harrington said the raise was in part to better reflect cost of living, and also to promote pay equity for women in the workforce.
Alaska Journal of Commerce awarded the Kodiak History Museum as one of 12 “Best Workplaces” this year. Harrington said the news of both awards has been exciting for the whole staff.
Museums Alaska also awards an annual President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement – this year’s recipient is the Alutiiq and Inupiaq artist June Simeonoff Pardue. Pardue is from the village of Old Harbor – she currently lives in Sutton, just north of Palmer.
Her beaded headdresses, grass baskets and woven grass socks, jewelry, and Alutiiq garments have been exhibited across Alaska – including at Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum – and the Lower 48. Museums Alaska recognized Pardue’s body of work as masterful, unique and imaginative in a press release – and her ability to teach others.
Museums Alaska announced award winners in four categories at its annual conference late last month – including the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Michael Marks of Haines, and Museum Champions, which went to Randall Lamb and Carvel Glenn for their support of the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka.