Kodiak museums announce new joint archaeology project

Two Kodiak museums will be collaborating to catalog over a thousand artifacts never before seen by the public. The Kodiak History Museum and the Alutiiq Museum announced the joint project to work the biggest unprocessed collection the history museum has. 

All 1,100 pieces being processed were found around the archipelago between 1957 and 1962 by archaeologist Dr. Donald Clark. Altogether, the stone and bone objects and tools fill 13 file boxes. 

Greutert showing an opened box of stone artifacts, May 31, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Margaret Greutert is the chief curator for the Kodiak History Museum. She says they’re partnering with the Alutiiq Museum because they’ll need extra hands to process such a huge collection. 

We are a small historical society and this is kind of the first time that we’ve been able to process a huge collection like this. That partnership with the Alutiiq Museum is really important and sharing that knowledge and it also makes sure that both of our collections are comparable to each other. 

Several of the artifacts were stored into plastic bags and grouped together for various reasons, May 31, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

The artifacts have been waiting a long time to be processed. Greutert says she was excited to receive a grant this spring from Museums Alaska’s Collections Management Fund and finally process the finds. 

The funding allows them to contract the archaeology staff at the Alutiiq Museum to help catalog each item. 

A lot of them just look like rocks – they’re actually not! Most of them are stone tools and so that’s part of what the Alutiiq Museum is going to help us with is identifying what tools these are, what materials these are, and then rehousing them in a way where you can see everything and you can access everything. 

Amanda Lancaster is the curator of collections at the Alutiiq Museum. She says the two museums make for an excellent partnership. 

Lancaster in her office, next to the laboratory where the artifacts will be processed, May 31, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

I think for a smaller museum, that could be a much bigger project, but because we have the staff capacity and we have the sort of built-in expertise, it can go a little smoother for us. They got the funding and we brought the expertise!

It’s a big job – Alutiiq Museum staff will wash and dust off each piece, and use archival paper and ink to catalog every item, or batch of items. 

Margaret and I are going to sort of come up with a catalog sheet that gets all the information they need while providing all the context we think is important. 

Some of that information includes tool types, field notes, how deep it was when it was found, and notes about artifact condition. Altogether, about five people will be working on the project. They expect to process about 10 objects an hour depending on how detailed their notes will be. 

The joint project is slated to have the entire collection processed by the end of the year. 

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