Alutiiq Museum commissions new atkuk to display in galleries after construction

An atkuk is a type of traditional Alutiiq clothing. 

“The snow falling parka is what these are sometimes known as and when someone is dancing, wearing it, you see the ermine tails just sort of sway and it really does look like snow falling,” said Amanda Landcaster, the curator of collections at the Alutiiq Museum. 

The new Atkuk was made by Susan Malutin, who has studied pieces like these for years. (Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum)

The atkuk was commissioned by the museum about a year ago and staff received the new piece a few weeks ago. Lancaster said it was made very similar to ones that have been worn since before western settlers came to Kodiak. 

She said once they had the funding, they talked to a local artist to help them fill the gap in their collections. 

“We have never had a traditional atkuk like this and there are garments like this in collections around the world that hold Alutiiq collections,” she said. 

The whole piece features a black base with red stripes, wavy beads, and ermine fur. (Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum)

The commission was funded through the Rasmuson Foundation, which awards grants to Alaska-based nonprofits, tribes, local governments, and artists. 

Landcaster says commissioning pieces helps the museum have one of the most complete collections on Alutiiq culture in the world. 

“It’s a really good chance to see what are the holes in our collection,” she said. “Maybe there are Alutiiq cultural materials in other museums that we do not have that we would like to get versions of.” 

Landcaster says adding to their collections will be a major help in continuing revival movements after historic suppression. 

The Alutiiq Museum is currently undergoing major renovations though, so the public will have to wait to see the atkuk in person until they reopen in 2025. The multi million dollar project will include a classroom for education opportunities and to expand their gallery to feature more of their collections on Native history. 

Amanda Landcaster now has a new office while the musuem undergoes construction. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

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