The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Opens in Alaska

Exhibit features more than 600 artifacts hand-picked by Alaska Native advisers By: Mackenzie Maher
The 10,000-square-foot Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center opens at the Anchorage Museum. // © 2010 Anchorage Museum
The 10,000-square-foot Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center opens at the Anchorage Museum. // © 2010 Anchorage Museum

In the first arrangement of its kind, the Smithsonian Institution is loaning hundreds of Alaskan artifacts to the Anchorage Museum. 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. These objects were selected and interpreted with help from more than 40 Alaska Native advisors. Alaska Native elders, artists and scholars have been working on this exhibition since 2001, helping select and interpret artifacts for display.

The exhibition explores three universal themes: living from the sea, land and rivers; ceremony and celebration; and community and family. Its 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. The history and culture of many Alaska Native people are represented, including Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Athabascan, Eyak, Unangax, Sugpiaq, Yupik, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Inupiaq. Siberian groups are also represented.

Visitors to this exhibition will see many objects never displayed before, including an 1880’s Tlingit warrior helmet carved from a spruce burl and an 1880’s Yupik parka sewn from 93 Arctic ground squirrel skins.

The exhibition is curated by Smithsonian anthropologist Aron L. Crowell and assistant curator Dawn Biddison. Exhibits were designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc., New York.

Anchorage Museum
www.anchoragemuseum.org

The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center
www.alaska.si.edu

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