Updated 3/19/2020 11:27am.
The American Alliance of Museums has calculated that museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19, will be in desperate need of significant federal support and that we needed to urge the U.S. Congress to include at least $4 billion for nonprofit museums in economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance through June. Museums Alaska has signed on to this letter urging Congress to support museums.
Take Action TODAY: Use this information to craft your own letter, or use the template shared on AAM's website. Find your legislators' contact information here.
The American Alliance of Museums has also signed on to a letter urging Congress to include museums and other nonprofits in any COVID-19 economic stimulus packages. Read the letter in full here. Find your legislators' contact information here.
Our Advocacy Task Force, in partnership with the Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services, conducted a quick survey of Alaska museums to gather requested information for Congressional Representative Don Young's office. The results of this survey were conveyed in this letter from Museums Alaska to Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Representative Don Young. Full text of the letter is also below.
March 18, 2020
Museums of all sizes are experiencing closures. To prevent or slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on March 16, 2020 Governor Dunleavy ordered all museums, libraries and archives to close initially until March 31, 2020. Until the crisis is under control, longer closers could occur. Each year, more than 1.86 million visitors come to Alaska museums. The museum industry in Alaska directly supports 300 jobs and generates $280 million financial impact on the economy in Alaska. Right now 116 museums in the State of Alaska are closed. On March 17, Museums Alaska issued a quick survey to museums to determine the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the Alaska museum community. The 34 respondents indicated that there are both immediate, short-term, and long-term impacts to this pandemic. Seven respondents indicated they have immediate needs for cash to make payroll and pay rent at their facilities. The 14 respondents that calculated projected financial losses due to closures estimate that they will lose $3,392,000 this summer. These are the projected losses for only 14 of the 116 Alaska museums. Front of the house staff are being laid off or furloughed. Programs, tours and events are being cancelled. Revenue generating efforts, such as general admission, store sales, facility rentals, programmatic fees, are all stopped. In fact refunds are being processed. With the decline in oil prices, the suspension of Cruise ship visitors, and the overall fear of travel word wide, Alaska museum are facing a perfect storm of being able to sustain themselves. Additionally, as the stock market continues to falter, donors are reassessing their charitable donations. Any economic stimulus needs to include Museums.
On a positive note, museums are the most trusted source of information in America, rated higher than local papers, nonprofit researchers, the US government, or academic researchers. Museums can take advantage of this high level of public trust to provide education on COVID-19 and fight misinformation about its spread.
What our members are saying
Here are some of the written responses that we received from Alaska museum directors:
“We can only afford to pay staff through the end of the month and are unable to pay rent effective immediately.”
“With no [museum] tours, there will be very little jobs to hire for. This has a major impact on the community of Klukwan, a community of below 90, as we hire about 30 people annually. This economic disruption could affect upward of a third of the community. Annual winter programming relies on summer revenues, so next winter, we will not be able to offer cultural camps, vital to the Tlingit culture.”
“We were already facing an unrelated budget crisis, so COVID-19 has suddenly put us into a battle for survival.”
“We are a designated federal and state repository and the largest of its kind in Alaska. Our collections require ongoing care and maintenance of the facility (for example, liquid nitrogen vats) and we cannot simply close the doors and walk away. In order to preserve these state and federal resources, financial help is required.”
“Since no cruise ships, most likely there will be no income for the year (since almost all income tied to tourism).”
“We would benefit from grants and donations to cover overhead costs until the crisis ends.”
Effective Friday, May 8th, all libraries, archives, and museums may reopen to the public following health guidelines.
In order to Reopen Alaska Responsibly new guidance for libraries, museums, and archives: https://covid19.alaska.gov/reopen/
Scroll down to the link for libraries, museums, and archives to view this guidance document: https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/05222020-Phase-III-IV-016-Attachment-O-Libraries-Museums-Archives.pdf
Alaska museum directors have received an invitation to take part in a monthly survey to gauge the economic impacts of the museum closures and tourism fallout. The survey will open at the beginning of the month and close on the 15th of the month. The data will be shared with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to track changes over time. This data will help Alaska museums with advocacy and understand how we can help one another during this time. Please contact us if you have not received the survey link and believe you should have.
The most recent survey results can be found here.
The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has released a directory of resources and recommendations for museums with regard to the growing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the United States. View these resources here.
AAM has most recently released information regarding preparing for reopening. View this resource here.
The Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services maintains a directory of resources for emergency and crisis, including important updated resources for COVID-19.
The Foraker Group has created a page of resources to support Alaska's nonprofits during this time. View these resources here.
The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training has shared this resource on disinfecting cultural resources.
SBA Loans for Nonprofits
The Small Business Association is making low-interest loans available to non-profits affected by coronavirus. Learn more here.
Included in the above link is information about the following:
NEA CARES Act Funding
The National Endowment for the Arts will award funding to award recipients from the past 4 years. Learn more here.
The Alaska State Council on the Arts will receive a portion of this federal funding, and will update their website with more information when it becomes available.
IMLS CARES Act Funding
The Institute for Museum and Library Services has granted $66,000 of the CARES Act funding to Alaska, with the funding to be distributed by the Alaska State Library Administrative Agency. Further information about opportunities to access this funding are forthcoming. Interested organizations are encouraged to sign up for the akmuseums listserv (see below) for rapid updates.
Funding opportunities for museums were announced Friday, May 8th. Learn more here: https://www.imls.gov/news/15-million-imls-cares-act-grants-now-available-museum-and-library-services
NEH CARES Act Funding
The National Endowment for the Humanities announced the NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations grant program. This grant will fund at-risk humanities positions and projects. The deadline to apply is May 11. Learn more here.
Alaska Humanities Forum Grants
The Alaska Humanities Forum Emergency Relief Grant program is now accepting applications. Institutions can apply for up to $10,000. The first deadline was May 1, though applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the funding is exhausted. Learn more about this grant program and apply here.
WESTAF CARES Relief Funding
WESTAF CARES Relief Fund for Organizations is a competitive grant program, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020. The WESTAF CARES Relief Fund provides general operating support to eligible arts and culture organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.
ACF Rapid Response Grants
The Alaska Community Foundation is offering a Rapid Response grant, with a quick deadline of April 10th. There will be more than one opportunity to apply for this grant, so check back on their website.
State of Alaska CARES Act Funding
The State of Alaska is opening up applications for a $290 million small business and nonprofit grant program. Learn more here.
The National Council of Nonprofits has created a helpful chart to help guide you in understanding the above opportunities.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a useful PDF to explain eligibility and frequently asked questions.
The American Alliance of Museums has calculated that museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to closures as a result of COVID-19, will be in desperate need of significant federal support. Please urge the U.S. Congress to include museums in economic relief legislation to provide emergency assistance.
Take Action TODAY: Use the template shared on AAM's website to share your message with congress. Find your legislators' contact information here.
Use this infographic to convey the impact on Alaska's museums.
Museums Alaska will be holding a "distance networking" event every other week on Thursdays at 12:00pm. Join to check in with your colleagues (from a safe distance!) using Zoom meeting software. If there are many participants, we will assign participants into "breakout rooms". Find the event details here.
Make sure you are signed up to receive updates from Museums Alaska: http://eepurl.com/dakc55
Make sure you are signed up for the AKMuseums Listserv: http://list.state.ak.us/mailman/listinfo/akmuseums
Use #museumfromhome on social media, and check out what others are doing by searching with that hashtag!
Museum From Home
Museums Alaska partnered with the Alaska State Museum to create a list of ways people can engage with museums right now. Please share this list with your community. View it here.
The Alaska State Museum Office of Statewide Services maintains a calendar of opportunities for Alaska museums, including many new virtual or distance opportunities to support museums in response to COVID-19. The resources can be found here.
Museums Alaska is also currently piloting a series of webinars. Information and registration for those can be found here.
When a History Museum Closes by AASLH Committee on Professional Standards and Ethics
Making a Good End: How to Close a Museum, a Connecting to Collections Care resource
Museums Facing Closure: Legal and Ethical Issues, a Museums Association resource
This article was written by 2019 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund Scholarship recipient Angela Linn. Read more from Angela on her blog here.
The 2019 Museums Alaska / Alaska Historical Society Joint Annual conference marked the 20-year anniversary of my first trip to Kodiak. Back in September of 1999, I was fortunate enough to receive funding to attend a workshop co-hosted by the Smithsonian’s Center for Museum Studies and the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological repository, entitled “MUSEUMS and NATIVE PEOPLE: Audiences, Community and Collaborations.” At that time, I was literally just transitioning from being a 27-year-old graduate student assistant working for the University of Alaska Museum part time, to being a full-time benefitted staff member – my first “real” professional job. Looking through my pages of notes and the printed agenda with articles shared during that workshop, I find it compelling that many of those topics continue to be important today and in fact, were echoed at many of the Museums Alaska sessions I attended.
Our keynote address on Thursday morning by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko entitled “Discomfort & Renewal: Decolonizing the Museum” introduced many in the room to the concept of decolonization. This is a sometimes-controversial approach to various disciplines that seeks to transform institutions created by western power structures by acknowledging centuries of abuse at worst, and systematic exclusion at best. Catlin-Legutko described her personal experiences at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine as she worked with her board to eventually arrive at an organizational process aimed at sharing authority, privileging local knowledge, and truth-telling for the local Wabenaki people. As I review my notes from that keynote and compare them to those from the 1999 workshop, similar concepts catch my eye. The Indigenous participants at the workshop expressed a desire to represent their own stories in their own words, but recognized not everyone in their communities had the same perspective of that shared history. Alaska’s communities grapple with our colonial history, manifested as often battling perspectives on the Russian occupation, the value or detriment of European and American anthropologists and collectors removing early examples of material culture, assimilative education policies including English-only boarding schools, and the generational trauma resulting from those 150+ years of mistreatment and restriction of power. Catlin-Legutko reminded us that decolonization is one of many processes and approaches we might employ to make our museums, and communities, more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive. Museums and their staff operate from a position of privilege and often within a structure that (perhaps unknowingly) has supported institutional racism over the years. Participants in my 1999 workshop reminded each other that first we must avoid exclusion, and only then can we move on to inclusion. It’s a subtle but important distinction that is worth our time to consider deeply.
Ellen Carrlee’s excellent session on “Indigenous Participatory Collections Care” was the perfect follow-up session to the keynote, with her insightful and introspective examination of the traditional field of conservation and their thirteen points from AIC’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. Ellen provided a number of examples from Alaska museums where conservation projects employed a collaborative approach with local and Indigenous knowledge holders to both promote a high level of collections care while also respecting traditional approaches and needs of Indigenous community members. She admitted to her own feelings of discomfort over a Chilkat robe project where her local weaver took a more aggressive approach to the care of the tassels than Ellen was prepared for. This served as an excellent example of how, as part of the decolonizing approach advocated for by many professionals, we can learn to give up some control over our collections and share authority with those whose knowledge can provide a more culturally-appropriate way to achieve our mission. The 1999 workshop attendees suggested museums come up with projects to break down barriers, and that the use of local experts for highly specialized tasks like this acknowledges that oral and practiced knowledge is as valid as that gained through academic and professional training.
As a current Interdisciplinary PhD candidate at UAF working on a museum studies project, I was particularly interested to hear from Selena Ortega-Chiolero and Bethany Buckingham-Follett in their session entitled “Spirit and Vision at IAIA: An Indigenous Approach to the Field of Museum Studies.” They were joined telephonically by Asst. Professor and Department Chair Felipe Estudillo Colón from Santa Fe as he presented the guiding principles and goals of the museum studies program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). This unique undergraduate and online certificate program centers their philosophy on teaching a balance of practical skills needed to become a museum professional while encouraging their students’ ability to analyze various models of cultural stewardship. Faculty foster the exploration of “uncharted and expressive directions in the field of museology” while giving opportunities for hands-on learning in a wide range of museum settings. Both Selena and Bethany spoke with excitement about the online program as an opportunity to expand their knowledge in museology on their own time, while specifically being provided with examples centered in Indigenous cultural centers rather than the standard western museums often cited in traditional museological texts. The AIAI program is inspiring as we at UAF look at re-invigorating our Museum Studies courses and consider how we can create a curriculum firmly based in northern topics, including Alaska Native pedagogy.
In considering such work, I am inspired again by the attendees of the 1999 workshop who suggested concrete actions to help museum staff be more culturally-responsive:
These suggestions sound very similar to what our keynote speakers, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko and 1999 workshop attendee Sven Haakanson, Jr., promoted in their final panel together: consider who we, as museum professionals, are serving and how we can prioritize their needs. Museum professionals of the 21st century must be true to our mission, while also creating safe spaces for diverse audiences, avoid exclusion, demand accessibility, and seek out opportunities for equity. It is no small task – but I have confidence in my Alaska peers that we are fully capable of not just meeting these demands, but of leading the way.
The Alutiiq Building, home of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository.
This article was written by Museums Alaska member Leslie Fried, who is the Curator at the Alaska Jewish Museum.
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip back to the East Coast where I grew up. It turned out to be a time not only for visiting relatives, but also some of those places that were important influences on me as a child and young adult.
I went to Jones Beach and Tobay Beach on Long Island where I spent long summer days swimming and collecting shells. I also visited my 101- year-old Aunt Mildred in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn where I honed my curatorial skills by recording family stories on my Tascam DR-100 digital recorder, a device similar to the one I use at the Alaska Jewish Museum for doing oral histories. It is easy to operate and very unobtrusive. Needless-to-say, some of my aunt’s memories were a revelation!
Sharing stories was a common thread on this trip as I got together with a high school friend from Frankfurt, Germany that I hadn’t seen in 53 years. We spent quite a bit of time in Manhattan exploring the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Metropolitan Museum. She found it fun that her best friend from 10th grade could quite easily guide her through the paintings, drawings and prints with ease, familiarity and back stories. Shamelessly, I basked in the glory!
Every year or so I revisit certain art pieces that have influenced me throughout my life, and this time was no different. I made a pilgrimage to Giacometti’s “Palace at 4 A.M.,” an assemblage at MOMA that I have found evocative since my teenage years (above). At the Met, I visited some of my favorite Greek figurines in the Greek and Roman galleries (below). These tiny sculptures influenced me greatly during my years as a decorative painter and plasterer in Seattle.
My trip ended in Philadelphia where I visited the National Museum of American Jewish History where my sister Susan and I were treated to a private tour with the Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, Josh Perelman, on the same day that the exhibit, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginzburg, was being taken down. The Museum’s core exhibit, Dreams of Freedom, that chronicles the Jewish experience in America dating back to the 1500’s was wonderfully curated but made no mention of the Jewish experience in Alaska. I therefore decided upon my return to Anchorage that I would contact Mr. Perelman about doing a presentation in Philly next winter when I visit again. A traveling exhibit is also a possibility.
Image 1: Palace at 4 a.m. by Alberto Giacometti. (Swiss, 1901–1966) 1932. Wood, glass, wire, and string, 25 x 28 1/4 x 15 3/4" (63.5 x 71.8 x 40 cm)
Image 2: Greek Terracotta Figurines, 3rd to 4th Century B.C
Friends and Colleagues,
Museums Alaska has exciting plans for 2020. This year will be different than last year, with new opportunities for professional education. Why? Because you asked for it! Recent surveys show that our members want more training, in new formats, and on a broad range of topics. We’ve taken your requests to heart and are planning a series of webinars and a special annual meeting this year. We are also re-imagining our annual conference. Museums Alaska will meet in Valdez in 2021 and we are starting to plan a gathering with longer format sessions and workshops—so we can learn even more from each other.
Here’s a look ahead.
Museums Alaska 2020
Museums Alaska 2021
Advocacy Fly-In, Juneau, January 2021
As always, we value your ideas. We know that many people would like longer conference sessions, workshops, and access to content online. As we plan for Valdez, let us know what topics you would like covered. Or join our program committee and help to plan the conference.
Looking forward to working with you,
Della Hall, Executive Director
Dear Alaska Census Taker,
You know why your work taking the census matters for the future of Alaska. The data you collect will determine federal funding, state and federal political representation, and more.
However, have you considered how much your work matters to history? My job is to help museums across Alaska, and let me tell you, the census is a HUGE help to curators, historians, genealogists, and many other kinds of researchers who rely on census data to understand the past. The census is an essential primary source in Alaska, as it provides an unparalleled snapshot in time.
I want to show you a few census pages from 1900 to show you how we use the census to understand Alaska’s past.
This census record on the left was taken in 1900 in Nome and illustrates that people came from all over the country and world to mine a Bering Sea beach. Not one person on this entire page has a home address in Alaska. Census officials clearly presumed that this would be the case across Alaska when they designed the questions, as another census question asks a person to differentiate between their profession at home and their profession in Alaska. Those answers indicate that many of Nome’s residents in 1900 were novice miners, who spent their professional lives in the Lower 48 working as electricians, farmers, carpenters. From this single census page, we see evidence of how the allure of gold infected the country and resulted in waves of inexperienced individuals travelling from afar with the hopes of striking a lode.
Many are familiar with the story of Nome. However, the census also captures communities, individuals, and data points that otherwise might be absent from the historical record.
Below you will see a 1900 census sheet from Klukwan, a Tlingit village in northern Southeast Alaska. This record is meaningful for genealogy, as descendants can find their ancestors listed by their Tlingit names. Moreover, the census sheet shows us the vibrant economy of Klukwan—a place where nearly all were engaged in artistic production as a means of making a living. For example, Cheesach was a blanket weaver, making Chilkat robes. We see that Trakowish was a canoe maker. We see that many people in Klukwan made their livelihoods from beadwork. This data provides a documentary record of the meaningful artistic legacy of Klukwan.
My dear census taker, I hope that these examples show you that with each census entry you record, you are creating a historically valuable document.
As you make your rounds, consider that you are but the most recent in a line of Alaska census takers that reaches back to 1880. One hundred and forty years ago, census taker Ivan Petroff (pictured here) sailed, rowed, hiked, and dogsledded across Alaska to count residents. Every ten years since, your enumerating predecessors went from mining claim to cannery, from fish camp to fox farm, from military base to village, recording Alaska’s population in fair weather and in foul.
What persists across those 140 years is your service. Thank you for counting Alaskans now and in so doing, creating a reliable snapshot in time that people generations from now will study and appreciate. Thank you for your role in making Alaska history.
Nome 1900 census page
Caption: The census taken in Nome in 1900 indicates the large number of people who were temporarily in Nome to take part in what was for them a temporary occupation—mining.
Klukwan 1900 census page
Caption: The census taken in Klukwan in 1900 demonstrates the long-lasting artistic legacy of this Tlingit village.
Ivan Petroff takes the census
Caption: Ivan Petroff takes the 1890 census on Kodiak Island. Petroff was involved in the 1880 census, as well. From Robert Porter, Report on the Population and Resources of Alaska (Washington, DC: GPO, 1893).
For Immediate Release
DATE: January 30, 2020
END: February 25, 2020
Della Hall, Executive Director
Patricia Relay, Director
Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
In February, Michelle Cullen and Patricia Relay from the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive, and Della Hall and Selena Ortega-Chiolero from Museums Alaska will travel to Washington, D.C. to join hundreds of museum professionals from across the country for Museums Advocacy Day, hosted by the American Alliance of Museums, February 24 & 25, 2020. The purpose of the visit is to share the important work that museums do with their legislators.
Joined by over 300 museum leaders and professionals from across the country, Cullen, Relay, Hall, and Ortega-Chiolero are proud to be attending Advocacy Day. After past years’ Museums Advocacy Day visits, all Alaskan legislators have joined in support of continued funding for important federal grant programs and agencies that support museums.
In Alaska we have over 100 museums, cultural centers, and historic properties that preserve and exhibit our history. Rooted in their communities, they are anchor institutions that deliver education services, research opportunities, exhibit local art and culture; provide public programs, and generate revenue through cultural tourism.
Alaska’s cultural affiliations and geographic distances are immense. Federally supported grants are vital to our cultural organizations, especially in remote communities such as Valdez. Valdez, population 3800 has one venue in which artists can exhibit their work. It is only through the Alaska State Council on the Arts Community Arts Development Grant, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, that the Valdez Museum can provide a venue for local and regional artists.
The American Alliance of Museums’ publication Museums as Economic Engines: A National Report, is an unprecedented economic study to quantify the economic value and impact of museums nationwide. Researched and prepared in partnership with Oxford Economics with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this comprehensive report outlines the economic benefit of museums, including jobs, direct spending, and supply-chain effects. Museums support their communities, and create jobs and wages that are vital to the health of their hometowns.
Relay stated, “Gathering in Washington DC each year with museum professionals to advocate for the field from around the country has been such a wonderful and beneficial experience. The fact that our little delegation travels so far to make a case for the important work that museums do in Alaska highlights our dedication to the field. I am so thankful for to Alaska’s representation for their recognition of this effort and their willingness to meet with Alaska Museum professionals about supporting the arts and humanities in the great state of Alaska.”
Della Hall became the Executive Director of Museums Alaska in 2017. She holds an MA from University of Delaware in History and Museum Studies, a BS in History, Technology, and Society from Georgia Institute of Technology, and has worked with museums for over a decade. Hall has served on the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board, and currently serves on the board of the Coalition of State Museum Associations, which will hold its annual meeting at in conjunction with Museums Advocacy Day for the second time this year.
Selena Ortega-Chiolero has been the Museum Specialist for Chickaloon Native Village, an Ahtna Athabascan Tribe in Southcentral Alaska, since 2018. She holds degrees in Art History and Asian Studies from California State University, Sacramento, and is currently completing a Museum Studies indigenous certification program through the Institute of American Indian Arts. Selena has been part of the Alaska museum community for the past ten years working in a variety of areas including museum administration, development, curatorial, collections, exhibitions and programs. She is currently serving as the Board Secretary and Advocacy Task Force Leader for Museums Alaska.
Patricia Relay became the Executive Director of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive in 2010. With over 20 years of experience, she has a lifelong love of museums and cultural organization. She believes that museums and galleries are much more than places to store relics and artifacts. Museums serve as vital community resources that provide gathering places where thoughtful exhibits and educational opportunities co-exist, bringing communities together to learn, to play, and to delight in. Ms. Relay and her family moved to Valdez, Alaska from Bellingham, Washington in 2010. I cannot see myself anywhere else. Valdez is a wonderful place to call home. She Bachelor of Arts in Art History (2001) from Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration (2008) from Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland.
Michelle Cullen has been involved with the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive as a volunteer, summer programs director. She is retiring from the VMHA Board of Directors after 9 years of service and she will continue to volunteer and help with advocacy. She works as an adjunct professor at Prince William Sound College in Valdez where she teaches Solar System Astronomy. Michelle has been an advocate for the Museum in local, state and National venues. This is her 5th year participating in Museums Advocacy Day.
About the Valdez Museum:
The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive is an active place. We bring the stories of our community's history alive through our programs and activities.
For more information please visit our website at www.valdezmuseum.org or on Facebook and Twitter.
About Museums Alaska:
Museums Alaska supports museums and cultural centers in Alaska and enhances public understanding of their value. To accomplish its organizational purpose, Museums Alaska maintains a central office to receive and disburse information about museums, cultural centers and their activities, and to collect and share professional opportunities. Museums Alaska organizes an annual meeting to focus on the needs of Alaska museum professionals, volunteers, and their institutions.
For more information please visit our website at www.museumsalaska.org.
On January 1, 2020, Museums Alaska reached an important milestone. We hired our first, full-time employee. This is an administrative change. Support long furnished by a contractor will now be provided by a staff member. The Museums Alaska Board of Directors enacted this change to advance the organization’s mission and professionalize our practices. We are proud of this achievement and the stability it brings to Museums Alaska.
The development of a staff position was part of our organizational strategic plan and took several years to implement. Although there is no change in cost, Museums Alaska needed policies and procedures to support staff management. Under the leadership of past President Molly Conley, and current President Monica Garcia Itchoak, that work is now complete.
Della Hall, who has served as our contract Executive Director since February of 2017, has accepted the new staff position with the same title. She will continue to serve as Museums Alaska’s Executive Director from our office at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
Della came to Alaska in 2013, as an intern with the Alaska State Museum Grant-in-Aid program and has experience with museums across the state. She has worked for the Pioneer Air Museum, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Alaska & Polar Regions Collections & Archives at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Western History Association. She joined the Museums Alaska Board of Directors in 2015 and stepped down to become our Executive Director. She served on the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board and is a current board member for the Coalition of State Museum Associations.
Please help us say thank you to Della for her continued service. We are lucky to have a skilled and dedicated employee with a passion for Alaska’s museums. This change in position provides Della with the opportunity to more actively shape the work of Museums Alaska. We look forward to supporting her.
The Federal Public Buildings Reform Board, created by Congress in 2016 to identify and dispose of high-value Federal real estate, is recommending the sale of the building that houses the National Archives in Seattle. The report can be found at https://www.pbrb.gov/.
The records from the National Archives center in Anchorage were moved there when it closed in 2014. If the Seattle facility is closed, the closest NARA facility for Alaskans will be in San Francisco. The report indicates the archival records at Seattle will be moved near Riverside, California, and the federal agency records will be moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Alaska materials will be farther out of reach for researchers, students, attorneys, and government agencies.
Timeline: The Office of Management and Budget is expected to approve or reject the recommendations by the end of January 2020.
Please consider sending comments to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Representative Don Young by email through their webpages: murkowski.senate.gov; sullivan.senate.gov; donyoung.house.gov.
You may also send comments to the Public Buildings Reform Board by sending an email to email@example.com.
Lastly, you may contact the Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the webpage archives.gov.
The following article was written by 2019 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund conference scholarship recipient Randi Gryting.
At the AHS-MA 2019 Kodiak conference, I attended a workshop led by Ellen Carrlee, where I learned the value of detailed condition reporting. Information about an artifact that is collected and recorded can be a baseline for future comparison.
This data is invaluable because it can indicate that specific damage was pre-existing, that an object is actively deteriorating, that poor environmental conditions exist, or that the object is or is not suitable for loan or for exhibit. These recorded details can help identify a lost object or be the determining factor if there is confusion between two (or more) similar objects. The condition report can be part of the evidence if something is stolen. It may support an insurance claim, it might alert staff to look for a piece that is missing, and it can influence acquisition decision-making. Detailed condition reports may help plan improvements to preservation environments.
Carrlee explained that when filling out a condition report, it is important to be very thorough and to not use simple categories such as Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor to describe the artifacts. Broad categories like this are not sufficiently descriptive. Critical/Serious/Slightly Damaged/Stable Condition Currently are better choices; however, a complete description of every notable part of the object is desired. It is very helpful to use photographs and/or drawings to support the documentation. Photos may be printed and then drawn upon to show specific locations of damage or interest. The report should include dimensions - not just of the overall size of the object but also of a smaller, damaged section or area of interest.
The seminar highlighted that documenting current artifact conditions makes it easier to monitor any changes in the future. Words such as: “use-related wear” are important to note because it helps tell the story of the artifact. “Inherent vice” indicates normal deterioration such as: plastics yellow, glass weeps, etc. and may indicate that your object is not further deteriorated than another similar item.
While documenting damage, it is also recommended to document what is right or good about each artifact. Descriptions like “no missing bead-work,” “often missing but not this time,” and “no obvious evidence of insects or insect damage,” show that the artifact is superior in that area.
Finally, I learned that it is important to use words to indicate that we are not 100% sure about what we are describing. Phrases such as “might be,” “looks like,” “seems to be,” “probably,” “likely,” and “I feel really confident that…” etc. are appropriate because even experts are not sure about some things!
What a great workshop! This training will be useful in improving the quality of condition reports at the Talkeetna Historical Society and Museum. Thank you to the Donna Mathews Professional Development Fund for awarding me a scholarship enabling me to attend the conference!
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