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Support Grant-in-Aid

The Governor’s Office has eliminated the Grant-In-Aid program from their budget as one of the many cuts they proposed statewide. YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED to advocate for the program. See our blog post for a template letter and information about how to send.

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Support Museums Alaska when you shop!

You can support Museums Alaska when you shop on Amazon. Visit smile.amazon.com for more details.

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Museum Snapshot Day

Curator of Education Jill Lipka fills a whale tooth mold for a scrimshaw education program. Kodiak Historical Society & Baranov Museum.

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Museum Snapshot Day

Two staff members working on the installation of “Behind the Lens: 6 Juneau Photographers.” Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Juneau.

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Museum Snapshot Day

Victoria McDonald weaving a Ravenstail piece at the last Open Craft Night of the season. Ketchikan Museums.

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Museum Snapshot Day

Processing oversize archival materials into flat-file cases at Sitka National Historical Park.

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Advocacy vs. Neutrality: Katelyn Dickerson

This article was written by 2017 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund scholarship recipient Katelyn Dickerson.

The 2017 Museums Alaska Conference held in Anchorage revolved around the central them of social discourse in public institutions. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site senior vice president, Sean Kelly, explored this idea in his keynote address and break-off session. The question of advocacy versus neutrality is not which is better; it is what do these ideas mean and how do we employ them? How do we, as institutions, properly advocate for an idea while still remaining comprehensive, respected, educational organizations? Neutrality is a contradiction within itself. As long as exhibits are human-made, the inherent bias of man will be present.

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In the sessions I attended regarding advocacy, the overwhelming sentiment was that museums should be advocates. Despite this consensus among the attending museum representatives, it was also clear that it was much easier said than done. Attendees were at a bit of a loss as to how to take on controversial topics within the unique Alaskan landscape. Museums in Alaskan communities struggle with the isolation and community pressures associated with living in small, close-knit, often politically-divided towns. The break-off session facilitated by Kelly on Saturday afternoon highlighted the shared apprehension surrounding controversial topics within museums and why that might look different in Alaska.

Kelly had the group use an anonymous text-in program to survey the break-off session participants. As a whole, we found that the professionals in the room were primarily left-leaning, while we saw our communities and boards were much more diverse, if not right-leaning. This discord in itself is an issue echoed across the museum community and pulls into question adequate reflection of museum visitors, particularly socio, political, and economic diversity in staff. How do we make up for the fact that often-times like-minded individuals are creating ideas for the public? Naturally the first step is to acknowledge this disconnect and be aware of potential personal and institutional biases. Awareness leads to educated exhibits and an institutional honesty. If we are honest with ourselves about personal and institutional biases our interpretation will likewise be honest to our audience.

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A word cloud made with words professionals in the break-off session felt best decribed how they feel after the session regarding controversial subjects.

Making the conscious, institutional change to advocacy as opposed to neutrality is difficult and can seem overwhelming. Several institutions including the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site and the Juneau Douglas City Museum found that highlighting particular artists who made social statements within their artwork, was a more passive way of advocating. The artist took a position, but the institution chose the artist; although the focus of the audience is on the artist the statement is in reality a joint collaboration with the institution.

As museum professionals push their institutions and their audiences to re-understand museums as living, educational centers who have an active role in present day conversations, the professional community must likewise strive for open communication and support. The 2017 Museums Alaska Conference identified this burgeoning role of museums and gave Alaskan professionals the platform to discuss the realities of advocacy in a changing world.

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Juneau-Douglas City Museum Seeks Museum Director

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

37.5 hours per week
$58,383.00 – $62,283.00 Annually (DOQ)
(Note: This position is in-eligible for overtime pay)

This is a fully benefited position. The City and Borough of Juneau offers a competitive
salary package that includes the opportunity for regular wage increases, an excellent
health insurance program, paid leave, and retirement credit through PERS (Public
Employees’ Retirement System).

Under general direction, coordinates, implements and manages the program planning, development and operation of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and supervises staff performing functions related to collection management, exhibits and educational programming. This position also develops and monitors the budget and long range plans and serves as a liaison with community and civic agencies and professional organizations.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college with a major in Museum Studies, History, Anthropology, Fine Arts, Art History, English, Communication, or a related liberal arts field.


Two (2) years of professional level museum, archives, or library experience; AND

One (1) year of supervisory experience. (May be gained concurrently).

Substitution: Graduate coursework in Museum Studies, Museum Sciences, Museology, or a closely related field may be substituted for appropriate museum experience on a year for year basis. There is no substitution for the supervisory experience.

For the full job description and information on how to apply, see the Job Announcement (PDF).

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A Letter from Our President

Dear Museums Alaska Members,

Last year was a busy and productive year for Museums Alaska. I want to thank our Executive Director, Della Hall, the Museums Alaska board, and our membership for making 2017 such a great one. This year, we will be building on many of the efforts that we started last year, and I want to provide our members with a summary of some of our major accomplishments in 2017 as well as what we hope to accomplish in 2018. The following could not have been accomplished without the financial support of your Museums Alaska membership, so thank you for your continued support.

Our Advocacy Committee worked hard to push bills to establish a Museum Construction Grant Program (SB7 and HB166). This effort stalled, but we will continue this legislative advocacy work in 2018. We are also currently pushing for our members to advocate for the Grant-In-Aid program, which has been removed from the Governor’s proposed budget. Please see this link to see how you can advocate for the Grant-In-Aid Program.

Museums Alaska held three rounds of grants for the Art Acquisition Fund (AAF) and Collections Management Fund (CMF) programs in 2017. We disbursed $204,778 in AAF funding to 17 museums for the purchase of 52 pieces of artwork, and $145,222 in CMF funding to 26 museums for 33 collections improvement projects.

As you all know, we are making changes to the AAF and CMF grant programs. Last year, with support from Rasmuson Foundation, we worked with Gail Anderson & Associates to evaluate the AAF and CMF programs. Many members and Alaskan artists participated in this evaluation and for that we are extremely grateful. Based on the results of this evaluation, we are working to make focused changes to these grant programs to better serve the needs of Alaskan museums. This spring we will be applying for a multi-year Tier II grant from Rasmuson to continue this program. If our grant application is successful, we aim to resume these grant programs in fall 2018.

Last spring, the board formed an ad hoc Bylaws Revision Committee to revise our bylaws, something we do every five years. The committee sent the draft of the proposed bylaws as amended to the membership, who voted in favor of the revisions. Thanks to everyone who voted!

Also last spring, the board created an ad hoc committee to focus on rebranding, redesigning our website with increased features for our members, and the creation of a permanent joint conference website. The committee posted an RFP to select a designer for this work. We plan to work on these efforts during our in-person board meeting this March.

Last fall, we held a successful joint Museums Alaska and Alaska Historical Society conference in Anchorage, with over 200 registrants. The theme of the conference was “Social Discourse: Responding to Our Communities,” and keynote speaker Sean Kelley of Eastern State Penitentiary gave an inspiring talk about neutrality in museums. Museums Alaska provided approximately $4,900 in conference scholarships to support seven members’ attendance at the conference.

Earlier this winter, we conducted a survey to determine how we can better serve our membership. Our Membership Committee will be working to review the results of this survey and make changes to increase our offerings to our membership as much as possible. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

Museums Alaska has a volunteer board, and we get much of our work done by committee. We have 10 standing committees as well as a handful of ad hoc committees at any given time. Committees are made up of board members and members at large who call into committee meetings from all over the state. I would like to thank all of our members who volunteer on various committees and welcome all members to join any committees you may be interested in. Please contact Della Hall at director@museumsalaska.org if you are interested in joining any of our committees.

Our memberships run the calendar year from January 1 through December 31, so please don’t forget to renew your membership this spring. Your membership, as well as any additional donation you choose to make to Museums Alaska, is tax deductible and supports Museums Alaska’s mission.

Looking forward to an exciting and productive year ahead!

Molly Conley
President, Museums Alaska

Letter from the President 1.25.2018

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Using Partnerships, Advocacy, and Art to Tackle Controversy: Rachelle Bonnett

As we enter our 2018 conference planning season, take a moment to read this guest post from Museums Alaska member and 2017 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund Scholarship recipient Rachelle Bonnett.

The theme of social discourse and a museum’s role in moderating important and often controversial conversations within our communities is something we have all thought of at one point or another, but this conference allowed all of us to work through these ideas with a fine-toothed comb. Many of the sessions I attended touched on the subject of advocacy in some way and while each of them had a different topic of discussion, I picked out the relevant bits that help me see a clear path to make a difference at a local level.

The first session I went to presented ideas on how organizations can best achieve goals by collectively working together with other organizations in the area. The presenters pointed out that since museums are a reflection of the community, the question we must always ask ourselves is: how can we take community issues and be a place to help and inform, to better the people we serve? This session reinforced the idea that we shouldn’t be competing with each other, instead we should be working together through partnerships. When forming these partnerships, we should consider the following:

1. What are our resources?
2. What are our priorities?
3. What are the resources our prospective partners can offer?
4. What are their priorities?
5. How can we help each other achieve goals?

During another session, Sean Kelley from Eastern State Penitentiary gave us all inspiration to educate and engage our communities in discussion on difficult topics. After unveiling and dissecting all the possible barriers preventing us from advocating, he encouraged us to avoid being neutral and to not be afraid to take risks with exhibits and programming. He provided us with seven lessons he’s learned regarding advocacy vs. neutrality in museums:

1. It’s not about you, it’s about the visitors – meet them where they are
2. Decide if you are trying to:
a. deepen conversation among existing advocates or
b. connect with visitors who aren’t currently concerned about the issue (choose this one)
3. Don’t tell visitors you’re advocating
4. Don’t focus on language
5. Data can help sway internal stakeholders
6. Front line staff have good reason to worry
7. The sky isn’t going to fall

During a session discussion on Saturday, many of us spoke about our experiences bringing controversial issues to light through exhibitions at our institutions. At this point, with the echoing of advocacy in museum exhibits and programming throughout the conference, this final session seemed to tie everything together. Many of us noted that because our respective museums are funded through state or municipal government, the ability of controversial issues to be a central part of programming is somewhat limited.

However, one session attendee pointed out that one possible way to work around this road-block is by hosting monthly rotating exhibits. While not all artists make work about difficult subjects related to issues affecting the local community or community-at-large, some of them do. She referenced a small exhibit at the Anchorage Museum, curated by artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs, as an example of how artists can be the catalyst for bringing these issues to light in a way that isn’t coming directly from the host institution. In this exhibit, Sonya took traditional objects from a handful of Alaska Native culture groups and used them to confront contemporary issues of alcoholism, suicide, and abuse. By offering a space for artists to exhibit, we can better allow those in our community to engage in controversial and difficult subject matter in a safe space.

I left the conference thinking differently about the role that museums and local nonprofits play in engaging our communities in issues that affect us all, empowered by the experience of others. After returning to Juneau, I was asked what I took away from the conference. I would respond with a short summary, reciting the following major points: “We should work collectively (as individuals and organizations) to achieve goals, offer space for artists to exhibit their work, encourage discussion and engagement in locally relevant issues, and don’t be afraid to advocate.”

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Fred Machetanz lithographic prints on display at the Anchorage Museum during the Museums Alaska conference, 2017.

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Act Now: Museum and Library Services Act of 2017

S. 2271, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2017, was introduced by Senator Reed (D-RI) on Thursday, December 21st in the United States Senate. Senator Lisa Murkowski, an original co-sponsor of the measure, said, “I am a huge fan of libraries and museums. They enrich our communities, engage Americans of all ages in continued learning, increase economic opportunities, and sustain our values and cultures. The Museum and Library Services Act will help to strengthen the already amazing libraries and museums across Alaska. I am proud to introduce this bill with Senator Reed as it will help Alaska’s diverse libraries and museums advance, further enable the professionals and volunteers who dedicate their energies to these institutions, and improve services for their patrons. I am grateful to Senator Reed for including recommendations from Alaska’s library and museum community and for including provisions that expand support for and consultation with tribal libraries and museums.”

This act reauthorizes federal support for libraries and museums through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. IMLS awards the Alaska State Library $950K each year. These federal funds are used for Alaska Mail Services; the 800# ILL Backup Service; Talking Books for visually impaired Alaskans; databases on SLED; the director of the Alaska Library Network; the Ready to Read Resource Center; continuing education reimbursement grants for public and school libraries; a mix of training workshops for libraries; and a variety of smaller grants made to individual libraries.

What you can do:

1. Thank Senator Murkowski for her co-sponsorship of this bill. You may want to mention how these federal funds have impacted your library, which receives support through the services listed above. We are lucky to have her support as this bill starts its legislative journey. The Senator’s email form is at: https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/contact/email

2. Ask Senator Sullivan to vote for S. 2271 when it arrives in the Senate. The Senator’s email form is at: https://www.sullivan.senate.gov/contact/email

3. Ask Representative Young to vote on the forthcoming house companion bill to S. 2271. The Representative’s email form is at: https://donyoung.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/

Remember, the passage of a bill is a marathon, not a sprint. This is the first step in a marathon to continue federal support of libraries and museums.

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Hammer Museum Seeks Intern

The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska is now accepting applications for their 2018 summer internship program.

The museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the hammer, man’s first tool. With over 2,000 hammers on display, this small museum makes a big impression. From May to September we receive over 5,000 visitors who are just as eclectic as this quirky community.

Hammer Museum interns have the opportunity to learn all about small museum functions. Interns will lead interpretive tours, research and catalog museum collections, develop exhibits, and help manage social media and marketing. Interns will also complete special projects throughout the summer. Intern projects can in part be determined by the intern depending on here interests. Projects may grant writing, fundraising, event planning, and research.

Desired Qualifications:

  • Currently working on a history , education, or museum studies degree
  • Interest in tools
  • 4 month commitment starting mid-May
  • Proficient with Word and social media sites
  • PastPerfect experience


  • $125 weekly stipend
  • Basic housing

If you are interested in learning about hammers, gaining hands-on museum experience, all while exploring beautiful Alaska, please submit a your letter describing your qualifications and interest. Include your current resume and two letters of reference to  director@hammermuseum.org by Friday, February 16th 2018.

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Congratulations AAF and CMF Round 3 Awardees

Thanks to generous funding from Rasmuson Foundation, institutions across the state received awards through the Art Acquisition Fund and Collections Management Fund programs this Winter.


Alaska Aviation Museum $9,678.40
Alaska State Museum $8,000
Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository $1,007.93
Cordova Historical Society and Museum $2,776
Kodiak Historical Society and Baranov Museum $3,114.80
Kodiak Maritime Museum and Art Center $3,154.80
Resurrection Bay Historical Society, Inc. $2,378.35
Sitka Historical Society, Inc. $3154.05
Talkeetna Historical Society $5740


Alaska Aviation Museum $1,200
Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository $4,800
Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum $1,000
Ketchikan Museums $4,700
Palmer Museum of History and Art $30,000
Sealaska Heritage Institute $10,000

Please read this letter from the Museums Alaska Board of Directors regarding important changes to the 2018 grant cycle. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Della or one of our board members.