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Museum Snapshot Day

Welcome to the Alaska celebration of International Museum Day! Museums and Cultural Centers across the state submitted photos on a single day: April 19, 2014. Explore this feature roll or browse the whole gallery on our Flickr site (click any image to the right).          -Ketchikan Museums children’s program “Grown on the Rock” (photo)

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Museum Snapshot Day

Alutiiq Museum:  Michael Bach works with Alutiiq Club members to record PSA in the Alutiiq language for KMXT Public Radio.

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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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Request for Proposals

Art Acquisition Fund & Collections Management Fund Program Assessment

Since the establishment of the AAF program, one formal evaluation has been conducted to determine whether and to what extent the program’s objectives were being met. That evaluation, conducted in 2011, looked at several aspects of the AAF program, including, but not limited to: administration, ability of museums to store and collect art, impacts within the artist community, and ways in which collecting practices changed as a result of the AAF program. Since the CMF program began in 2013, it has not been formally evaluated. This program assessment is intended to identify aspects of program design, structure, and process that can be improved.

Click here for the full Request for Proposals
Deadline is March 31, 2017

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Museums Alaska Hires New Director

Della profileMuseums Alaska has hired Della Hall of Fairbanks as its new executive director. The selection was made after a statewide search process. “The Board is thrilled to welcome Della to this position,” says Molly Conley, President of Museums Alaska. “Della has been an active and engaged member of our board since 2015. She is a strong leader, a great communicator, and an excellent problem solver. Della knows the needs of our organization and has no shortage of ideas for pushing us to the next level. ”

Hall, who holds an MA in History, with a Certificate in Museums Studies from the University of Delaware and a BS in History, Technology, and Society from the Georgia Institute of Technology, has worked in Alaska as an archivist with the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives, collections manager at the Pioneer Air Museum, curatorial assistant at the University of Alaska (UA) Museum of the North, and as a consultant at the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum. She will be responsible for providing a central office for Museums Alaska, administering two statewide grant programs, supporting Museums Alaska’s advocacy efforts, and assisting with the coordination of the annual conference held in conjunction with the Alaska Historical Society each fall.

Board member Angela Linn worked with Della at the UA Museum of the North for over two years: “Della is passionate about museums and has shown she is interested in helping to make Museums Alaska a more useful organization for a wider range of professionals. Museums Alaska is lucky to have her as our new Executive Director.”

Della follows outgoing director, Bianca Carpeneti, who leaves the position February 15. Bianca will continue her work with the Alaska Legislature and looks forward to helping out with Museums Alaska as an engaged member.

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Fellowship opportunity: Native American Fellowship

Native American Fellowship

Apply now for an 11-week, full-time, paid fellowship at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). February 10 is the deadline.

PEM seeks rising leaders in the museum field and nonprofit cultural sector for our exciting, newly Native American Fellowship Program. We are looking for graduate students and emerging cultural professionals of Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native backgrounds who are eager to develop the knowledge, skills and networks necessary to become 21st-century community and museum leaders.

Fellows work with PEM’s dynamic staff and gain access to a comprehensive perspective on the theory and practice of museum management. Weekly workshops, field trips, mentoring and in-depth engagement on museum projects support Fellows in sustaining their existing skills while cultivating their professional development needs.

Program offers stipend, housing and travel expenses. Academic credit is available upon official request.

Description of the program and all required application materials can be accessed at: http://pem.org/about/_employment/internships_fellowships/

(scroll to the bottom of the page to find the fellowships sections)

Please contact Jennifer Himmelreich (Diné), NAF Program Specialist, at jennifer_himmelreich(at)pem(dot)org or 978-542-1894 with any questions.

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Grant-writing for Museum Professionals

By Bianca Carpeneti

During the latest Western Museums Association conference, one of the many sessions I attended was “Grant-writing for Museum Professionals,” presented by Morgan Bishop (Grants Management, Arizona Community Foundation) and Ariel Weintraub (Institutional Giving Manager, Oakland Museum of California).  During the 75-minute workshop, we worked through a number of topics, questions, and ideas to consider when putting together a grant application.  I’ve summarized the major discussion points below.  Some of this may end up in your grant application itself, while some of it will be important to keep in mind while you answer particular questions in the grant application.

Start with the facts: assemble all the back ground information on your organization.  This may include but isn’t limited to: number of members, operating budget, community served, board membership list, IRS nonprofit status documentation, and organizational mission.  This sort of organizational information will likely be required for all your grant applications, so having it in one place is useful.

Grant title:  It’s important for this to convey the purpose of the grant—it doesn’t need to be witty.  Consider how you might include the who, where, what, why, and how of your project.

What separates you from other organizations?  Take some time to consider what makes your organization distinct and why the grantor should consider your organization a worthy recipient for an award.

Goals and objectives: these are both important, and we discussed a distinction between the two.

  • Goals: grand, big-picture, and mission-based.
  • Objectives: focus more on the nuts and bolts; try to include an action (verb), the units (how many?), and the population (description/clarification).

A strong proposal will include both big-picture goals and detail-oriented objections.  Be sure to take the time to think through yours and keep them in mind as you build your application.

Aims: What are you trying to accomplish with the proposed project?  This is a chance to dig a little deeper into the objective(s) that you identified in the section above.  Be specific.

Needs/barriers:  What need(s) does your project address?  Why does this make your project significant?  For example, maybe your community doesn’t have a conservator and your grant is to bring a conservator in to help with a project.  The need in this case is expert conservation assistance and your project is meeting that need by facilitating a visit from a conservator.

Additionally, you might take a moment to consider: what are the challenges you may face in executing the proposed project?  Most any project is bound to run into difficulties—take some time to think about what those might be for yours, and how you could address them?  Demonstrating that you’ve considered the project thoroughly shows you’ve done your homework.

Final thoughts/tips: During the session, we discussed writing advice effective grant applications.  By the end, we had identified some of our group’s most important tips.  I’ve included it below for you to peruse.  Different people have different writing styles, though, so this list isn’t prescriptive or exhaustive.  Please share your ideas and advice in the comments—what works for you and what advice would you share? 

  1. Choose a compelling thesis statement and make sure it is evident.
  2. Find a Style Manual you like and use it consistently when you have grammar/punctuation questions.
  3. Say your sentences to yourself out loud—if you wouldn’t say it, you probably wouldn’t write it.
  4. Vary your sentence length and the first words of your sentences.
  5. Count your prepositional phrases and cut them out as much as possible.
  6. Use active verbs—stay away from the verb “to be” and its variations (am, are was, being, been, etc.)—and use interesting words.
  7. Read award-winning fiction. (Good reading makes for good writing!)

 

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Active Collecting

Presented by: Trevor Jones
Article by: Kathi Reimer

We know the importance of following our Collections Management Policy when acquiring new items in our museums. We have practiced saying no in a variety of caring and concerned ways. We try to be mindful of only allowing things to cross our threshold that fit into our collections policy objectives. We try to do everything right, but what does a small museum with limited space do when someone drops off 4 pews and leaves the country? It isn’t only pews that have mysteriously ended up on our doorstep but they are the most recent gift.

If we follow the tenets of Active Collecting as presented by Trevor Jones from the Nebraska State Historical Society, we will not add these pews to our collection unless they support our mission, period. According to Mr. Jones, items that don’t meet the collection mission are “lazy artifacts” and are too expensive to have on hand because it costs money to store and maintain them. Fishing pews are rare historic artifacts that represent a specific period in Petersburg’s salmon fishing history. They are relevant and support our mission and our story and we already have two pews. We will find a new home for the 4 new pews.

Somebody, somewhere may need a pew. We may be able to find a museum that would like to obtain one or more of our pews or we may want to explore the idea of having a lending library of sorts, with specialized objects. In fact, in some areas, museums are exploring the idea of specialized collections. This system allows museums to collect several of the same kinds of objects that they can then lend, using a standardized lending form, to other participating museums for their displays.

Adding duplicate items to a collection is not appropriate and in fact, museums must take the time to ‘weed’ out ‘lazy artifacts’ in their collections. The process for deaccessioning items should be systematic. Mr. Jones suggests that museums use a system similar to the one librarians use. Librarians measure their books by set criteria which helps them decide if the books are being checked out regularly; have current information; are in good physical shape; are relevant to the time and place; and are not available elsewhere. Mr. Jones believes that museums, like libraries need to have a system for deaccessioning items that includes a tiered rubric with lists of criteria that support the museum’s mission.

On average, museums deaccession 1 item for every 500 they accession. This data supports Mr. Jones’ theory that current museum collection practices have many similarities to compulsive hoarding as defined in the book Stuff by Gail Steketee and Randy Frost. Mr. Jones supports the notion that all collections committees have a system for regularly deaccessioning objects. In fact he believes every item that is accessioned should have a planned expiration date.

All museums and especially small ones must be vigilant when collecting and culling items so their collection stays relevant. Items left on the doorstep must be carefully evaluated and should not be brought into the museum if they don’t meet a museum’s collection criteria.

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Testing Innovation at the Alutiiq Museum

Presented by Marnie Leist, Director of Operations
Article by Steven Villano

At the fall Museums Alaska conference, Marnie Leist, Director of Operations at the Alutiiq museum in Kodiak, presented the session “Testing Innovation.”  The Director had to step forward on very short notice and give a presentation that had been prepared by another staff member, so kudos to her for performing that role for us.

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Interestingly, this change, rather than detract, actually benefited the session overall.  Marnie Leist, as the Director, was able too set forth a very frank, candid and refreshing glimpse into the trials and tribulations of moving forward an initiative in the museum world. Too often we look to showcase and put forward the best and most reasonable outcomes of those ventures that we attempt. More helpful, though, are the realities and the hard lessons… even if we are not sure what we could have done differently.

Often we find ourselves in a situation where the institutions we are part of would desire greatly the funding to undertake innovative and inclusive programs. It would seem that only money separates us from breaking that new ground. In the case of the Alutiiq Museum they were awarded a grant from EMCarts New Pathways Project and Rasmussen Foundation which would fund one year of innovation. The first step was to put together a retreat session with an even split of board members and community individuals. Discussion could take place to identify challenges and possible actions. The group consisted of artists, Coast Guard Administration (which makes up 50% of the population), Library and Board representatives. The sessions were successful.

The complex challenge of how to broaden audience – outside of just the regulars – in order to increase sustainability was identified. Staff left the sessions with a few solid goals and the initial concepts for a few special events to plan for the upcoming year. These events were intended to bring the whole community in as co-collaborators in a few different ways. Unfortunately the workload for this fell heavy on a staff which was already overtaxed. Most of the work fell to single individuals who were committed to the outcomes, instead of being distributed amongst the whole of the staff and including the whole team.

Another major problem was that limitations on how the money could be  spent forced staff to spend budget on things that were not seen as most necessary for success of the project. Resources such as staff time could not be allocated as they needed. This is all too common, sadly,  and can be very disheartening to a museum staff already trying to push the boundaries. For initiatives to be indeed successful they require time to plan and develop along with some expanded budget that increases possibilities. The museum admits that neither resource (staff development time and/or available money) was available for most of their projects.  In this case it seems that the Alutiiq Museum would have benefited from a slightly different financial structure which would give them the ability to invest time and money more freely, and where they felt it appropriate. Even though the staff had to contend with these real world challenges they did find a few telling and profound benefits.

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The most profound realization – and maybe one that will provide the most positive innovation in the future, was the finding that the native population of the area didn’t see the museum as something “for them.”  This is powerful for any of
us who are involved with cultural museums in the midst of an active culture that has suffered from prejudice and separation. When the museum staff organized events outside the museum they saw a dramatic increase in the number of native people that participated. The hesitation, it seems, is simply coming into the museum building itself because of residual effects of discrimination. Having identified this the Museum can work diligently to continue the effort to bring the native population in and increase involvement.

Events such as date nights and dinners were hosted. These proved to be fun but not financially successful because of the costs associated, such as serving ware and catering. These events did, though, generate some interest from the community. What seemed more promising was the success of teaching events where skills and craftwork were taught.

A “Stories in Art” project was a great success and tied in beautifully to the oral tradition of the Alutiiq people, allowing for greater understanding of what an oral tradition means to the people who share it. It also allows another avenue for interaction between the young and community elders.

The museum also supported a workshop in which a traditional parka was created.  As the beginning of a much larger cultural education project, local artists were provided access to Alutiiq objects that are in the collections of far away museums. The chance to travel and study at these museums and then bring that knowledge back to teach throughout the whole of the community was something that the individual artists would not have had the resources to do on their own. To speak in detail of all the benefits would take an even longer posting, but the project increased the quality and number of classes being taught at the Museum, which made the Alutiq Museum a center for artistic knowledge and sharing. (http://vimeo.com/114603220)

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Sharing is culturally significant, and a larger but tighter-knit community of artists grew.  This also increased the number of artworks available for the people of the area, the Alutiiq’s collection and even the gift shop at the museum where high quality work is available. Along with overcoming the inability to use puffin beaks by utilizing the high school shop class (which worked out incredibly well for everyone), the museum increased community involvement through the sewing group while intensely supporting their role as a center of cultural heritage.

All in all, what was discovered by the innovation program is that it takes far more than just the financial support in order to fully implement and test innovation. Staff buy in is of absolute priority because they have to make it go.  In addition, the institution has to buy in by offering staff designated time to develop not only the event, but ways to observe and test community involvement during and after the function. This is not so easy with a feeling that one must gather info without making the visitors uncomfortable or distracted with questions. Innovation is more than a golden word in the museum world it seems… it is a responsibility.

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Angyaats: Repatriating Lost Knowledge

Presenter: Sven Haakanson, Burke Museum curator of Native American anthropology
Article by: Ashleigh Reed

Have you ever wondered what the artifacts in your museum would say if they could talk? I know your job would probably be a little easier if they just said, “Hey, let me tell you where I can from. You’ve got to hear this! I’ve been around for hundreds of years so I’ve got a pretty interesting story.”  Well, I don’t know if the boats at the Burke Museum spoke to Sven Haakanson in that way, but he has certainly succeeded in telling the story of their importance to the Sugpiat people on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Sven opened his presentation by taking us back to the early 1800’s during an oppressed time for the Sugpiat people. Russian traders came to the small village only to commit violent acts of rape, torture, and starvation.  To further suppress the people, the Russians took away their weaponry & seized and destroyed their boats, known as Angyaaq, which were essential to Sugpiat daily life and were symbols of wealth and power.  The Sugpiat people have used these boats for thousands of years. Vital to everyday living, the Angyaaq is a large open boat able to carry up to 70 people. It was used for transportation, hunting, warring, fishing, and more.

There is very little known about these boats that once graced the shores of Kodiak Island.  Sven Haakanson has been working for several years to change this and to bring the knowledge back to the Sugpiat people of Kodiak. He, along with community members of the village of Akhiok , is reviving the skills of Angyaaq boat-making.

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Photo by Burke Museum.

Sven first began his research by turning to one of the models from the Burke collection. The model gave clues about materials that would be needed and the engineering of these boats, later to create the life-sized Angyaaq.  In summer 2014, Sven assembled 14 model kits and brought them to the Petroglyph/Kids Camp in Cape Alitak, Alaska, where the students were able to make their own model boats.

Photos by Burke Museum.

In the spring of 2015 it was time to start creating the frame of a full sized Angyaaq.  Sven, along with some of the staff & students of the Burke Museum, started cutting, measuring, and putting together the cedar pieces to complete the first trial run only within a couple of weeks.  Later he was able to fly, along with all the supplies to the village of Akhiok to create another Angyaaq, only to bring a community together and  pass down the lost art to the Sugpiat people.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, the team worked vigorously to get the Seattle Angyaaq seaworthy.  Sven has taught the volunteers & staff the traditional ways of wrapping and tying without the help of nails or glue. While traditional Angyaaq lashing uses marine mammals tendons or guts, they are using synthetic rope to tie the boat and airplane fabric to wrap it.

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Photo: Sven Haakansan.

For the month of December in 2015 a large exhibit space was transformed in a work space where visitors could witness the revival of the Angyaaq as part of a special month-long program at the Burke Museum.

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Sven has traveled back to the small Alaskan village several times to continue to pass on this traditional knowledge to the Sugpiat people. He continues to be a living part of this culture’s rich history.