Museums Alaska-Alaska Historical Society Joint Annual Conference
September 21 to 24, 2011 in Valdez, Alaska
Museums Alaska Theme: Looking Back, Thinking Ahead
Keynote Speaker: Marjorie Schwarzer,
Author of Riches, Rivals & Radicals, 100 Years of Museums in America,
John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley, California
Alaska Historical Society Theme: Northern Waters
Keynote Speaker: Douglas Brinkley, Ph.D.,
Author of The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960
Fellow in history at the Baker Institute and a professor of history at Rice University
Looking Back, Thinking Ahead
2011 marks the ten-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, and Washington, D.C., a disaster that will forever be written in the annals of history. This year also marks the ten-year anniversary of the Museums Alaska-Alaska Historical Society 2001 conference, the last year that the conference was held in Valdez, a town which itself is no stranger to disaster. The theme of “Looking Back, Thinking Ahead” reflects an introspection of the past ten years of challenge and progress in the fields of Alaskan museology and historical scholarship, and begs the questions, “Where have we been, and where are we going? What lessons have we learned, and how can we prepare for the future?”
The theme of looking back and thinking ahead has many applications to the museum field, be it on the subjects of disaster planning, collection management, or the design (or redesign) of a new facility space. 2011 also marks the 40th anniversary of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement act, a landmark event with historical import that extends into the future of our state. Historians will thus also appreciate this theme of reflection, as it provides an opportunity to look at Alaska’s past history and consider lessons for the future.
Looking back and thinking ahead is a theme with resonance to the Museums Alaska selected keynote speaker. Marjorie Schwarzer, author of Riches, Rivals and Radicals: 100 Years of the Museum in America, spoke at the 2001 conference, providing an insightful assessment of the then-current state of Alaskan museums. In 2011, Schwarzer will again speak on the state of museums in Alaska through the lens of retrospection on where we have been, and what prospects lay ahead.
With two oceans, dozens of gulfs and seas, thousands of rivers, millions of lakes, and more miles of coastline than the rest of the U.S. combined, Alaska has a long and important relationship with water. Water bodies allow for the movement of people and goods. They determine where people settle and build cities. Water plays a role in numerous industries, including mining, lumber, fishing, tourism, and others. This year’s conference location, Valdez, sits on a body of water that has been a key part of its history, from its use by Alaska Native people for millennia, to the Spanish explorers who first arrived on ships and gave Valdez its name, to the 1964 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the town, to the oil terminal and tankers that have provided both economic opportunity and environmental devastation. Alaska’s water is often in the form of ice, which drives history in its own unique way. Glaciers offer a record of the past, thousands of years of history etched on their faces and frozen within their cores. When rivers freeze they become travel routes for dog teams and snowmachines, blurring the distinction between land and water. Our northern waters are also a harbinger of changes to come, as the warming oceans and thinning ice pack bring new sea life and new ships that stand to alter the Alaskan way of life.