Annual Awards Honor Museum, Professionals, and Koniag, Inc.

For Immediate Release
Museums Alaska
P.O. Box 756960, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960
Phone (907) 474-5484
Home page:

DATE: Thursday, October 8, 2020
CONTACT: Della Hall, Executive Director

Four awards announced at the Museums Alaska Annual Meeting on September 25th celebrated significant contributions to Alaska’s collecting institutions. Given by Museums Alaska, the awards are the result of a statewide nominating and peer review process. Three individuals—Anjuli Grantham, Kas Spahr, and Patricia Relay—along with the Juneau Douglas City Museum and Koniag, Inc. were honored.

The newest award established this year honors those that roll up their sleeves to help museums succeed, through their service or philanthropy. Two awards were given for Museum Champion. Anjuli Grantham, Curator of Statewide Services at the Alaska State Museum, was honored for her service to all museums in Alaska. When presenting her award, Amy Steffian said, “Anjuli is our go to person for help with all things related to museums. Whatever your question she will help you find an answer or someone to talk to. She is a marvelous connector.”

Tom Panamarof was present to receive the second award for Museum Champion on behalf of Koniag, Inc. Koniag is the regional ANCSA corporation for the Kodiak area and one of the founding and governing organizations of the Alutiiq Museum. Their nomination letter said:

The Alutiiq value of sharing at the forefront of Koniag’s leadership. In classical Alutiiq society hunters gave away their catch to make sure everyone was fed. The most imminent need was addressed first before food or resources were stockpiled. Hunters knew that acting generously created strong communities and that together hard work and respectful action would lead to future prosperity. Koniag, Inc.’s value of Sharing the Catch, comes from this tradition. The corporation’s philanthropy is based in a deep cultural understanding that success comes from providing for others.

Koniag was honored for their pivotal support of the Alutiiq Museum over the past two years, and particularly through the pandemic.

The Award for Excellence in the Museum Field went to the Juneau Douglas City Museum for the Funter Bay Project. This annual award is given in recognition of an outstanding museum program, project, or initiative from the past year. These are efforts that have had a significant impact on an organization or a community and are a model for others in the museum field. Funter Bay is on Admiralty Island, opposite the City of Juneau. It is the place where Unangan people from the Pribilof Islands and the Aleutian Islands were interned during World War II. The Juneau Douglas City Museum is working to preserve and share this little known chapter of Alaskan history and to expand Funter Bay Marine Park to include the cemetery where Unangan people were buried and add interpretive signs to the park. Their nomination letter said:

The public, tribal, and private partners who have come together to document and share this history are incredible. JDCM staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that the story that they are sharing is the story that the Pribilof residents want to share.

They have created an exhibit for their museum in partnership with Unagan people and are also planning an oral history project to further document their experiences.

Kas Spahr, who has dedicated two decades of volunteer support to two Anchorage area museums, received the Volunteer of the Year award. This award acknowledges the crucial roles volunteers have in Alaska’s museums. It celebrates a person who has made a significant contribution through their gift of volunteer service. Spahr was honored for her dependable, twice-weekly, presence first in the Anchorage Museum and more recently at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, particularly in their collections departments.

Lastly, the Presidents’ Award went to recognize an outstanding individual advocate for all Alaska museums. Patricia Relay, Director of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive, was honored for her many years of dedication to all Alaska museums. Relay has been recognized by the American Alliance of Museums as a 5-time attendee in 2018 for her participation in Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, DC and continues to engage state and national leaders on the importance of museums in our communities. Monica Garcia-Itchoak, when presenting the award, stated: “Patty is a leader in our state. She is the first one to pick up the phone, send an email, write the template letters, and educate us on the necessary step in raising our voices for museums across the state.”

Museums Alaska is a statewide professional organization supporting Alaska’s collecting institutions and their staff members and volunteers. The non-profit organization supports the improvement of museum services and promotes public awareness of the value of the state’s museums and cultural centers. A nine-member volunteer board governs Museums Alaska with funding from memberships, grants, gifts, and sales.