The following article waswritten by Alexandra Painter, recipient of a scholarship funded by the Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund to attend Museums Alaska's annual conference, held in Nome in 2018.
In Marieke Van Damme’s conference Keynote “The Joy in our Work,” she addressed many issues about the daily work of museum professionals, and gave simple, yet practical advice on improving workplace culture. For me, the keynote was a refreshing reminder to take care of yourself. To produce your best work, it’s important to be refreshed. Van Damme noted that all museum staff members, at all levels, can help do this, and that it is a collective responsibility in improving workplace culture.
One of my hopes in attending this conference was to leave with some advice on facilitating productive professional relationships. This keynote was a good reminder that good communication, gratitude, and kindness can encourage and propagate relationships with other staff and board members, as well as the community you serve. It makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we will be as employees. Instead of spending time overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, we can, instead, focus on opportunities for positive connection.
Some of Van Damme’s suggestions for improving workplace culture are:
All of these are straightforward suggestions, and can also be used in connecting with other institutions around the state. She noted that networking is about meeting other people, sharing knowledge, and making connections. It is an opportunity to expand support systems—the people you can rely on when you find yourself in need, and to reciprocate that support in turn.
Moving forward, I hope to improve on existing collaborations and build on new professional relationships. I was excited to hear about all the great work and projects happening at the museums around Alaska at the conference, and feel energized to be involved.
I extend my most sincere thanks to Museums Alaska, the Alaska Historical Society, and the people of Nome who worked so hard to put this interesting conference together. I look forward to seeing colleagues in Kodiak at the conference next fall.
The Alaska State Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued a directive to the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums to look into divesting itself of the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, including the building and its collections, through sale.
As members of the statewide museum community, your voice matters on this issue.
You can reach your legislators by email, phone, social media, or mail.
Find out who your Senators and Representatives are with this interactive map, and then find their contact information below:
Alaska State Senate
Alaska House of Representatives
The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) maintains an Advocacy webpage that allows you to find your elected officials by entering your address. There you will find your federal and state elected officials, including address, phone number, and social media handles.
Consider sharing a Facebook post or Tweet and tagging your elected officials:
"The Sheldon Jackson Museum means so much to me. Please help protect these resources @[insert social media handle]"
You can also send a 50 word message to your legislators, using the link below.
Write a 50 word message
Senator Bert Stedman of Sitka has spoken out about this issue and is quoted in several news articles in support of the Sheldon Jackson Museum.
Take a moment to thank Senator Stedman.
Museums Alaska's Board of Directors has identified the potential sale of the Sheldon Jackson Museum as one of our top legislative priorities this year. Please be sure to subscribe to our digital mailing list to stay up to date on this and other advocacy calls to action as they occur.
Below is a copy of a letter sent on behalf of our Board of Directors to Governor Dunleavy's office.
Letter of support from Museums Alaska Board of Directors for SJM
Please feel free to use the below template to write your own letter. The best letters address your personal connection to the issue, so please feel free to deviate from this template.
Template letter of support for SJM
AAM has also created an online version of this template letter, making it easier than ever to contact your legislators about this issue.
Museums Alaska maintains resources on our website to help you navigate the Alaska legislative process here. We will continue to share more resources and information as it becomes available.
We also hold a monthly Advocacy Task Force teleconference meeting, that is open to anyone interested in advocating on behalf of Alaska's museums. Please join us!
The Museums Alaska Program Committee is excited to share this year's conference theme and call for proposals:
CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS: DIVERSITY, EQUITY, ACCESSIBILITY, AND INCLUSION
The museum field is currently engaging in critical conversations regarding how our institutions can evolve to become more equitable, inclusive, diverse, and accessible. Topics of these conversations include (but are certainly not limited to): how to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve at the staff, board, and volunteer levels of our institutions; ways to include underrepresented or marginalized communities at all levels of the interpretation of history and culture; how to make inclusivity a key part of museums’ institutional values and culture; and how to work towards the systemic change necessary to be successful in these processes. These important conversations are as challenging as they are engaging, exciting, and forward thinking. Alaska museums have a responsibility to take on these important issues and discuss them in their communities and institutions as well as within our statewide community of professionals so that we may grow and improve together. It is through these conversations, and important work that must follow them, that we will shape the museums of the future.
This year’s theme is inspired by the work of the American Alliance of Museums’ Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Working Group. The working group published a report last year that provides five insights, each with a call to action, regarding the values of DEAI. The full DEAI Working Group report can be found here. We invite session proposals that explore the many interrelated issues laid out therein.
This year's conference will be held in Kodiak September 25-28.
Read the full Call For Proposals.
As we begin planning for our 2019 conference in Kodiak, take a moment to read the following article written by Amanda Lancaster, a recipient of a scholarship funded by the Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund to attend Museums Alaska's annual conference, held in Nome in 2018.
As not only a new Alaskan, but also a relatively new museum professional, I was most looking forward to the Museums Alaska conference as a way to finally put faces to names of people I had been speaking with for over a year. I was excited to meet people that loved working in museums, archives, and other cultural institutions as much as I love working in museums. It seemed fitting that the theme of the conference was Relationships. I was also eager to see Nome, a landscape so different from any I’d seen before.
Museums in Alaska face unique challenges from those in the Lower 48, and so meeting with, and discussing common problems, was indispensable for me. It was reassuring to meet others that share similar struggles—when museum supplies cost as much to ship to Alaska as purchase, when the HVAC contractor has to fly in for a service appointment!
The sessions, having the common theme of relationships, were very useful, as the Alutiiq Museum is purposefully trying to broaden its community support beyond our core circle of patrons. I strongly believe that in order for museums to survive in the future, they must engage more with the public and highlight history from below, an argument made by Dr. Lorraine McConaghy in her keynote address at the conference.
Community conversations were a prominent theme across the conference, most especially in the Pre-Conference workshop, “Collections as Springboards for Community Conversations.” This workshop illustrated how well-situated museums are for making space for dialogue in the community, and facilitating what can be difficult conversations about community-wide issues.
I have attended academic conference before, but this was my first professional museum conference, and it was immensely beneficial. The conference had a very open, friendly feel, and the town of Nome was a wonderful host. It gave me the chance to meet people that I might not have, and I was able to visit a part of the state which would usually be out of reach. The Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund is a resource to which new museum professionals in Alaska are lucky to have access. After having met so many colleagues from across the state, I feel much more comfortable reaching out for advice about any concerns I have, and I look forward to next year’s conference in Kodiak. I look forward to showing people around my museum and Alaskan town.
As a first-time conference attendee and recent transplant to Alaska from Washington State, it was valuable to meet many fellow museum professionals in Alaska. The conference theme relationships especially resonated with me and I was surprised to see so many session conference presentations demonstrating the collaboration between a tight-knit group of Alaska institutions. For example, Bethany Buckingham Follett and Selena Ortega-Chiolero working together to host the Old Town Autumn Fest in Wasilla and demonstrating how museums and other non-profits can work together, Exhibit AK and Anjuli Grantham leading an exhibit label workshop, NPS, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Conservator Nicole Peters working together to preserve the Richard L. Proenneke Cabin site. The most valuable takeaway for me from the conference was learning from these partnership presentations and developing a support network as we move forward with projects and ideas in Kodiak.
I found the relationship between museum professionals and researchers at the conference especially unique. With so many joint presentations among Museum Alaska members, it is surprising to see fewer joint presentations with both the Museums Alaska and Alaska Historical society members. I brought this observation up in the post-conference webinar chat and thought Anjuli Grantham had an insightful response. She suggested bridging the gap between researchers and museum professionals through public history. I look forward to researching more about public history projects around Alaska and learning more about this field.
We are excited to be able to host the Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society conference next year in Kodiak. In the coming months of planning, I think it will be valuable to cultivate a workshop or session that encourages dialog between museum professionals and researchers or perhaps highlight public history projects so we can better understand each other’s work. I look forward to seeing everyone together again at the conference next September.
Eleven of Alaska’s collecting institutions, in seven communities from Ketchikan to Fairbanks, have been awarded $125,340 in grants. The awards will support the acquisition of artwork and collections care projects through two separate funds. The funds were created by Rasmuson Foundation and they are administered by Museums Alaska.
The Art Acquisition Fund invites museums and culture centers to submit proposals to purchase recent works by contemporary Alaskan artists. Now in its sixteenth year, this initiative has helped institutions across Alaska enhance their collections, interpret contemporary themes, and support hundreds of visual artists. This fall, eight museums received a total of $86,975 in grants to purchase 29 pieces of artwork from 18 Alaskan artists—including paintings, carvings, photographs, multi-media works, and sculpture.
This year, the Art Acquisition Fund allowed applicants to propose commissioned works. The Kodiak Historical Society and the Sealaska Heritage Institute are the first organizations to successfully receive grant support for commissioned works. The Kodiak Historical Society and will collaborate with Alutiiq mask maker Perry Eaton on an outdoor installation, and Sealaska Heritage Institute will work with Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson who will create a carved and painted wood hat.
Established in 2013, the Collections Management Fund supports projects that advance the preservation of museum collections with awards of up to $15,000. The fund provides critical support for the care of objects documenting Alaska’s cultural and natural heritage. In November, Museums Alaska selected five institutions to receive a total of $38,322 in grants. The funded projects include caring for raptor specimens, conserving gut skin artifacts, digitizing media collections, completing diorama maintenance, and modernizing HVAC controls.
Both funds will offer additional grants in 2019. For eligibility information, application deadlines, and submission directions, please visit the Museums Alaska website Grants page.
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 culture centers. A nine-member volunteer board governs Museums Alaska with funding from memberships, grants, gifts, and sales.
Alaska Aviation Museum
Janine Gibbons A set of six paintings: Jorgy Jorgensen, Bill English, Ellen Evak Paneok, Herman Nicolet, Wilfred Ryan and Todd’s Air Service: Ed and Helen Todd $7,800
Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository
Cheryl Lacy Misty Morning $1,000
Anchorage Museum Association
Sonya Kelliher-Combs Red Curl $12,000
Alanna DeRocchi Stay A Float, Animals as Object $4,000
Polar Bear, Objects for Contemplating Impermanence $2,225
Amber Webb White Qaspeq $5,000
Tresham Gregg Eagle Hammer $800
Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center
Jim Heaton Carved Eagle Shakee.at and Bear Paw Dance Rattle $8,000
Kodiak Historical Society
Carol Lambert Basket Not For Sale $600
Perry Eaton Island Song $24,000
Sealaska Heritage Institute
Nathan Jackson Raven Hat $10,000
Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, Inc.
Donna Catotti Blues Harp and Paradise Cove—Remnants of the Past $1,550
Lindsay Johnson Still Ocean Bright $300
Debi Knight Kennedy Love and Justice $5,000
Beverly Schupp Chilkat River Valley Winter and Jack Strong at the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center $2,200
Katie Craney Forgotten Places $700
Megan Morehouse Salmon Tree $500
Andrea Nelson Chilkat Sampler $750
Joe Ordóñez Moon Over the Headwaters and Cathedral Peaks $550
Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository—$14,981 for HVAC Repair
American Bald Eagle Foundation—$1,910.21 for Raptor Collection Protection
Ketchikan Museums—$9,881.25 for Digitizing Media Project
Kodiak Historical Society—$1,350.00 for Conservation and Education of Seal Intestine Windows
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center—$10,200.00 for Diorama Maintenance & Training
2018 Grant Press Release (PDF)
Museums Alaska is committed to supporting Alaska's museums and recognizes this may be a challenging time for some after today's earthquake in southcentral Alaska.
Our Board President, Molly Conley, has shared this message with the Alaska museum community: "I personally have a background in museum disaster planning and know others in the state who have this experience as well. I am happy to offer my knowledge and expertise in this area to any institution that may need help. Also as the president of Museums Alaska I will be working with my board to see if there's anything we can do as an organization to provide assistance."
Please don't hesitate to reach out to our Executive Director or any of our Board members directly.
Museums Alaska’s new logo, 2018, designed by Emily Longbrake
Museums Alaska is excited to announce a new logo that symbolizes our institutional values and future direction of our organization.
We are inspired by our members to “think outside the vitrine” in the sense that museums are much more than exhibits, as educational hubs, home to incredible artifacts, and spaces for reflection and ongoing learning. As a symbol of our membership organization, the logo demonstrates how multiple parts can come together to form a whole. Just as the components of a stained glass window or patchwork quilt rely on each other to maintain structure, the new logo illustrates how Museums Alaska strives to create a strong foundation for an inclusive environment for Alaska's museum professionals and organizations to come together.
The Board of Directors is proud to present a new logo inspired by the unique connections and innovation shared among Alaska's Museums. The new logo illustrates how much Museums Alaska, as a statewide organization, continues to grow and adapt to meet the needs of the Alaska museum community and their visitors.
Museum’s Alaska’s first logo, developed ca. 1984 by Wanda Chin
This article was written by 2017 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund scholarship recipient Sarah Harrington.
The Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society Conference brings together all kinds of passionate professionals to connect, inspire, and transform skillsets and experiences across our great state. Writers, curators, educators, store managers, researchers, gallery hosts, board members, and beyond, the conference has plenty to offer for any interest or application.
If you’re not sure that the conference is worth the time, the cost, the effort, here are three reasons why you’re out of your gourd not to join us in 2018:
Attendees come year after year, knowing that they will leave the conference rejuvenated with an expanded network of colleagues and exciting new ideas to bring home. The conference doubles as a fun getaway focused on personal passions just as much as professional development for many.
The bottom line is that the Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society Conference is not to be missed.
Click here to join us for the 2018 Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society in Nome, Alaska!
We’re just a few months away from the 2018 conference! Take a moment to reflect on last year’s conference with this article by 2017 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund conference scholarship recipient Brooke Johnson.
I made it to the Cordova Mud Hole Smith airport the afternoon of Wednesday, September 27th. I knew that I was unable to attend any of the Museums Alaska Pre-Conference Workshops due to work restraints of being the Cultural Director with a museum staff of one, but I was excited about the ability to attend the rest of the conference. September marked the second anniversary of being in my position, a place that I am still unsure of in the museum world. With no formal museum training, I look to conferences such as this one, and workshops to help fill out my on the job training.
Thursday morning, I made my way to conference, after a bit of a drive from my family’s home, with whom I was staying. Still feeling new to the museum world, and very shy with new people, I sat at a table and watched as people filed in to start the day. I was thankful for those whom I met previously, and still in a bit of shock with all of those who were new faces to me.
The first conference session I made it to was Museum Cleaning Basics, which took me a few minutes to find the well-hidden room. The session covered a lot of museum cleaning information, regarding a lot of different materials we find in our museums. In my cultural center, we house everything from photographs to awls to totems to bones, and many times how things are put together can cause care issues to objects we are trying to keep safe for years. This conference session covered many of the topics in overview that the Collection Care Workshop that Seward put on last winter did, and it was helpful for me to have a refresher as I move into my first cleaning season. I was not aware previously of how to properly clean our objects, and without that knowledge, I didn’t want to use materials that would hurt our collection.
With the information that Museums Alaska helps put forth through the conference, I have been able to create a plan of how to create a cleaning plan for our space, and safely create storage containers to house our objects in storage. Conservation being upmost on my mind, I was able to attend the Conservation on the Move conference session on Friday, and I was really interested on some of the gut parka work that the Anchorage Museum did on the pieces that recently went on display. This summer our museum was long term loaned a gut parka from our regional corporation that was recently repatriated. This parka is damaged by age and storage, but we are looking how we can possibly restore and properly showcase an item that was so important to our people. I was fascinated to see how other museum deal with similar objects, and to connect with people who may be able to help us solve some of our museum’s issues. It was wonderful to see and hear that I am not the only museum with one full time staff, or the only one that needs help with cleaning and storage knowledge. I am thankful for the support that we have available. Quwanacuk.
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