ARCTIC WINTER GAMES - The 2014 games start this weekend in Fairbanks. This is the third time the games have been in our fair city since they were founded in 1969 by Alaskans and Canadians. The idea was to provide a forum for athletes from the circumpolar North to compete on their own turf — in the snow and the ice and often at temperatures below freezing. 

The first games were held in 1970 in Yellowknife with 500 athletes, trainers, and officials participating. Since then, the games have been held 15 different times with participants from additional countries, such as Greenland and Russia. Several indigenous nations have also participated, like the Inuit of Nunavut and the Sami people of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. 

The games are now part of our local history, and the museum’s history collection reflects that. Only one item from the 1982 games are in the database, a tiny lapel pin (top photo) donated by former UAMN staffers Wanda Chin and Terry Dickey.

The museum has another item representing the 1988 games in a roundabout way. You have to look closely at the ambitious sculpture called the Great Alaska Outhouse Experience on display in the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery (bottom photos). Artist Craig Buchanan assembled utilitarian and found objects to create a sculpture where you can imagine the experience of being outdoors at forty below. On the outside wall of the outhouse, you’ll find a colorful AWG badge.

Ethnology & History collections Manager Angela Linn says we already have two items related to this year’s games, thanks to a donation by UAMN Education & Public Programs Manager Jen Arseneau in 2012 (middle, right photo). We can’t wait to see what new objects might be in store.

Ethnology & History Collection (clockwise from right)

UA2012-9-1: Temporary tattoo showing Raavee
UA2012-9-2: Lapel pin with AWG 2014 
UA2010-6-19: 1982 Arctic Winter Games lapel pin

Is it a model or a miniature?  Our senior collection manager explores the lengths museum officials go to when it comes to describing objects in our care.


The most recent discussion in the Ethnology & History lab at the University of Alaska Museum of the North surrounds the difference between “models” and “miniatures” and which is the preferred terminology for most of the small versions of full-sized things we have in the collection. Della Hall, Ethnology’s skilled and knowledgeable curatorial assistant, had many good points to counter some of my own.
As with many debates surrounding collections-issues, we started by looking at a couple of nomenclature books. Chenhalls didn’t even have “model” as a classification. Next step? Google it! Nothing definitive pops up. Dictionary? Of course!

(via It’s Small… but is it a Model or a Miniature? | AkEthnoGirl)

Is it a model or a miniature?  Our senior collection manager explores the lengths museum officials go to when it comes to describing objects in our care.

The most recent discussion in the Ethnology & History lab at the University of Alaska Museum of the North surrounds the difference between “models” and “miniatures” and which is the preferred terminology for most of the small versions of full-sized things we have in the collection. Della Hall, Ethnology’s skilled and knowledgeable curatorial assistant, had many good points to counter some of my own.

As with many debates surrounding collections-issues, we started by looking at a couple of nomenclature books. Chenhalls didn’t even have “model” as a classification. Next step? Google it! Nothing definitive pops up. Dictionary? Of course!

(via It’s Small… but is it a Model or a Miniature? | AkEthnoGirl)

UAF students make great discoveries at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Graduate Student Kirsten Olson works in the ethnology & history lab at the museum. This summer, she was one of the first guides trained to lead visitors behind-the-scenes to see the collections and the labs where students and researchers from around the world make new discoveries.

1) Why did you decide to become a guide at the museum? What does it mean to show off Alaska to visitors from all over the world? I became a tour guide for several reasons. My family would visit museums when I was a kid and I was impressed with the displayed collections. A part of me always wanted to explore the mysterious basement and secret tunnels that held even more of those treasures.

When I found out that UAMN would be giving visitors the chance that I’d always dreamed of, I jumped on it! I love sharing the mission and purpose of our museum with visitors, and giving them the special opportunity to see what it is we actually do here. Just a part of it is the exhibits. Through this program, we can share the research and special care given to the collections in order to preserve them for future generations to study and enjoy. When visitors are able to interact with the collection and with our researchers, they’re able to appreciate all the hard work that goes into not only our museum, but museums as a whole.

2) You’ve worked with the ethnology collection. Is there a particular area of research you’re interested in? The reason I came to UAF was to work on my masters in anthropology, focusing on Inuit Art. The objects in our collection tell the story about cultures, past and present; by having the chance to handle and work with them directly, I’ve learned about Alaska Native culture in a very unique and inspiring way. Our history collection is just as inspiring; the equipment mountain climbers used to ascend Mt. McKinley, turn-of-the-century cameras used to document the Fairbanks gold rush, military equipment that defended Attu Island, have all shaped the city, state, and country that we live in. I feel very special to be a part of preserving such a rich history.

) What do you think the most common misconception of Alaska is? How does the museum help tell our story to the world? Moving from Pennsylvania, I had many of my own misconceptions of Alaska. I quickly learned that people don’t live in igloos, that there are chain stores, and that people actually live without running water in dry cabins (including myself!). Alaska is a very unique, very very large state, and to get the full experience of what it’s like, you just need to live here, especially through the harsh interior winters when your car is just as thrilled as you are to be going out in -40.  It’s been an exciting adventure and look forward to more winters to come!

(UAF photos by JR Ancheta)

It’s a blockhouse, not a jailhouse! Thanks to the museum’s exhibits team, the Kolmakovsky Blockhouse has a new front entrance. The bars designed to keep people safe have been replaced with a plexiglass window. All the better to explore this historical object that helps tell the story of Alaska.

Read more about the blockhouse and the Save America’s Treasures grant that helped rehabilitate the structure.

THE STORY OF KOLMAKOVSKY - The 172-year-old Kolmakovsky Blockhouse has been a part of the UA Museum of the North’s collections since 1929. But it wasn’t until the last decade that the museum has been able to restore the structure to its original appearance and share its story with visitors.

Erected in 1841 by the Russian-American Company (RAC) on the middle Kuskokwim River in Western Alaska, the builders debated how thick to make the wall logs for adequate protection. They experimented by firing a musket point-blank into the side of a log and then doubled the measurement. It was determined that the 18 cm results would be adequate.

During the summers of 1966-67, Wendell Oswalt excavated the structural remains at the Kolmakovsky Redoubt site and published a detailed account about the location. The 5,000+ artifacts were deposited into the museum’s archaeological collection.
Through the Save America’s Treasures program, the museum launched a project in 2009 to move the blockhouse to a better location and rehabilitate the structure. The installation of these interpretive panels is the final stage.
You can learn more about the Kolmakovsky Blockhouse on our webpage.
These dentures belong in a museum!

Erwin A. “Nimrod” Robertson, an early Alaskan pioneer from Maine who settled along the Yukon near Eagle in 1898 used his homemade teeth, forged from an aluminum pot lid set with a mix of carved sheep, caribou, and bear teeth, for about 25 years.
He had many occupations including placer mining, dentist, jeweler, as well as serving on the Eagle Common Council, Chief of Police, marshal, magistrate, and attorney. He was an all around tinkerer, making inventions and fixing things for people. “Nimrod” was quite the resourceful genius and the teeth were just one of his many inventions.

(via Guest Blog: Erwin A. “Nimrod” Robertson | AkEthnoGirl)

These dentures belong in a museum!

Erwin A. “Nimrod” Robertson, an early Alaskan pioneer from Maine who settled along the Yukon near Eagle in 1898 used his homemade teeth, forged from an aluminum pot lid set with a mix of carved sheep, caribou, and bear teeth, for about 25 years.

He had many occupations including placer mining, dentist, jeweler, as well as serving on the Eagle Common Council, Chief of Police, marshal, magistrate, and attorney. He was an all around tinkerer, making inventions and fixing things for people. “Nimrod” was quite the resourceful genius and the teeth were just one of his many inventions.

(via Guest Blog: Erwin A. “Nimrod” Robertson | AkEthnoGirl)

EARTHQUAKE ANNIVERSARY - Today is the 49th anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake that twisted Anchorage, launched a tsunami that nearly leveled Valdez, and shook the entire state. This commemorative coin (Catalog number UA98-13-18) is part of the museum’s history collection.

On this day in 1964, the largest earthquake in Alaska began at 5:36 in the evening. Across south-central Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis were unleashed.

Lasting nearly three minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history, and the second most powerful ever measured by seismograph. It had a magnitude of 9.2, making it the second largest earthquake in recorded history.
This great earthquake and ensuing tsunami took 128 lives (tsunami 113, earthquake 15), and caused about $311 million in property loss. Earthquake effects were heavy in many towns, including Anchorage, Chitina, Glennallen, Homer, Hope, Kasilof, Kenai, Kodiak, Moose Pass, Portage, Seldovia, Seward, Sterling, Valdez, Wasilla, and Whittier.

(via Historic Earthquakes)

On this day in 1964, the largest earthquake in Alaska began at 5:36 in the evening. Across south-central Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis were unleashed.

Lasting nearly three minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history, and the second most powerful ever measured by seismograph. It had a magnitude of 9.2, making it the second largest earthquake in recorded history.

This great earthquake and ensuing tsunami took 128 lives (tsunami 113, earthquake 15), and caused about $311 million in property loss. Earthquake effects were heavy in many towns, including Anchorage, Chitina, Glennallen, Homer, Hope, Kasilof, Kenai, Kodiak, Moose Pass, Portage, Seldovia, Seward, Sterling, Valdez, Wasilla, and Whittier.

(via Historic Earthquakes)

It’s been almost 30 years since the mammoth tusks on display in our Gallery of Alaska were prepared. Our Operations Manager Kevin May kept this story from the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner from the days before online archiving.

This is the tiny diary kept by Harry Karstens during the successful 1913 expedition to the summit of Denali. This first ascent is the subject of our next special exhibit, Denali Legacy: 100 Years on the Mountain. We’ll be displaying the journals of most of the five men who made it to the top of the tallest mountain in North America.

The trip began in March 1913 and the group summited in June. Karstens went on to become the first superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park (now known as Denali National Park).