2011 New Donations

Every year, generous individuals donate important and beautiful objects to the Ethnology & History collection at UAMN. They do this for a variety of reasons: to contribute to the rich resources of the Museum; to give back to the people of Alaska; to enhance the educational opportunities of students and researchers; to fulfill a wish of a family member; and even to get a good tax deduction. Whatever their reason, 99-percent of our collections come to us as donations and we are ever so thankful for the generosity of those individuals.

Because we can only exhibit a small portion of our collections each year, we typically put out the new acquisitions at our Open House, which used to take place in December. Open House now occurs in the spring, several months into the new year and the immediacy of the exhibition of the materials from the previous year is somehow lessened. As a way of reaching another audience, I will present the donations of 2011 over the next few days.

Donor: Candy Waugaman

Doll paddling sealskin kayak.

This doll is made from sealskin, is wearing a gut parka, and is paddling a Bering Sea style kayak, also made from seal skin. It was purchased in Arizona in 2011, was probably made in the Chevak region, and was made sometime in the last twenty years. It measures 25 x 65 x 18 cm.

Chair used by President Harding.

This small wooden chair was purported to be used by President Warren G. Harding on July 15, 1923. This was, of course, the day Harding drove the golden spike in Nenana, signifying the completion of the Alaska Railroad. Where this chair was sat upon, is the mystery… possible locations might include the rail car that transported him and his entourage to Nenana; the Nordale Hotel, which is where the party stayed in Fairbanks; or perhaps some restaurant where they ate somewhere in between? I’d love to hear from anyone up on Harding history.

Candy also donated a lovely Aleut wall pocket sewn from sea mammal intestine, and these ivory carvings, which include a walrus tusk reputedly created by Happy Jack, a group of chess pieces, and a set of igloo salt and pepper shakers.

Wall pocket made from sea mammal gut.

"Happy Jack" tusk.

Igloo salt and pepper shakers.

Ivory chess pieces.

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Kolmakovsky Returns

Kolmakovsky Blockhouse

The Blockhouse as it stands on its new foundation. Photo by Angela Linn. Copyright: UAMN.

It is official… the Kolmakovsky Blockhouse has returned to the UAMN. With little fanfare and only about 5 hours in labor, the little octagonal log structure that stood along the banks of the middle Kuskokwim River for 87 years is once again reassembled and structurally sound.

For now, the building sits “topless” as our log preservation specialist, Sandy Jamieson (also known for his witty artwork) designs a weatherproofing membrane and creates a substrate for our newly installed tundra moss “sod” covering. In the next few weeks the work on the roof should continue and we’ll get the whole thing placed back on top of the building.

This two-year rehabilitation and conservation project is funded through a Save America’s Treasures grant managed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services . It includes funding to preserve the Kolmakovsky Redoubt collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. This involves the rehabilitation work on the 170-year-old blockhouse constructed by representatives of the Russian-American Company on the south bank of the Kuskokwim in 1841, as well as rehousing and photographing the 5,000-object archaeological collection excavated by Wendell Oswalt in the late 1960s.

Archaeological items after rehousing

Artifacts from Kolmakovsky Redoubt following rehousing. Photo by Fawn Carter. Copyright: UAMN.

The full project description and lots of photos are posted at my Museum departmental project page, so if you’re interested, take a look at what we’ve accomplished so far. More photos of the archaeological collections are forthcoming, and of course, a final paper documenting the entire project will be in the works, hopefully to be published by an Alaskan anthropology or museum journal.