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Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums

Museums throughout the world hold important collections of Alaska Native material culture. How can museums add Indigenous stories, perspectives and voices in exhibition and collection spaces? How can community members better access the material belongings that museums hold?

The Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums project seeks to develop opportunities for Indigenous creative intervention in museums while supporting material culture documentation through a curatorial fellowship program.

Are you interested in a learning how to be involved in this work?
Please contact The CIRI Foundation to find out how you can partner on this new initiative.

Images courtesy of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center,
photographed by Wayde Carroll.

Pilot Project

Alaska Native Design: Parkas by Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

“For the 2020 pilot of the Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums Project, Amelia “Amy” Topkok was selected for the fellowship. The plan for Amy’s fellowship was first to introduce her to the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska Learning Lab site and to concepts about drawing from museum and archive collections to create free online educational resources about Alaska Native heritage, with a focus on decolonizing practices through collaboration and the primacy of Indigenous knowledge. The next stage was to co-develop a new Learning Lab education unit based on parkas, since this was the subject of her M.A. work at UAF and the focus of her planned studies for pursuing her PhD.

By the end of the fellowship, Amy and I were able to meet all of our goals and complete an education unit of excellent quality. The unit is titled “Alaska Native Design: Parkas” and presents nineteen photographs of people and museum objects with detailed captions, three essays and a lesson. There are also three additional resources, including a guide for making a qaspeq/atikłuk, written by Amy for a past workshop and now improved with additional information and editing, which she can utilize in the future. Amy and I worked together on all stages of the unit’s development and content for a truly collaborative project, resulting in comprehensive and in-depth resources.”

Dawn Biddison
Museum Specialist
Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center

Indigenous Curatorial Fellowship

The CIRI Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with the University of Alaska Museum of the North to support an Indigenous Curatorial Fellowship in the Ethnology and History department. The fellowship will provide an opportunity for a student to gain hands on experience in collections management and care and help the museum to incorporate Indigenous narratives and perspectives into the museum’s records.