Pilot Project- Alaska Native Design: Parkas

Grantee: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska, Story by Dawn Biddison, Museum Specialist

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.

Scroll to Top