Exploring Alaska Native Gut: Exhibition Collections, and Artistic Development

Grantee: Alaska State Museum, Story by Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Artist
All the indigenous cultures of Alaska have historically used gut, a material with unique physical and metaphysical properties, to make items such as parkas, containers, windows, hunting floats, and drums. While most museums with Alaskan collections care for these items, the material is poorly understood, often misidentified, and rarely seen in the art world today. Sonya Kelliher-Combs is one of the few artists working with gut, and will serve as the curatorial fellow for a collaborative project at the Alaska State Museum. Together the curatorial fellow and museum staff will share their respective insights and networks of relationships to enhance the understanding of gut from cultural, technical, curatorial, and artistic perspectives. This information will be used for visioning, design, and object selection for a summer 2023 exhibition about indigenous gut practices that will complement the artist’s solo exhibition scheduled in the adjoining gallery. Kelliher-Combs will expand her experience in museum curation, conservation, collections management, and exhibit development practices. Her insights about these practices will guide improvements to the museum’s evolving collaborative protocols. Indigenous perspectives on gut in the museum collection will incorporate Native voices into the object records in the museum database.

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