Happenings at the KHM

Caring for Art at the Museum

Artist Robert Tucker holding “Esquire of the Sea”, 2005-1-1.

The Kodiak History Museum cares for hundreds of artworks. It is our job to collect and preserve information about each artwork and make it accessible for years to come.
Each artwork in KHM’s collection has an associated file with all of the information we have about the piece. We continually add information to these files, which in turn enriches the history and understanding about each object in our collection and provides new perspectives about how to display, interpret, and care for the piece.
On August 25, Kodiak artist Robert Tucker and friends, visited our collections research space to see a piece he carved 17 years ago. The piece, “Esquire of the Sea”, is a 4-foot long whale carved out of walnut wood. Through this visit, Tucker provided more information that enhances our understanding of the artwork and how to best care for it in the future.
You can listen to Robert Tucker explain about his inspiration, process, and wishes for this artwork for the future here.

This artwork was purchased with grant funds from the Museums Alaska Art Acquisition Fund with generous support from the Rasmuson Foundation.

Temporary Exhibit Model

In Spring 2022, the Kodiak History Museum debuted a new model for our temporary exhibit gallery. This blog post contains all you need to know about our new temporary exhibit program, how to be involved in the exhibit process, and any other facts!

The Program

KHM’s temporary exhibit program is social justice-oriented and community-based. In our new temporary exhibit program, KHM is working to replace the single authoritative voice in exhibits with that of many voices and perspectives in an effort to assert our relevance to the community of Kodiak and to find our place in contemporary Kodiak as a rebranded museum.

Our program is founded within the social justice in museums and decolonization movements. These movements recognize that museums have traditionally acted as gatekeepers of knowledge, parsing information out as warranted and to serve political needs. As a result, the museum culture in the US was based on the norms of dominant society and institutionally marginalized those not part of the dominant society. However, museums can become sites for social inclusion by working to address social issues with community partners. Efforts toward inclusivity allow museums to be more socially conscious institutions, especially in exhibit interpretation.

Our work with this program is also centered within the Museums Are Not Neutral movement. Museums have long been considered to be repositories – places where objects are held. However, museums are not just repositories; they are places when objects are interpreted through exhibits and educational programs. In other words, they are not apolitical or neutral; there is always some interpretation or bias of opinion. Museums today are currently undergoing a rapid change in interpretation; they are moving from offering a temple of knowledge for the already educated to a forum for the public where learning is active and dynamic.

Our new model creates two temporary exhibits per year with key partners. Key partners propose the exhibit topic, and they take the lead in organizing the exhibit with the help of KHM staff, making them co-created exhibits. In co-created exhibits, community members are part of the key decision-making in organizing and creating an exhibit; community voice is a key aspect of the narrative and is present throughout the whole exhibit. Co-creative projects begin with community needs in mind as well as those of the museum. Projects like KHM’s new temporary exhibit program accomplish three primary goals:

  • Give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members
  • Provide a place for community engagement and dialogue
  • Help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals

A look at KHM’s Hunt, Fish, Gather, Grow: Exploring Food Security in Kodiak (2020-2022). This exhibit was KHM’s first effort using a co-creative exhibit model.

The Purpose of the Model

KHM recognizes that current events and issues are history in the making. We also recognize the idea that past events and historical legacies directly impact our Kodiak community, and critical engagement with the past fosters awareness of the origins of today’s events. To critically engage with the past requires investigation into past historical and institutional biases – what was collected, why it was collected, why we talk about these events, and what is missing from these collections and histories. History is not simple and straightforward; history was experienced differently by different populations. This investigation, through the form of community-based temporary exhibits, promotes an inclusive Kodiak history.

How To Be Involved

KHM’s temporary exhibit program utilizes an open call model for proposals. The link to the proposal form is here. Proposals are reviewed on a quarterly basis, and they are evaluated on topic, significance, and relevance to KHM’s mission.

Once a topic has been selected, KHM will work together with the proposer and/or a key partner (if not the same person) to create the exhibit. There will be a minimum of four meetings to develop each exhibit.

A Note About Proposals

KHM is looking to create exhibits with underrepresented communities in Kodiak. If you are submitting a proposal about one of these communities and not a member of that community, we ask that you partner with a community member or organization to create the proposal.

Additionally, proposals that contain more information are more successful in the proposal process. Proposals should communicate a clear idea and a beginning concept for the exhibit.

If your proposal is not initially successful, we ask that you revise and resubmit the proposal in the future.

DC Blog Post

Cama’i and welcome to KHM’s new blog! My name is Lynn, and I am KHM’s Curator. This summer, I was privileged to participate in the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) at the National Museum of Natural History. This program is centered on preparing graduate students in anthropology to use museum collections as a source of data in research. While my participation in this program was under my PhD candidate hat, it had a major impact in my work at KHM, and I want to reflect on that in this first blog post.

My three takeaways from SIMA are:

  • Museum objects are living, breathing entities.
  • Objects connect out from the museum.
  • Museums need to always ask, who is benefitting from this?, when organizing exhibits and programs.
Museum objects as living, breathing entities

And they had a life before coming into the museum. To illustrate this point, Joe Horse Capture (Vice President of Native Collections & Curator of Native American History and Culture at The Autry Museum) organized a series of lessons using lacrosse sticks. Horse Capture taught us how to play stick lacrosse using sticks he provided, and we played a game to get a feel for how the game is played and the role of the stick. It was a super fun lesson and very hard to play well.

My lacrosse stick

In his following lesson, we looked at multiple lacrosse sticks from NMNH’s collections, and we were told to look for how the stick was used before coming into the museum.

Lacrosse sticks from NMNH’s collections

This lesson showed us that museum objects had a life before coming into the museum, and they are still living, breathing entities. Their life in the museum is vastly different from the life they were created for, and we need to respect that previous life. We also need to critically think about how we recognize that these objects in the museum are still alive, and we need to feed them. This can be done by handling the objects or actually feeding them with offerings or rituals. We also need to view their full life stories, including their lives in the museum.

Objects connect out from the museum

These connections are both visible and invisible to visitors. While at SIMA, I looked at collections of baskets from southern Alaska. I kept noticing repeating patterns (looking very similar to KHM’s logo) on the baskets. Immediately, I likened it to our museum’s logo and where that logo came from. I then visited a new exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, and I saw these baskets made out of glass by Preston Singletary.

I would not have connected the baskets to each other if I had not worked with the collections in the NMNH. The baskets not only connect to each other, but to Tlingit culture and artistic traditions. Objects also connect out of the museum in terms of their materials, creation, and collection.

Led by Josh Bell (Curator of Globalization, NMNH), we “exploded” some objects. Exploding objects is the concept of looking at the object as if it exploded, and you could see all of its components. For example, if you exploded a beaded garment, you would see the beads, the materials used for beads, the garment material, and the sources of all these different parts (animals, components of glass, shells, etc.). You would also see the producers of the object, and the collector of the object. This process of exploding an object makes these multiple connections visible; instead of just seeing a solitary object, you see the object’s life story as embodied in the object.

Exploding a helmet from the Philippines
Who benefits from this exhibit and program?

As colonial vehicles, museums have a legacy of taking objects from communities and placing them in often racist paradigms of collections care and displays, that would benefit the museum, not the community. The ongoing decolonizing museums movement is looking to fix this legacy through repatriation, increased access, educational programs, and new exhibits. As Joe Horse Capture prompted us, who benefits from these exhibits and programs? KHM has recently debuted our new temporary exhibit model, and in my next blog post, I hope to answer this question explicitly.

These takeaways will continue to figure into my work here at KHM, and I hope to share these efforts with you in future blog posts.

Long Haul Reflection

The Long Haul began in December 2021as part of KHM’s preparations for a new exhibit about the COVID-19 pandemic –Making History, Day by Day: Kodiak, Our Stories, and the COVID-19 Pandemic. KHM sought to initiate a conversation about how the pandemic impacted and continues to impact life in Kodiak. The pandemic was an uncertain time filled with upheaval, anxiety, and differing political stances and opinions. A forum was needed for everyone to reflect and look forward to the future together. Enter KMXT and the partnership that became the Long Haul.

It was a privilege to facilitate these conversations and listen to people tell their stories –good and bad. KHM hopes that you enjoy these programs and that they provide a sense of communal reflection as this historic pandemic turns endemic to life.

Talk of the Rock – Kodiak Collective

KMXT’s Dylan Simard is joined by Lynn Walker, Sarah Loewen Danelski, and Natasha Zahn Pristas to discuss the Kodiak Collective art installation.

Long Haul Episode 4

Hosts Mike Wall and Lynn Walker talk with guests Mike Murray of Safeway and Dan Rohrer of Subway about the impact COVID has had on their lives, their businesses, and supply chain issues –what’s happening now and what’s coming next.

Long Haul Episode 3

Hosts Mike Wall and Lynn Walker talk with guests Susan Philo, Clinician at Providence Island Counseling Center, Heidi Barrett-McNerney, Director of Behavioral Health at Kodiak Community Health Center, and Jocelyn Figureid, Behavioral Health Clinician at Kodiak Area Native Association about mental and emotional health throughout the pandemic and community resources.

Talk of the Rock – Asphalt Art

KMXT’s Dylan Simard is joined by Lynn Walker and Sarah Harrington of the Kodiak History Museum to discuss the Kodiak asphalt art project.

Long Haul Episode 2

Hosts Lynn Walker and Mike Wall talk with Kodiak Island Borough School District Superintendent Larry LeDoux and Assistant Superintendent Kim Saunders about the impact the pandemic has had on their lives, as well as on the students, staff, and faculty –and the bright spots that get them through the day.