Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kashevaroff SLAM photo tour

Here's a sneak peek at the progress inside the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum! SLAM staff have been touring the facility over the past few weeks and have photos to share.

Last weekend, artist Robert Murray's controversial sculpture Nimbus was installed on the site. Its distinctive green color really stands out on a gray day, and will be even more vibrant after it gets touched up by the artist and original fabricator this summer.
Nimbus (Alaska State Museum Collection ASM 91-1-1) in front of the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum, June 26, 2015.

We walked in the main entrance on Whittier Street. The front facade of SLAM will be completed this fall when the boards are removed and copper panels are installed.

Inside the foyer, the eagle tree diorama will be straight ahead. Right now, only the trunk has been installed, but the exhibit will have eagles, a nest, and other specimens from the Alaska State Museum's collection. The white plastic sheeting on the left is where artist Walter Gordinier's large glass artwork, Glacier Pond, will be installed.
Eagle tree exhibit in the foyer.

The museum exhibit spaces are starting to take shape, and you can see where some of the exhibits will be installed, like the Clan House and the kids' Discovery Room.
The umiak that flew over the museum last summer will be exhibited on this gray metal frame. Visitors will be able to walk underneath the frame to see inside. The umiak is so large that this gallery will be constructed around it after it is installed.

The Baldwin locomotive (Alaska State Museum Collection ASM 2008-9-1) is the heaviest object that will be on exhibit. It was wheeled in on rails and has a specially reinforced pad in the floor to support it. It is the first museum object to be installed in the exhibit gallery.
This area will house the Bristol Bay Double Ender, a distinctive wooden fishing boat used in Bristol Bay. There's a mechanism overhead that will support the boat's mast, which will reach the ceiling. Historic video footage will be projected onto a replica sail, fabricated by Ketchikan sail-maker Louis Bartos.
Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Project Engineer Jennifer Pepin describes the Science-On-a- Sphere gallery. Behind her are the windows for SLAM's marquee.

The Library, Archives, and micrographics department will be located on the second floor. Visitors will be able to walk up the stairs around the eagle tree or take an elevator.
Stairway around the eagle tree exhibit. Photo by Amy Carney.
This space will house Central Micrographics Services. Currently housed on the 7th floor of the State Office Building, the micrographics department will have properly ventilated spaces for the work they do with chemicals.

The building was constructed around the tower crane that was recently dismantled. Now, those holes are being filled in. The floor of the second level has been filled and the ceiling will be sealed soon.
Construction workers cutting metal in the future Richard Foster Reading Room, new home of the Alaska State Library.
Work space for library and archives staff. The new work spaces will conform to the State of Alaska's Universal Space Standards.
View from the second floor out the front windows, where we started our tour.

To end the tour, we went down to the basement. Like all our neighbors in the Willoughby District, SLAM is required to provide parking. The garage will be open the same hours as the SLAM facility but the above ground parking will be available for evening events at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center or Centennial Hall.
There will be 63 parking spaces available under SLAM and 32 spaces on the grounds.
Entrance to the parking area and Willoughby Ave side of SLAM.

It's exciting to watch the progress on the SLAM site and to see our future home taking shape. The landscaping and exterior will be completed by early fall and PCL's construction crews will shift their focus toward the interior. We'll keep you updated until we open in spring 2016!

Learn more:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Connecting to Collections: Beaded tunic in Winter and Pond photographs

Last month, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the grand opening celebration for Sealaska Heritage Institute's new Walter Soboleff Center. The event featured speeches, dance performances, unveiling of monumental artworks, and a traditional ceremony.
The Yees Ku Oo dancers perform in front of the Soboleff Center, May 15, 2015.

During the traditional ceremony, representatives from clans from around southeast Alaska presented clan hats and other at.oow to be displayed in the Nathan Jackson Gallery. Bill Thomas of Haines presented several pieces of regalia, including a beaded tunic. During his speech, he mentioned that the tunic can be seen in some historic photos taken by Winter and Pond.
Bill Thomas speaks about the beaded tunic held by Chuck Smythe of Sealaska Heritage Institute, May 15, 2015.

The Alaska State Library Historical Collections has a large collection of Winter and Pond photographs, which include some of the most iconic images of southeast Alaska from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Partners Lloyd Winter and Percy Pond arrived in Juneau in 1893, and over the next fifty years, took thousands of photographs that documented life in southeast Alaska. Pond died in 1943, and two years later, Winter sold the business to Francis Harrison, who managed the company until it closed down in 1956. The photographs and negatives were transferred to the Alaska State Library Historical Collections in 1981.
Percy Pond (left) and Lloyd Winter in front of the Taku Glacier. Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-1280

Photographs from this time frequently depicted Native Americans in ways that served to justify colonialist policies that subjugated Native peoples. This is especially true of staged photographs of Native people meant to make them appear primitive or savage. In the Winter and Pond collection, there are a few exoticized studio portraits of Alaska Natives, but there are also many photos taken in Native communities that provide a glimpse of Tlingit life at the turn of the century. In The Tlingit Encounter with Photography, author Sharon Bohn Gmelch notes, "Winter and Pond's photographs are notable for the range of subjects and conditions they show. They did not limit themselves to narrow stereotypes or attempt to create falsely romantic images of the Tlingit by removing traces of modernization or Western culture."

A significant portion of the Winter and Pond collection can be viewed on vilda.alaska.edu, Alaska's Digital Archives. I searched the digital collection and found two images that show the tunic, or one that is very similar. Both photographs were probably taken in Klukwan around 1894 or 1895, according to Victoria Wyatt in Images from the Inside Passage. The top photo was taken outside the Frog House. The lower photo was taken in a makeshift tent studio. In both, the tunic is worn by a man on the far right.

Group of people wearing regalia.
Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-0035.

Two people wearing beaded regalia.
Alaska State Library Historical Collections PCA 87-0037

The opening of the Soboleff Center was a significant event, in part because the Center is a place where young Native people can feel connected to their history. Hopefully, these 120-year old photographs can contribute to that experience. Seeing these old photos alongside the actual tunic made me think about the tunic's long life and its significance to the people who made, wore, and cared for it. It also made me appreciate the ways that Alaska's cultural and historical institutions work together to help preserve and interpret history.

The tunic is now on display in the Nathan Jackson Gallery at the Walter Soboleff Center, and you can see it for yourself.

Learn more:
  • View the finding aid and read background information about the Winter & Pond Photograph Collection (PCA-87) at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections
  • See Winter & Pond photographs on vilda.alaska.edu 
  • Read articles by LAM staff about problems of early photographic depictions of Alaska Natives.