Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Lecture Series from the Alaska State Library

We kicked off our summer lecture series here at the Alaska State Library on June 6, with Mike Dunham's presentation on William Seward and Tsar Alexander II, the statesmen behind the Treaty of Cession. Mr. Dunham wrote two biographies on these men and their roles in the shaping of Alaska, called The Man Who Bought Alaska and The Man Who Sold Alaska. His talk featured a wealth of historical photographs, maps, and other gems, and his years of working on radio showed in his engaging speaking style.

Next up, on July 8 at 2:00 pm, paper conservator Seth Irwin will stream in to share his work preparing Treaty of Cession maps and manuscripts for the sesquicentennial exhibit that will open at the Alaska State Museum this fall. Seth was the first conservator to use the new paper lab in the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum. It is the only paper conservation lab in the state, and we're thrilled to have it operational. He spent six weeks in Juneau this spring, stabilizing fragile 150-year old documents, removing cellophane tape, and cleaning stains. He'll also answer questions about your own personal papers and photographs and how to care for them.
Seth Irwin works on a Treaty of Cession map in the paper conservation lab. Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum.

In August, Professor Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes from the University of Alaska Southeast and the current Alaska State Writer Laureate will discuss the portions of her writing that examine our society's histories and heroes from a deeper perspective. Her talk ties in with the Alaska State Museum's summer exhibit, Decolonizing Alaska, which looks at the effects of colonization on Alaska's land and people. Professor Hayes will be here for August First Friday at 7 pm.
Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes. Photo courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation.

In September, Ketchikan- and New York-based artist Jackson Polys (aka Stephen Jackson and Stron Softi) will present an artist talk about his work on the third iteration of the Seward shame pole that was raised in Saxman Totem Park in April. The original pole was erected on Tongass Island by Chief Ebbit in the 1880s and a replica was raised in the 1930s. Jackson will be here for September First Friday at 7 pm. Jackson had a solo artist exhibit at the Alaska State Museum in 2009, and you can see the online exhibit.
Jackson Polys. Photo courtesy of the artist.

We hope you can join us for these programs. If you're not in Juneau, you can tune in via the Online With Libraries videoconferencing system at an Alaskan library, or you can watch the livestream. Visit the OWL page for the livestream links. If you missed this month's presentation, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum also hosted Dunham at the Valley Public Library during his visit to Juneau. You can see the recording on YouTube

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mannequins revisited

Two summers ago, we were busy preparing to open our new building, and I shared some photos from a statewide mannequin workshop for museum professionals, organized by Museum Services Curator Scott Carrlee and funded by an IMLS professional development grant. The workshop was a fun and productive way for museum staff from around the state to learn valuable exhibit-making skills, network with each other, and help the Alaska State Museum churn out 35 mannequins in one week.

All of those mannequins are now part of the Museum's permanent exhibits. After the workshop, heads and arms were added and the mannequins were covered with a stretchy, gray finish fabric by expert sewers at the BrownBoots Costume Company. The curation team decided on the gray fabric to provide a neutral backdrop for the garments, rather than trying to make the mannequins too lifelike.

Here are the mannequins-in-progress alongside their completed exhibit. Mannequin-makers, do you recognize your work?

Anchorage Stealers t-shirt (ASM 97-20-1)
Undressed and dressed mannequin for Anchorage Stealers t-shirt in the Contemporary Alaska gallery
The Anchorage Stealers mannequin was one of the few that needed finishing on the bottom, since it's suspended in the air.

Silk caftan (ASM 94-39-1)
Mount-maker Jeff Thole works on the first stages of the mannequin for the caftan, presented to Mikhail Kuhkhan by Adolf Etolin.
It's hard to believe that the trapezoid shape above became the mannequin for this silk caftan. The tricorner hat had extensive conservation work prior to exhibit.

Chief's police uniform (ASM III-O-416)
Textile conservator Sarah Owens of the Anchorage Museum works with exhibits specialist Aaron Elmore (kneeling) and mount-maker Tanna Peters on the first fit of Chief's police uniform.
This police uniform was one of several that required torsos and legs, a special challenge for the mount-making team!

Child's parka (ASM II-A-3647)
Although the goal for most of the mannequins was a natural posture, some garments were uncooperative. The parka for this mannequin was tight in the shoulders, so the arms had to be sticking out to prevent strain on the garment.
This was probably our smallest mannequin, and it looks even tinier in the exhibit in its sweet little swans' down parka. The parka was made in Siberia and traded to Alaskans.

Reindeer parka (ASM II-A-4816)
A roomy parka like this one requires a very large mannequin to properly support it while on exhibit.
Adding the head and arms helped fill out the folds in this reindeer parka once worn by territorial governor George Parks.

Japanese uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175)
This mannequin for a Japanese World War II uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175) was one of the first ones we created.
Our mannequin-making skills improved with practice! Although most visitors probably don't notice, this mannequin looks a little stiff.

A multitude of mannequins!
Mannequin-makers at work in the Museum's collections processing room during the workshop.
This World War II case shows the variety of uniforms worn by the US military in Alaska and also demonstrates the wide variety in mannequin shapes and sizes!
Float coats on mannequins in the Museum's Oil and Timber exhibit.
Even heavy coats like these have fully finished mannequins inside to support their weight and make them look like they're being worn.

We hope that everyone who helped out with the mannequins has had a chance to visit their creations and enjoyed this look back at the mannequin workshop!